The cost of some peace and quiet in NYC? $20 an hour

Renting a car or a bike for a couple of hours seems like a reasonable prospect, but would you rent a room just to charge your phone, meet with someone or just take a nap? A one-off room service is headed to New York City, and it’s not like an illicit Japanese love hotel. Instead, it’s geared towards people looking for some peace and quiet in a snappy living space.

Earlier today at London’s Le Web conference, coworking rental space management startup Breather debuted at the hands of founder Julien Smith, according to Venturebeat. The concept is pretty straightforward: simply register, book a “private quiet space” nearby, unlock your room with your phone (utilizing Lockitron), and use the space at your own discretion. All for around $20/hour.

Marketed as the “Zipcar for rooms,” Breather is a sign of the times: as urban cities become more crowded, the demand for working spaces is forcing the market to mature and develop collaborative niches in a way that could make securing a space more difficult (and expensive).

Breather isn’t the first company to offer hourly bookings for coworking spaces — LiquidSpace allows coworking spaces to put up their unused space or conference rooms up for drop-in users — but it is the first to rely on an hourly-only model and use its own space to do so. The attempt at commodifying quiet space in urban areas like New York or San Francisco highlights a unique problem for startups: when space is valued at a premium, finding a way to meet in a professional, quiet setting without bringing someone into a home or renting an ultra-expensive office space is becoming increasingly more difficult.

In an independent report by our own Ki Mae Heussner, the priciest coworking space in this burgeoning cottage industry tallied around $650 and none dipped below $300 per month, which is nothing to sneeze at for a startup looking to secure a few desks. In rough math, an occasional jaunt to a high-profile Breather space could roughly cost around $160 per month for a two-hour meeting twice a week, but long-term meetings or something remotely regular can start to add up. But it’s not exactly used for that, in a way, and that’s the beauty of Breather: one-off spaces for one-off uses when you (or your company) needs it.

Breather’s impact on the traditional coworking space really isn’t major — none of these rooms are worthwhile enough to park your company or do long-term work. But there is a special niche for a basement startup to appear considerate and high-end among flashier investors, potential partners or power clientele, and Breather can thrive in providing that kind of one-off thrill.

Just don’t go looking for that kind of thrill — naughty members will get banned.