Different Apartment Styles in NYC

The skyline of NYC is one of the most iconic in the world. Anchored by One World Trade Center, the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, and others, the skyscrapers of the Big Apple are as diverse as the population itself. Similarly, residential buildings throughout the city have different styles and amenities. Knowing a bit about these variations can help narrow down the search for your dream place in the City.  


Apartment Styles

When browsing properties, you’ll typically see one of seven architectural styles mentioned in the description. Some styles are more common in particular neighborhoods, depending on when the area was being developed. While renters know it is what is on the inside that counts, building style does have the power to sway a final decision.

Brownstone, Townhouse or Mansion
Considered pinnacles of vintage charm by many, these buildings have a style characteristic of the late 1800s to early 1900s. These buildings are consistently in high demand due to charming touches that make each room feel unique. This category includes purpose-built single-family homes of multiple stories. Today, many of these buildings have been converted to apartments and are rented by floor.

Brownstones in Park Slope, Brooklyn

Brownstones in Park Slope, Brooklyn

Modern buildings were built in 2000 or later and are the most expensive option for apartments in NYC since 21st century expectations were accounted for during construction. These properties offer a number of luxury amenities. While these properties generally have less square footage, contemporary layouts and strategic positioning of windows might make a worthy compromise.

Loft Building
Loft buildings are spacious and filled with open floor apartments. Prominent columns and freight elevators are two trademarks of loft buildings since the original purpose was industrial. Repurposed lofts may offer resident-only gyms and laundry facilities.

Postwar Building
These buildings were constructed after World War II and feature evenly divided units with a simplistic aesthetic design. These buildings typically come with laundry facilities – either in the basement of older buildings or on each floor of newer buildings.

Prewar Building
The word “classic” used in housing advertisements is typically indicative of a prewar building. Built before World War II, prewar buildings come with intricate architectural design and vintage adornments such as fireplaces, hardwood floors, and high ceilings. They are considered to have the most “character” of any of New York’s building types.

A high-rise refers to any building 20 stories or taller built in the latter part of the 20th century. These buildings have “cookie-cutter” apartments. As indicated by their name, these buildings offer apartments at a higher elevation, providing substantial views and opportunities for true penthouse living.

A modern, high-rise apartment in New York City

A modern, high-rise apartment in New York City

Buildings less than 20 stories tall (4 to 12 stories on average) constitute low-rises. These buildings also come with standard-shaped apartments typical of high-rises. Laundry facilities and video intercom systems are common amenities in this type of building, while residents trade skyline views for street views.


Apartment Amenities

Life in the city is fast. From the moment you leave your door in the morning, using your time wisely is essential. Amenities included in your apartment building can carve out extra minutes in your day. There are three main types of buildings in New York that are categorized by amenity level.

Many buildings are defined by the presence of a doorman. These attendants act as building security and offer a multitude of services beyond holding a door. Doormen will accept and hold packages, hail taxi cabs and even manage dry cleaning. Moreover, their familiar faces create a welcome atmosphere that many find comforting. The specific services provided by doorman vary by building.

Luxury high-rises often have a sophisticated, stately atmosphere. A full staff offers concierge services such as valet, wash and fold laundering and housekeeping, in addition to 24-hour doorman attendance. Most luxury high-rises provide recreational facilities like private health clubs, spas and pools, playrooms for children, sun decks and tenant lounges. Some even have unique amenities like rock-climbing walls, yoga studios, pet spas and soundproof music studios.

Standard doorman buildings offer 24-hour doorman attendance but typically do not provide any additional amenities besides shared laundry facilities. This is a good fit for tenants who prefer to manage their errands independently but still value round-the-clock security.

Part-time doorman buildings offer partial doorman attendance. These attendants are present more for convenience than security. Usually, these buildings depend upon surveillance cameras and other forms of security at night while employing a doorman during the day. Although these arrangements typically do not include additional amenities outside of shared laundry facilities, they can be a great fit for tenants who are uninterested in the extra services.

Elevator buildings have no doorman on duty, although some may have an elevator attendant. These buildings are more moderately priced than doorman buildings but more expensive than a standard walk-up. Most provide laundry facilities and intercoms or other security measures. Regarding quality, comfort, and safety, elevator buildings can be considered a middle ground between the other two building styles.

Walk-ups are not equipped with elevators (stairs only) and do not provide doorman attendance. As the least expensive accommodation in the city, these buildings are affordable but provide minimal, if any, amenities. They are typically five stories or less with passable security measures. Most buildings have vestibules equipped with intercom systems and security cameras. Walk-ups may exist in several forms; they can be situated above storefronts or stand alone as low-rise buildings. Brownstones and townhouses will typically also classify as walk-ups provided that the aforementioned conditions apply.


Our local real estate brokers with Dwellworks Property Advisors will help you navigate the fast market of New York City. With your apartment preferences as a guide and your lifestyle as a priority, our experts are prepared to offer you help where you need it in your search for a place to call yours in the city with 8 million neighbors.

Apartment LifeKim Hill