What is a Duplex Apartment (or Triplex)?
Duplex apartments come in many sizes. What they all have in common is space on two separate but adjoining floors, connected by a private, interior staircase. That said, most duplexes tend to be large homes, and are most commonly found in luxury buildings, both of the elegant pre-war variety on, say, Fifth Avenue, and Park Avenue, and Central Park West, as well as within the stunning contemporary towers that sprung up all over town in the past two decades or so, especially downtown in Tribeca, Noho, Chelsea, and the far-West Village and Meatpacking District.
The most desireable sorts of duplex apartments are those in which the square footage of the top floor closely matches, or is identical to, that of the lower floor. Duplex apartments such these are especially coveted by families, both for the sheer amount of space they provide, as well as for their unique, two-story layout, which allows for maximum separation of the bedrooms and other private spaces from the living and entertaining areas of the home.
The two floors in NYC duplex apartments must be connected to each other from within the home, rather than being two separate apartments on different floors, with access to one from the other only via a public staircase or elevator. That said, some duplex apartments in condominium or co-op buildings are created when the owners purchase the unit above or below their home, and redesigned and renovated accordingly.
The duplex apartment stairway that connects the two floors vary in style and width, but unless the home is truly massive, most employ some sort of space-saving technique in their design. Spiral staircases, for example, are frequently seen in smaller duplex apartments for this reason, but even larger units will most often try to use as little square footage as possible in their stairwell, with switch-back staircases or striking floating designs being common solutions.
Though duplex apartments for rent or for sale in New York City are often among the largest on the market (loft apartments, classic six or classic seven apartments, and three- and four-bedroom apartments also tend to the huge), architectural quirks in older buildings can sometimes lead to cozy, one-bedroom duplexes. The upper floor in duplex apartments such as these are often just one room, with a bathroom if you're lucky. For obvious reasons the upper room is usually used as the bedroom, with the living area and kitchen taking up the first story of the home.
A good architect or interior designer can turn such small New York City duplex apartments into beautiful, unique homes that take full advantage of both the separated yet connected nature of the space. Of course, the quality of these units can vary widely, and experienced apartments-hunters all have stories of listings for temptingly inexpensive "duplex apartments" that turned out to be nothing more claustrophobic studios with a loft bed.
Triplex apartments, as the name implies, are apartments that cover 3 floors. While these do tend to be very large apartments, often made by combining units on multiple floors, we have seen 1 bedrooms set up as a triplex.
In the case of the latter, the layout usually only covers 2 stories of the building. However, a middle floor, that spans those two floors, exists. The floorplan is such that each "floor" is staggered, with a half-staircase taking you up and down between levels. While extremely rare, this layout usually exists in buildings where each floor is taller than normal.
The most common triplex apartment layout, as mentioned earlier, is separated across three floors. While they are sometimes part of the original design of the building (usually in a penthouse unit), the most common triplexes come when a tenant buys units on top of each other, remodels them, and adds staircases to connect the different floors. In addition to high construction costs, you have to get permission of the condo or co-op board to do this--no easy feat in itself.
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