Rundown of NYC Apartment Types

Ah, yes. The classic six. It reminds one of old-school New York glamor. Classic sixdescribes a unit built before World War II that is comprised of 6 rooms—living room, kitchen, formal dining room, two bedrooms and a maid’s suite. The maid’s suite is usually cozy (read: small) and often located near the kitchen. Families often utilize the maid’s suite as a child’s bedroom or an office. A classic six usually boasts at least two bathrooms, an entry foyer, and unique historical touches. These touches from a bygone era can include a wood-burning fireplace (fingers crossed!), thick walls, high ceilings, hardwood floors, and a feeling of spaciousness. The kitchen is often a bit smaller, which reflects the era it was built. You may also see a classic seven listed. This mean that there is an additional bedroom in the layout. Classic six units are often on the Upper East and Upper West Sides.

A condo is a residential apartment that is individually deeded and owned. All of the condo owners within the building share the common areas and the expenses they incur. Condo owners are home owners and pay taxes individually for their units. In a rental situation, the renter’s application would first be reviewed by the condo owner and then be subject to review by the condo board.

‘Co-op’ is short for ‘cooperative.’ Co-op buyers purchase shares in a cooperative i.e. the entity that owns the entirety of the apartment building. This co-op purchase gives you exclusive use of an apartment within the building. Co-ops differ from condos in that buyers do not receive a deed for their apartment; they do not owntheir apartment. Additionally, everyone who owns shares in the co-op also shares the tax burden and associated building costs (insurance, utilities, amenities, salaries). The number of shares owned is in direct proportion to the size of the unit you’ve purchased. Prospective co-op buyers must submit a detailed financial application and are subject to an in-person interview with the co-op board.

A duplex apartment in NYC is a two-story unit; the two floors are connected via an in-unit staircase, elevator, or both. In other parts of the country a duplex is two separate houses connected by a shared wall or floor. Duplexes are often created when older buildings are reworked into newer rental units. Sometimes they feature a spiral staircase, which is a definite consideration when buying. A spiral staircase is visually interesting, but can make moving large furniture difficult and is an accessibility concern. However, the separation between the two living spaces can provide more much-needed privacy.

A floor-through is a unit that takes up the whole floor of a building. Sometimes the term is used to describe a unit that simply runs from the front to the back of the building, whether it has the whole floor to itself or not. Floor-through units offer cross ventilation and light thanks to the windows at the front and back of the building. They are often found in converted brownstones or rowhouses that were originally built around 1900.

A garden apartment in NYCusually includes the bottom level of a brownstone or townhouse and exclusive or shared access to the exterior green space. A garden apartment can be just that ground floor or can include other floors and layouts. Ex. A garden duplex apartment would include the ground floor and another floor connected by a set of stairs or an elevator. A private entrance below the front steps or stoop is a hallmark of the garden apartment.

A junior one is a studio or one bedroom unit that has an extra nook of square footage. This extra bit can be an alcove or small room and can be partially or completely partitioned from the rest of the space. If this extra space has a window, it can be considered a bedroom. No window, no official bedroom designation. 

A one bedroom unit comprised of four rooms—kitchen, living room, bedroom and a small room that is frequently used as an office, guest area, etc. The must-have-a-window-to-be-considered -a-bedroom rule applies to the additional small bonus room.

Lofts are spacious, open apartments that traditionally have a distinct industrial vibe. They feature high ceilings and sometimes boast architectural touches like exposed brick, pipe, or other materials that give a nod to their industrial roots. Loft layouts can also be found in newly constructed residential buildings due to their open concept floor plan and overall popularity.

NYC zoning laws stipulate that apartments must be at least 400 square feet. For a hot second in 2013 an exception to this rule was made. Then-mayor Michael Bloomberg held a design competition that encouraged architects to design apartments that were 400 square feet or less. The sort of flagship micro apartment building to come out of this process is Carmel Place which features units that have between 260 and 360 square feet. Micro apartments tend to be very smartly designed with creative storage, thoughtful furniture, and a small kitchen or kitchenette.

This one is straight to the point—an apartment that features one bedroom. The bedroom includes a closet and door, is at least 8 x 8 feet, and must include a window.

The penthouse has traditionally been recognized as the most luxurious apartment in a given building and located on the top-most floor where the roof starts to ‘set back,’ providing for a terrace or outdoor space. Today a penthouse doesn’t necessarily need to take up the top floor, but it is probably near the top of a luxury high-rise building and does still feature terrace space due to the setback.  There may be several penthouses in any given building; those units may also feature layouts that distinguish them from other units. It’s worth noting the amount of terrace space and the quality of the views when comparing penthouses.

Prewar apartments were built mostly between 1900 and 1939 before World War II began. They frequently feature desirable historic touches like crown molding, wood floors, thick plaster walls, plaster details, high ceilings, etc. Many are located in elevator buildings on the Upper West and Upper East Sides, but can be found in several other neighborhoods. Prewar apartment layouts can vary greatly.

A railroad style apartment is very linear—the rooms are laid out one right after the other in a line and without a hallway. This means that you will need to walk through all of the rooms to get to the room at the end. Privacy is a concern if living with others.

A studio is a single room apartment with a full bathroom. The seating and sleeping areas are both contained within the single room and the kitchen may or may not be separate.

A two-bedroom is an apartment that features two separate and private bedrooms that each feature at least one window and a door. The window rule from earlier in this piece holds true—a room is legally considered a bedroom if it has a door that makes it private, at least one window that opens to the outside i.e. a green space or the street, and is at least 8 ft. by 8ft..

A walk-up is an apartment in a building that doesn’t have an elevator and therefore requires its occupants to use the stairs exclusively. Walk-up buildings usually have less than six floors.