Which Types of Apartments are Right for You?

The time has come for you to go apartment hunting once again. When looking for options, you're likely to encounter the most common types of apartments like studio apartments, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments. Listings usually include a basic description of the rental property type, as well as information about the type of building it is, such as a duplex, commercial building, high-rise, mid-rise or low-rise.

But there are many different types of apartments. You may be unfamiliar with some apartment units, like railroad apartments and garden apartments. You've heard of high-rise apartments. But what about a low-rise apartment or mid-rise apartment? Others have familiar layouts while incorporating new design elements like very high ceilings or exposed brick. New apartment styles are constantly being developed to meet the needs of modern-day renters.

The different types of apartments

Take a quick dive into the different types of apartments out there. The more you understand about the different types of apartments, the easier it will be to know which one is right for you.

Alcove studio apartment

An alcove apartment or alcove studio is roughly the same size and format as a studio apartment. But alcove studios have a small partition separating the bedroom from the main living area. This partial wall provides some privacy and a separate space for sleeping. Convertible apartments, flex apartments and convertible studios are other terms for alcove studios.

Bachelor apartment

Man watching TV in his apartment

A bachelor apartment, also known as a bachelor pad, is a studio apartment but even smaller. The kitchen/kitchenette, bedroom and living area are all in the same large room. It could even be classified as a micro-apartment. Bachelor apartments are so-named because their tenants are usually young, single men.

Basement

As the name implies, a basement apartment is underground with a full house or building built over it. They're typically no different from a regular one-room apartment, with a full bathroom and all the standard fare. But depending on the unit, there could be significant differences.

You may have to enter and exit through the house above or share a kitchen with the primary tenant. You might be subject to noise from upstairs. Basement apartments usually only provide small awning or hopper windows, offering little-to-no natural light and fresh air. In fact, basement apartments are not legal in many municipalities.

Classic six (or seven, etc.)

A classic six apartment is a six-room rental unit consisting of a master bedroom with an en-suite bathroom, a second bedroom with a second full bathroom (doubling as the guest bath), a living room, a formal dining room, a full kitchen and a study or additional bedroom (often referred to as a "maid's room") off the kitchen with its own small bathroom. These types of pre-war apartments are often found on the Upper East and Upper West Sides of Manhattan, with hardwood floors, high ceilings, elaborate moldings and fireplaces.

Co-op

Neighbors chatting on balconies

A co-op apartment is a unit in an apartment building that's run by its tenants or a resident-elected board. It offers a unique flip on the traditional landlord or rental company arrangement. The board also creates the rules of residency and approves new tenants via a vote.

Condominium

A condo is not an apartment. Rather, it is an apartment-style unit owned by its tenant. A condo only becomes an apartment when it's rented out to a second party. Usually located in city centers, condos sometimes have commercial space on the lower floors.

Convertible

A convertible apartment or flex apartment is like a standard one- or two-bedroom apartment except that it has space for an extra bedroom.

Typically, a temporary wall splits an existing room in half to add an additional bedroom or room. A studio transforms into a convertible studio with the addition of a half-wall or partition.

Corporate and base housing

Corporate housing is apartments allocated to businesses for mid-to-extended stays. It's usually paid for by the company. Housing on military bases for active military and their families fall into this category. Corporate apartments are often serviced apartments or in an apartment hotel.

Duplex and triplex

duplex apartment

A duplex apartment consists of two separate living units in one building on a single lot, with a single owner. These are typically inside a house-like building, with the units connected by a shared wall or a floor and ceiling. Each has its own entrance to the outside with direct access to the individual unit.

Duplexes have a different definition in Manhattan, though. There, a duplex is a multi-floor single-occupancy apartment in a tall building. An indoor (often spiral) staircase connects the two floors. This is also known as a maisonette.

Duplexes often feature desirable amenities like in-unit laundry, porches and patios, attics, backyards, driveways and garages. A triplex is the same exact thing, but with three units rather than two.

Efficiency apartment

An efficiency apartment is the same as a studio apartment but even smaller. It has a straight floor plan where the kitchenette, living area and sleeping area are all in the same room.

Garage

A garage apartment is just that – a garage converted into an apartment. The garage apartment is either adjacent to or under the attached house. It may or may not have a separate entrance or kitchen, and they often lack natural light.

Garden apartment

Garden apartment

A garden apartment is a ground-floor apartment that has direct access to a private outdoor area like a backyard or garden. Garden apartments are usually found in dense urban areas. They sometimes come with patio space. Think of a duplex or railroad apartment that has a back door leading to a fenced-in, often long and narrow backyard lawn or garden box.

High-rise

A high-rise usually describes a tall, residential dwelling unit with one or more elevators, interior hallways and a lobby of some type. High-rise buildings are characteristically luxurious or at least stylishly decorated.

There's no legal definition of how high an apartment building goes to classify as a high-rise. But Emporis, a website specializing in tall buildings, states that a high-rise is at least 115 feet tall or a dozen stories. Once a building reaches 40 floors, it becomes a skyscraper.

Low-rise and mid-rise

Low-rise apartments are short apartment buildings typically one to four stories tall. A mid-rise apartment has four to 11 floors.

In-law apartment

A common trope in old black-and-white sitcoms and cartoons, an in-law apartment is a self-contained living space attached to or on the property of a primary house.

These units are often added on to a house later, ostensibly to serve as a home to take care of a newly-widowed mother-in-law. Or, at least that's the joke.

Junior one

Just one step up from a studio apartment, a junior one is a studio with an additional room that's not legally a bedroom. It's essentially a glorified walk-in closet. It's not a bedroom because they typically have no windows and occasionally, not even a door that closes.

Loft apartments

Loft apartment

A loft apartment is usually a top-floor unit set up as one large, open space. This single space contains the living room, dining room, kitchen and bedroom, without internal dividing walls. These units, preferred by artist types, young urban professionals and hipsters, often have features like the original brick walls, elevated ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows and exposed pipes, ventilation tubing and support beams.

Originally, these were almost exclusively converted warehouses and industrial buildings in urban areas above commercial spaces and restaurants. But as their popularity increased, many are now built in this style.

Luxury apartment

Luxury apartments come in a variety of layouts but with high-end furnishings and amenities. The exact furnishings, décor and amenities vary by apartment. But they can run the gamut from marble countertops to pools and fitness facilities.

Micro-apartments

Micro-apartment

Micro apartments are usually no larger than 200 to 400 square feet and have the kitchen, bedroom and living area all within a singular room. The bathroom is the only separate room. A micro-apartment located in an urban apartment complex is usually just big enough for one, maximum two residents.

One-bedroom apartment

As the name suggests, one-bedroom apartments are a type of unit with a separate bedroom. Usually, this style of one-room apartment will have the kitchen and living room in the same space, with perhaps some separation added with partial walls or partitions. But the sleeping area is its own private bedroom.

Penthouse

While a penthouse apartment is technically built on the roof of a building, the standard usage is any top-floor apartment of a high-rise. They often come with enviable landscape views, balconies or open roof space. Typically, penthouses are more expensive and contain a slew of amenities and luxury accouterments like their own private entrance.

Railroad apartments

This type of apartment is long and skinny, with one hallway running the length of the unit from the front door to back. The rooms are on one side of the hallway, often in the order from living room and kitchen in the front to bedrooms in the back.

As its name suggests, it's set up like a railroad sleeping car, with a walkway down one side of the car and a series of successive private bedrooms along the other, with doors opening into the hall.

Serviced apartment and apartment hotel

Serviced apartment

An apartment hotel is like any regular furnished apartment building, but it rents out rooms in a system similar to a hotel. There are no fixed leases or permanent residents, and tenants can check in and out as they please.

A serviced apartment is basically the same thing but is often much bigger or in a non-hotel style building and preferred by families.

Shotgun

Similar to a railroad, a shotgun apartment is also elongated and narrow. But it does not contain a connecting hallway. Each room feeds directly into the next through an opening in the wall, which necessitates the bedroom is the last in line to the back.

Studio apartment

A studio is an apartment where one room contains the bedroom, living room, dining room and kitchen. The bathroom is the only separate room. Size can vary from a tiny living space to giant lofts. In the U.S., a studio apartment averages between about 500 and 600 square feet.

Two-bedroom apartment

Two-bedroom apartments are units with two bedrooms. These are separate from the kitchen and living areas. Sometimes the bathroom attaches to one of the bedrooms, but other times it's accessed via the main living area.

Walk-up apartment

Walk-up apartment

Walk-up apartments are in buildings without elevators. Residents must use the staircase to access their apartments.

The name says it all

Now that you're familiar with the many different apartment types, you'll be able to pick the best unit for you. Depending on how much space you need, what you can afford and what's available, there's no shortage of apartments you can choose from.

Zoe Baillargeon Zoe Baillargeon is an award-winning writer and journalist based in Portland, Oregon, where she covers a variety of beats including travel, food and drink, lifestyle and culture for outlets like Apartment Guide, Rent., AFAR.com, Fodor's, The Manual, Matador Network and more. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, hiking, reading and spoiling her cat.

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