What Is a Maisonette Apartment?

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Faisal Nadeem

A maisonette apartment is a unique type of residence typically found on the ground floor of a multifamily building. What makes these apartments stand out is their private entrance directly from the street, often bypassing the lobby. This setup gives them the feel of a little house within a larger structure.

The street-level entrance offers easy access, and this feature distinguishes the apartment style from others. They are often part of larger structures with multiple units and can be found in cities like Boston and New York.

Maisonettes are popular in metropolitan areas, especially in the luxury real estate market. These ground floor apartments often come with second-floor or even one to three floors in total, making them similar to duplexes.

They are common in prewar buildings in the U.S., and while they might lack the views and natural light of a top-floor penthouse apartment, they compensate with features like a backyard, direct access to the street, and no need for shared elevator or stairs.

Maisonettes can also be used for doctor’s offices or commercial space, particularly in metropolitan areas. They provide a convenient and spacious living option with an exclusive feel, often found as rentals, condos, or co-ops. Unlike townhouses, they are never stand-alone structures but do offer private access to the outdoors.


What is the meaning of maisonette apartment?

A maisonette is a two-storey flat with its own front door, allowing you to directly exit your home to the outside world without needing to use a corridor shared with other people in the block. These maisonettes, known as duplexes in American terms, provide a unique living experience.

Maisonette Apartment Example

The interior of a Maisonette Loft Apartment in SoHo is truly unique. For instance, imagine an apartment with the charm of a loft—even if the specific context doesn’t focus on lofts. Such Architectural Characteristics define the allure of a Loft.

The double doors leading from the living room to the street provide a private entrance and exit, distinguishing it from typical multifamily buildings. This apartment design offers units with direct access to the street, aligning with the definition of a maisonette apartment in Real Estate terms.

This particular loft also boasts a separate entrance through the lobby and features a duplex layout with two floors. These features are what make an apartment a maisonette. As an architect in New York, I’ve seen many apartments with these characteristics, each one showcasing the distinctive charm of a maisonette.

Classic Characteristics of a Maisonette Apartment

  • Maisonettes are unique apartments usually on the first-floor of a larger building.
  • They feature a private entrance from the street.
  • In New York, real estate agents use the term for various types of apartments.
  • Some have a ground floor entrance off the lobby.
  • Others are up a few stairs (not full flights) and have an entrance directly from the lobby.
  • Some have entrances from both the lobby and the street.
  • Maisonettes can include outdoor space, like a garden.
  • They do not always require taking an elevator to reach them.
  • The combination of a private entrance and outdoor space makes them distinct.

History of the Maisonette Apartment

Merriam-Webster defines a maisonette as a “small house”, originating from the French term. This type of apartment is often nicknamed a little house due to its layout and private entrances, giving it the feel of a single-family home.

Historically, many maisonettes were used as office or retail spaces, blending live and work spaces. This usage has made them popular among doctors and psychiatrists. A maisonette apartment can be divided by floor—some maisonettes even have two floors—or into parallel spaces with separate entrances. This unique structure offers a blend of professional and personal space for the owner.

How to Find a Maisonette Apartment?

Ready yourself for the hunt to find a maisonette apartment. Maisonette apartments are rare, but the real estate agents can find whatever you are looking for, whether it’s a maisonette or another type of apartment. Generally speaking, they are likely in pre-war buildings on the Upper East Side or West Village. New constructions also exist in Cobble Hill, Park Slope, and Williamsburg. Start hunting with a reliable team.

Determine Your Budget

When deciding if you can afford a maisonette apartment, consider your budget and the neighborhood you want to live in. Start by calculating your rental income using the 30% rule: spend only 30% of your gross monthly income on rent.

For example, with a $60,000 annual salary, divide it by 40 to get $1,500 per month for rent. If you can’t find a maisonette for $1,500, don’t worry. You might think about teaming up with a roommate or a significant other, or even starting a side hustle to boost your spending power.

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Understand the Trust Cost of Renting

When considering the rule for how much to spend on rent, it’s wise to use the base of the 30% rule of your monthly income. However, renting a maisonette apartment involves more than just the rent; there are various expenses to account for.Here are some of the everyday hidden apartment expenses to plan for:



These expenses can add up quickly, especially if you have specific financial circumstances like debt or medical expenses. For example, if you have no debt obligations, live with roommates, and have an extra source of income, you might be able to spend more comfortably.

I found that keeping track of these expenses can feel like solving a financial puzzle. If you need a hand in managing this, a Rent Calculator can help you break down your extra expenses and determine what you can afford. This tool is particularly useful for renters aiming to understand their financial obligations and make an informed decision about their apartment expenses.

Set Your Apartment Priorities

In New York, deciding your apartment priorities is crucial with numerous housing options like maisonettes and brownstones. Consider your finances and what matters most to you.

Amenities

When choosing a maisonette apartment, make a list of your needs and wants. Your wish list should include essential items and amenities. Access to public transportation and nearby pubs are often top perks.

For cyclists, bike storage is crucial. Identify your deal-breakers and prioritize what helps you live comfortably. By considering these lists, you can find a place that fits your lifestyle.

Location and Neighborhood

When considering a maisonette apartment, one important factor is the location and neighborhood. Your work-life balance can significantly be influenced by whether you choose to live in the city’s outskirts or closer to the city’s action and convenience.

For instance, it’s a good idea to do a test run to see how long it takes to get to work and visit your favorite music venues. If the commuting hour to meet friends at your favorite bar seems too much, it might not be practical to live further away.

However, some might feel indifferent about the added time and resources spent commuting if they can enjoy living in their ideal apartment at a comfortable price point. Deciding to spend more to live nearer to the city could be worth the extra expense for the convenience and proximity to everything you love.

Consider Your Commute Time

When choosing an apartment, think about your commute time. A long commute can be fine if you like reading on the bus or subway. Check the area for walk and bike scores. Sometimes, biking takes less time than other transportation and opens up more possibilities for where to live and work.

Prepare for Apartment Tours

When getting ready to tour a maisonette apartment, it’s crucial to be well-prepared. Before signing a lease, you’ll need to make a quick decision since these desirable homes often go fast. Bring your ID, proof of income, bank statements, and an application fee

A reference from a landlord or work can also help. Most property managers accept cash, credit card, or check for the payment. Understanding the application process will make you more confident when you decide to apply. Even though a fast decision is needed, don’t feel rushed; take time soaking in all the details and ensure the listing matches the amenities.


Verify that everything is working as described. It’s normal to forget what to ask the property manager or landlord during a tour, so stay focused and proactive. Prepare your questions about renting to have a smooth rental experience.

You Should Purchase A Maisonette Apartment If…..

You’re searching for a luxury property, not just another apartment

Maisonettes offer a high-end living experience similar to penthouses, but with distinct luxuries. These homes come with a private entrance, a larger floor plan, and a layout that’s truly unique. Unlike other units in the building, a maisonette apartment stands out as an excellent choice for discerning buyers.

Your household desires a bit more privacy

In a maisonette apartment, your home offers more privacy. You have a private entrance, separated from other units, so visibility to neighbors and building staff is reduced. Unlike a typical apartment, there’s no shared elevator or lobby, making entering your home feel more restricted and secure, much like a townhouse.

You have a larger household

Maisonettes are more spacious than other types of New York apartments. These homes use the original space efficiently, making each room feel larger. You’ll often find more bedrooms and flex space.

If you have a larger number of people living with you or simply need extra space, a maisonette apartment is an attractive choice.

You want a private backyard or garden

Living in Manhattan, a maisonette offers a unique prospect: private, green space that is highly sought-after. Many maisonettes resemble townhomes or garden apartments, providing access to outdoor space.

Your household enjoys the amenities of apartment living

Living in a maisonette apartment means your household can enjoy fantastic amenities found in apartment buildings. You can share common utilities like elevators, laundry rooms, and trash chutes.

The lobby is often a welcoming space for residents. This setup is ideal for a buyer who wants the privacy of a townhome while enjoying the conveniences of a traditional apartment.

Stay Away From A Maisonette Apartment If…..

You’re sensitive to loud noises

Living in a maisonette apartment at street level has its drawbacks. You might find yourself hearing car horns, construction noise, and sirens more clearly. To mitigate this, you can renovate your home with soundproofing. However, with many windows, it can be challenging to completely block out the noise in your space.

Your dream home includes a skyline view

A maisonette apartment often has a breathtaking view of the street rather than the skyline since it is located on the ground floor. If a sweeping city view is important to you, this might not be the best choice. However, the convenience of being on the ground floor can be appealing.

You want a home flooded with natural light

Living in a ground floor maisonette in the back of high-rise buildings often means limited sun exposure. The natural light is usually diluted as it bounces off the surrounding apartment buildings before reaching your windows. This can make your space feel dim compared to other floors in the building. However, the unique charm of a maisonette can sometimes outweigh the challenges of light exposure.

You are afraid of the occasional pest

Living in a street-level maisonette has its perks, but it can also be an annoyance when you have to deal with rodents and pests. These creatures often seek refuge in ground-level apartments due to their proximity to food and water sources they scavenge on the street.

While having a good exterminator on call can fix the issue, it can be unsettling if you’re especially mouse or rat phobic. You’ve been warned! Even in luxurious setups, this is a common challenge.

Pros of Renting a Maisonette Apartment

Open and Spacious Living

Maisonette apartments usually feature an open floor plan with high ceilings, creating a sense of space. The absence of barriers and closed-off rooms offers a fluid, connected living area, resembling a loft or two-story duplex with lofted bedrooms.

Cozy and Functional Design

These apartments are frequently cozy, with a well-planned kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom. If you have a roommate, you can spread out on different floors, enjoying the benefits of urban living with the feel of a townhome.

Enhanced Privacy

Maisonettes offer private entrances directly from the street, ensuring greater privacy for renters. No need to pass through a lobby or shared staircase and deal with neighbors after a long day.

Potential for Outdoor Space

Many maisonettes have two or three-story structures with some outdoor space. This can include a small patio, yard, or shared courtyard, which is often lacking in traditional apartment complexes.

Charming and Traditional Feel

The traditional design of maisonettes blends modern and classic elements, adding character to your living space. These structures provide a unique living experience with architectural charm.

Personal Touch

Living in a maisonette offers an exclusive, welcoming experience with open plans, private entrances, and potential outdoor spaces. This blend of practicality and charm makes maisonettes a unique and attractive option.

Cons of Renting a Maisonette Apartment

Higher utility bills

The open space and high ceilings of a maisonette can result in higher utility bills. You might have to pay more for heating and cooling, especially if you don’t live in a mild, year-round climate. Think about the average costs and consider weatherproofing your windows with draft guards and using extra blankets on your bed to reduce the reliance on heat and AC and save money.

Noise issues

It’s common for voices and other noise to carry through the open spaces of a maisonette. However, there are solutions like creating barriers with furniture, plants, and privacy screens to redirect or absorb the sound.

More expensive

Maisonettes are highly desirable and often larger than typical apartments on the market, which means their rents come with a higher price tag. If you have roommates or choose a less trendy neighborhood, you might find a more affordable option.

Lack of parking

In many cities, particularly New York City, parking is a challenge regardless of the apartment type. Maisonettes in dense urban areas or above shops and pubs may come with dedicated street or covered options for tenants, but often parking is limited or non-existent. While you’ll still have a dedicated private entrance, parking can be a significant hassle.

Maisonette Apartment Exterior Entrance

A maisonette is a unique apartment with its own direct entrance from the sidewalk, enhancing both convenience and privacy. This type of access ensures easy entry without the need to navigate through shared exterior hallways.

What is the difference between a maisonette and a townhouse?

A townhouse usually occupies an entire structure or property and is considered a single-family residence. In contrast, a maisonette apartment only takes up a portion of a multi-unit building, typically on the ground floor.

This means a maisonette combines the convenience of an apartment with some of the benefits of a standalone home, whereas townhouses provide more space and privacy.

FAQs

What is the difference between a flat and a maisonette?

A maisonette feels more like a home with its front door opening directly to the outside. Its living space is split over two floors, resembling a small house. In contrast, flats have all their rooms on one level and typically lack private outdoor space, relying on communal areas if available.

What is an example of a maisonette?

A maisonette is a term used to describe a two-storey flat in older buildings, often seen on the ground and lower ground levels of a Victorian townhouse conversion. In contrast, a duplex is a more general term frequently used by developers and agents to describe two-storey flats in modern housing developments.

What is an apartment with a terrace?

An apartment with a terrace features an open outdoor space that extends from the building. This space is larger than a balcony and often includes setbacks and overhangs. It enhances the exterior wall and facade, providing a unique outdoor area for relaxation or entertainment. Unlike smaller balconies, a terrace offers more room and better views.

What is a maisonette vs apartment?

A maisonette is a one or two-story home located in a larger building. It has a private entrance, making it feel like a single-family home in the heart of the city. This is bigger than a standard apartment and has a separate entrance.