a renter’s guide to different types of apartments

"Convertible," "loft," "alcove" — all terms that sound mysterious, appealing, or just plain confusing when used in an apartment ad. Here we decipher some common terms and apartment types you might encounter on your quest for the right place.

decoding the world of apartments

Whether you're living solo, coupled up, or planning to squeeze a few roommates into close quarters, learning how to gauge the size and layout of certain types of apartments can keep you from wasting valuable time when beginning the search for a new place to live.

If you don't know where to start, check out the following common apartment categories.


A typical studio apartment has an open floor plan, meaning there's a full bathroom but no separate bedroom. A studio can be a square, or an L- or U-shape — the latter of which can make it easier to curtain-off areas if you'd like. The kitchen is either part of the open floor plan or in its own nook.

Alcove studio

Just like a traditional studio, but there's typically a nook (alcove) for a bed. In addition, alcove studios are usually much easier to curtain/wall-off the sleeping area for privacy than their standard counterparts.


A loft is one large room that typically features high ceilings and large windows. Generally, there's a lofted part designed to be a work-and-sleep area (sometimes only sleep — just large enough for a bed that's accessible by stairs or a ladder) while the rest of the apartment is an open space.

In some cases, a loft can have multiple bedrooms.

Junior one-bedroom

A junior one-bedroom is basically an upgraded studio. This isn't a true one-bedroom because although there's a separate sleeping area — more than that provided by an alcove — there's no bedroom door.

The bedroom area might lack a closet and other things that make up a traditional bedroom (like a window), but it's separate from the rest of the living space. And some junior one-bedrooms have an eat-in kitchen.


A standard one-bedroom apartment has a bedroom (door and all!) that's separate from the rest of the living space. You might only have one room in addition to the bedroom, combining the dining and living areas. Alternately, you could have a separate kitchen and multiple rooms, like a dining room, den, etc.

You can also have a standard 2-bedroom, convertible 2-bedroom (we'll go over what "convertible" means in the next section), 3-bedroom, and so on.


A duplex or triplex can refer to a building with 2 to 3 separate units (each on their own floor) or a single apartment with 2 to 3 floors. Similar to a loft but somewhat more private, a duplex can have stairs connecting an upstairs sleeping area to an open living area downstairs.

common apartment terms explained


An in-law apartment is an additional (separate) unit located on a property where only a single house or apartment would typically be. They're usually located in basements, on the ground floor, or above a garage.

Make sure to check the legality of in-law units in your city; certain zoning ordinances might restrict these units to direct relatives of the people within the main house/apartment.


Across the pond, a flat might refer to an apartment, period. But in the U.S., a flat indicates an apartment in an older building on its own floor. For instance, a building with 2 floors could potentially have 2 flats.


A convertible apartment typically refers to an apartment that has a space (usually the living room) big enough to be walled or curtained off to create another bedroom, or a bonus room that can be used as another bedroom.

get protected with renters insurance

Whether you wind up in a penthouse or a finished basement, you'll still want to protect your stuff and your savings the smart way — with renters insurance. That way, if your apartment is ever burglarized or a fire consumes your much-loved couch, you could get help replacing or repairing your stuff.

What to check before renting an apartment
Learn what to be on the lookout for when preparing to move into a new place.

12 questions to ask a landlord before signing a lease
Get the facts from your landlord before you say yes to your next apartment.

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