While it seems that searching for an apartment is a very straightforward task, the terms used to describe different types of apartments might be confusing at times. For example, what is the difference between a loft, a studio, and a garden apartment? What does a railroad apartment describe? Understanding the different types of apartments by their descriptive names makes it easier to search for the exact floor plan that will fit your life.

What are the different types of apartments?

Identifying which type of apartment will be the best for you and your lifestyle is crucial as you conduct your apartment search. Here are the types of apartments you should consider when apartment searching:

Micro-unitsStudio LoftDuplexWalk-upGarden High-rise, mid-rise, low-riseRailroad



Depending upon the location of your apartment hunt, you might come across the term “micro-apartments” or micro-units. Urban locations use micro-units to fit a larger number of apartments into a rental unit. Micro-apartments are one-room living spaces usually less than 350 square feet in size. Micro-units often have a sitting and sleeping area, a kitchenette, and a separate bathroom. They might have a pull-down bed or a futon for sleeping and sitting and might have smaller-sized appliances.

Micro-apartment buildings are often found in highly populated cities like New York City, San Francisco, Boston, Indianapolis, and Seattle. Some micro-apartments offer on-site laundry or storage since living quarters are so limited. Because of the smaller living space, micro-units usually cost from $300 to $600 less than studio apartments in the same area.

Studio apartments

When looking for different types of apartments, studio apartments are very common for single renters. A studio apartment is a small, one-room apartment. The single room combines bedroom, living room, and kitchen space and has a separate full-size bathroom. Most studio apartments are between 400 and 600 square feet, but this can vary widely depending upon the style of the building and the geographical location.

There are several variations of the studio apartment. An alcove studio usually has a nook or alcove that somewhat separates the bed area from the living area and makes it easier to curtain off that area for additional privacy. A convertible studio or a flex apartment is large enough that the renter can add a wall to create separate rooms for the bedroom and primary living space.



A loft apartment refers to one large, open room with high ceilings. The loft might also have tall windows, exposed bricks, and visible support beams. Lofts are frequently found in commercial buildings renovated into residential apartment units and are usually spacious, with over 1,000 square feet of living space. While lofts are similar to studio apartments because they consist of one open room and a bathroom, they frequently cost a lot more to rent because the space is much larger and more open than a studio.

Since lofts have so much floor space, some renters use temporary walls, screens, or room dividers to split the loft into separate areas. You can even use a bookshelf to separate a large apartment into smaller sections creatively.

Duplex or triplex

A duplex is a multi-family home with two separate housing units in a single building. Each living unit has its own entrance, and usually, they each have two floors of living space. The units are similar in size and are often mirror images of each other. A triplex is similar to a duplex but has three apartment spaces instead of two.


Terms used to define different types of apartments can also relate to how you access them. Walk-up apartments are those accessible by stairs and don’t have an elevator in the building. They may be cheaper to rent than units in buildings with elevators since it can be challenging to find renters willing or able to walk up several flights of stairs to get to their apartment.

A walk-up apartment can have any floor plan, such as a loft, a studio, or a multi-bedroom unit. Walk-up units are common in older multi-family dwellings with four to six levels. Since the rent is usually somewhat more affordable than fancier units, a walk-up may provide a renter with the opportunity to find an apartment in town and close to shopping and restaurants.

While a walk-up apartment can have several benefits, getting furniture up to the apartment may be challenging. When considering a walk-up unit, examine how easy it will be to get your furniture into the apartment. Hiring professional movers may be a solution if there’s heavy furniture and limited space to maneuver it up the stairs.

Garden apartment


A garden apartment is either a basement or ground-floor apartment with direct access to a private outside area. Many ground-floor garden apartments have patios or porches where renters can create an outdoor living area for sitting or growing plants. Some garden apartments don’t have direct access to a garden or outside area, but in general, the renter has access to some type of green space.

While a garden unit may be cheaper than other rentals, it’s important to inspect a garden apartment thoroughly and check for security measures, especially if it’s located below-ground level. Also, check for dampness or a musty odor before renting a garden apartment.

High-rise, mid-rise, and low-rise

A high-rise apartment is one that’s in a building of 12 or more stories. There are usually multiple elevators in a high-rise to provide access for all renters. A mid-rise apartment is in a five- to 11-story building and usually has one elevator. A low-rise apartment is in a building with four floors or less and may or may not contain an elevator. An apartment in these types of buildings can be a studio, a one-bedroom, or a multi-bedroom unit.

Railroad apartment

A railroad apartment gets its name from its unique floor plan. They usually consist of three or four rooms connected linearly to form a long, narrow rectangle. This style is found most often in smaller, older buildings. Bedrooms in a railroad apartment may be at either end or in the center of the row of rooms.

Understanding apartment terminology and floor plans can help you determine whether a unit meets your needs. It is important to know the layout before renting so you can decide whether the type of apartment is suitable for you, and ensure all your furniture fits into your new space.

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