What is a Garden Apartment?
The term garden apartments can mean two sorts of homes. The usage tends to vary depending on whether your are in the suburbs, or you are in a city. It can also vary depending on what part of the city you are in. More densely populated, centrally located neighborhoods may use one definition, while outer neighborhoods with a different character may use another.
1.) Most Common Use of the Term "Garden Apartments"
In many communities, primarily suburban, listings for garden apartments simply mean a studio, one-, two- or three-bedroom apartment that's within a garden apartment complex.
A garden apartment complex is characterized by a cluster of low-rise buildings, usually no more than two or three stories high (although more modern complexes often rise to 4-5 floors), on a single piece of property. Open lawns, landscaping, and pathways are considered common areas for apartments of these sorts, and some communities have amenities such as pools, clubhouses, playgrounds, laundry rooms (sometimes multiple) and gyms on the property as well.
Each building will have it's own address in almost 100% of these situations. A parking lot, or often a series of small lots located throughout the complex, is common. Some communities may offer a mix of covered, and non-covered parking.
These complexes can be found for both rentals and condos (and the occasional co-op as well). In some designs, there is a central entrance for each building, with internal hallways leading to the apartments. Other designs give everyone their own private entrance from the outside.
Due to the low-rise nature, and the park-like settings, patios are often found on first floor units. Upper floors may feature private decks or balconies. Especially among newer properties, it's not unusual to find many of the apartments laid out in a multi-floor townhome style.
While you may think of a city like NYC as not having garden apartments such as these, they can be found in the outerboroughs, particularly in the neighborhoods of Queens and Brooklyn that are closest to Long Island, as well as parts of Staten Island and Riverdale in The Bronx.
In a city like Washington, DC you are more likely to find garden apartment complexes in areas outside the city, such as nearby Alexandria and Arlington, VA. Los Angeles, with it's vast, sprawling neighborhoods, is filled with garden complexes both old and new, in most areas outside of Downtown LA.
2.) Usage of the Term "Garden Apartments" in More Urban Areas
The other definition of the garden apartment is used less often in some cities, though the housing unit itself is far more common. This use of the term refers to any apartment on the ground floor (or occasionally even the basement level), of an apartment building that offers direct access to an outdoor space, whether backyard, garden, or patio.
In densely packed city centers, having private garden space, no matter the size, is a welcome respite from never ending concrete. Depending on the space, the tenant may have just a chair or two for relaxing, or they may have room for an entire dining set, chaise lounges, a large grill and more. Many residents add flower boxes or giant pots with plants and/or flowers, particularly renters who many not be allowed to plant anything in the ground.
In NYC the term garden apartment is almost never used. However, they are most often found in brownstone buildings, or townhouses. The "garden" itself can vary wildly in both square footage as well as the amount of actual greenery present. Ads will not refer to the unit as a "garden apartment" but will mention either having garden access, or a private garden. Please note that a.) the "garden" may simply be a patch of grass, or even concrete with or without planters, and b.) the term "outdoor space" doesn't mean a garden... it could be access to a balcony, or roof deck, etc.
There are actually a great deal more rental apartments with access to private garden space in New York City than one might think (that doesn't mean, however, that they are widespread, nor does it mean they are inexpensive). In Manhattan, for instance, there are thousands of brownstones and townhouses (many of which contain apartments) with gardens or yards in the back in neighborhoods as diverse as the Upper West Side, the Upper East Side, Chelsea, Murray Hill and Kips Bay, the East Village and the West Village.
Brooklyn also has a wealth of these sorts of garden apartments. And in parts of that borough, most notably Carroll Gardens, the townhouses are set back from the street by some 35 feet, creating ample space in the front for some truly spectacular gardens or lovely little patios, as well having the traditional garden space in the back.
Other cities, such as Washington, DC use the term garden apartments frequently in their housing ads. In our nation's capitol, it's not unusual to find such places in neighborhoods such as Capitol Hill, or in the Old Town section of nearby Alexandria, VA -- both containing large numbers of historic (or, sometimes, just old) townhomes. Read the ads carefully, and you can usually determine if they are referring to an individual garden apartment, or a garden apartment complex.
While living on the ground floor may have it's downsides (lack of light is a frequent complaint), many residents feel that having access to their own little patch of nature is worth it. Being able to go right outside your apartment to relax and enjoy a little of the natural world in the middle of an urban jungle has kept many a tenant sane.
Back to Guide