These Are the 13 Apartment Layouts Everyone Should Know (with Examples!)

published Apr 12, 2024
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Photo from Lu and Chan's New York house tour - living room
Credit: Jason Rampe

Beyond what type of flooring an apartment has, and beyond how many windows let in natural light, do you know what’s the most important element to consider when you’re on the hunt for a rental home? Apartment layouts. Your apartment’s layout can make or break how you live in the space, so you should choose wisely.

But before settling for the first rental you see, make sure you have a good idea of all the different options out there. If you were to do a quick Google search of all the different apartment layout types, you might get a list consisting of a studio apartment, one-bedroom, two-bedroom, etc. But those are not the only options available to you.

Quick Overview

13 Main Apartment Layouts That Everyone Should Know

From the classic one-bedroom to the cozy studio, apartment layouts come in a variety of styles to suit different lifestyles and preferences. Whether you’re a minimalist seeking an efficient studio or a growing family in need of multiple bedrooms, this is the ultimate guide to the 13 basic apartment layouts. Discover the benefits and drawbacks of each type so you can find the perfect apartment layout for your needs.

I’ve had the privilege of getting to virtually tour thousands of apartment types over the years through our house tours — and I’ve identified 13 basic types of apartment layouts that every renter or potential apartment owner should know about. From the conventional to the unconventional, know your options so you can find the right apartment layout to fit your lifestyle and home needs!

While the standard one-bedroom or two-bedroom layouts are popular choices, there are unique variations that can offer even more benefits than the typical arrangement, like additional space, privacy, or functionality.

Whether you’re a single professional, a growing family, a couple, or roommates, understanding the nuances of apartment layouts can help you make an informed decision that aligns with your lifestyle and long-term goals. So, before signing that lease, explore the diversity of apartment layouts and envision how each option can enhance your day-to-day living experience.

1. The all-one-room small square (or rectangle) studio 

This is perhaps one of the most standard apartment layouts you come across when on a hunt for a new home to rent. It makes sense: It’s more efficient to carve up a building into units when the units are uniform and lacking in weird walls. The pluses of this type of apartment layout are that everything is in view at all times, and the lack of oddly shaped walls or angled rooms means there won’t be any weird corners to contend with or arrange furniture around.

The negatives? You can see everything in your home from nearly every viewpoint (save for perhaps the toilet and shower, although I’ve seen some apartments with even those in view), so it can feel more like you’re living in a hotel room or dorm room than a “grown-up” home. 

Thankfully, there are plenty of furniture arranging tips you can employ to distinguish different living areas in your one room, from using dividers in the space like bookshelves and curtains, to using decor like rugs to divide up a space visually. Some great examples of one-room studio apartments are Chandler and Lucy Benzinger in their 450-square-foot studio and Emily Ann Salles in this 503-square-foot studio apartment

You can see more of the studio pictured above, Irene’s 300-square-foot studio apartment, at the full house tour

2. The all-one-room studio with kitchen nook

It’s hard to pretend you don’t live in just one room when you can see your stove from your bed. But there exists a type of apartment layout that can help you feel a little bit less like you live in a dorm room: the one I’ve named the “all-one-room studio with kitchen nook.” A studio apartment with a separate kitchen offers a ton of benefits, perhaps most importantly aesthetics: Having the kitchen in a separate area/room from your main living space means your home looks cleaner and neater almost automatically. If you live in a studio apartment and have to see your kitchen from your bed, you might feel compelled to “hide” all the tools and elements that make it look and work like a kitchen. But if the kitchen is located in its own nook or room, you can keep your kitchen ultra-functional with all your tools within sight and reach. 

This type of apartment layout is also delightfully livable, thanks to a distinct kitchen space: No weird cooking odors permeating through your living space and getting into your clothes that are hanging inches away! From a design perspective, separating the kitchen creates a visual distinction, making a studio feel a little more spacious and sophisticated. And, if you share your home with a partner or even just with temporary guests, having a separate kitchen means a distinct place to work from home and entertain that’s not disrupting the main living quarters. With its blend of practicality and aesthetic appeal, a studio apartment with a separate kitchen is the choice for city dwellers seeking an affordable, small space that’s just a tiny bit elevated from the all-one-room studio. 

Some examples of this type of apartment layout include professional home stager Jason Saft’s 475-square-foot studio, this 500-square-foot San Francisco studio, and, pictured above, a very efficient 237-square-foot NYC studio.

3. The studio apartment with bonus flex nook

The apartment layout that is a studio with an extra nook offers a delightful array of options for the studio dweller. Not constrained by merely one single room to work, live, entertain, and exist in, this type of apartment layout offers versatility, allowing renters to seamlessly adapt their living environment to suit whatever it is they need their home to be.

Because there’s no door on the nook, it’s not literally an extra room, so these aren’t considered one-bedroom apartments. But the little extra space means you can sometimes make your studio like a one-bedroom when you tuck your bed into your nook, like Austin Larkin did in his 240-square-foot studio in Hell’s Kitchen, turning a tiny little nook off the main living area into his bed area. Just the small amount of visual distinction between the main living space and bed means you don’t quite feel like you’re living in a hotel room (and your entire home won’t feel like a mess if you forget to make the bed that day).

But if you’re not someone who cares about whether their bed is also in their living room, you don’t have to use your extra nook for a bedroom area. Imani Keal used her bonus nook in her 490-square-foot apartment as a cute dining room and work area.

You don’t even have to really designate your bonus nook for any specific use — you can truly keep it flexible and let it evolve as you live in your studio apartment, like Linda Cava does in her 525-square-foot studio apartment (pictured above): A table with folding leaves sometimes acts as a console in a the entryway/foyer nook, but can also expand to become a dining or work table. Whether a renter uses their bonus flex nook as a cozy bedroom, a productive home office, a tranquil reading corner, a nursery, or even a compact fitness area, this multipurpose “room” can maximize the functionality of a studio within a limited footprint. 

You can see more of the studio pictured above, Linda Cava’s 525-square-foot studio apartment, at the full house tour

4. The oddly shaped studio apartment

An apartment layout with an unconventional or odd shape (as in, not just a square or a rectangle) might seem like a challenging option. And it’s true — a home with angled walls or an apartment shaped more like a triangle is going to offer some configuration challenges when it comes to planning furniture placement. But being on the lookout for a less-than-square apartment layout can also offer unique benefits to a studio dweller.

Take Ainsley Fleetwood’s 460-square-foot Chicago studio, for example. Despite being only three feet wide at its narrowest point, Ainsley’s triangle-shaped apartment offers more than what a square studio could offer: distinctive spaces that can act like individual rooms. “The shape also offers a lot of length, for ease of designating separate areas in such a small space,” Ainsley wrote at the time of her tour. 

The triangular space combined with Ainsley’s furniture arrangement makes it feel less like just one official room and more like small areas all with their own function and personality. To be honest, the triangular layout also creates a sense of character and charm, setting her studio apart from more conventional rectangular spaces. Not to mention, being on the lookout for an oddly shaped studio apartment could even be cost-effective: A rental like Ainsley’s triangle-shaped apartment might be more affordable compared to a “regular-shaped” space, due to lower demand or perceived limitations.

“In first talking with someone from the management company, the studio’s shape seemed delivered as almost a disclaimer or warning when mentioned on the phone,” Ainsley wrote at the time of her tour. The truth is, being open to an oddly shaped studio apartment, like a narrow triangle in Ainsley’s case, could lead to a home with creativity and character, making it an appealing choice for those seeking a one-of-a-kind living experience.

See more of the studio apartment featured above in Ainsley’s full house tour

5. The studio apartment with a mezzanine or bed loft

Not to pick favorites, but this type of apartment layout has so many benefits it almost feels like a no-brainer when you’re on the hunt for a new place to live. If the ceilings of the studio apartment you’re renting are tall enough, you could be lucky enough to either make or find a space with a small mezzanine or loft that can serve as your bedroom.

An apartment layout featuring a mezzanine or loft bed — in other words, a small space located above the main living area and accessible by a small set of stairs or a ladder — offers the biggest benefit of having a separate space for your bed. Besides, it just makes sense to use your vertical space if you’ve got it. Small bed lofts maximize the available floor area, making it ideal for compact studio spaces.

Having an elevated sleeping area creates a distinct separation between living and sleeping quarters, and, by not having to squeeze a bed into your main living area, you add spaciousness and function to even the smallest of studio apartments. Moreover, the loft bed can add a touch of sophistication and style to a studio’s interior, making it feel more like you’re living in a cool industrial loft space rather than a tiny studio apartment.

You can definitely find studio apartments that already have a loft area available to turn into your bedroom space, like in this 400-square-foot apartment in London, this 320-square-foot studio apartment in New York City, or this Small/Cool winning shared studio. But you can also adapt a small studio apartment with tall ceilings by creating your own lofted area, like this 200-square-foot Manhattan studio, and this tiny studio apartment in Taiwan.

See all of the studio apartment pictured above in the full tour

6. The combo style studio apartment

Who says you can only choose from one of the benefits of the types of studio apartments listed above? Combo-style studio apartment layouts do exist, and if you come across one in your apartment hunting, you should definitely consider it. What do I mean by combo-style? This 300-square-foot studio apartment in Oakland is the perfect example of combining a couple of different layout benefits in one small space.

For one, it’s got a separate kitchen from the main living space, so you get all the advantages of not having to see your stove from your bed. Secondly, there’s the tiniest little nook next to the kitchen that could be used as a dining area, an office, or more. But the couple’s small studio also gets a floor plan boost by having a nice lofted bed, too. This allows every inch of their 300 square feet to work extra hard, making a super-small space work for two people.

The lofted bed area leaves more room for not only a living room area, but also a workspace and a dining area in the main space, and then the long kitchen’s extra space allows for flexible use too. It’s actually almost unbelievable that the rental home is only 300 square feet because it feels much larger, thanks to all the apartment layout bonuses.

See more of a combo-style studio apartment layout in the full home tour

Credit: Liisi Väli

7. The open loft (or, the big enough to visually divide it into separate living areas) apartment

Not all studio apartments are so small that you can only get smart with your space by using vertical height. Some actually offer open square footage that can present opportunities. Sure, these rentals might come with a lack of doors and walls, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make your own visual dividers. If you’ve got enough floor space, you can get creative with your big, one-room home and turn it into more “rooms.” 

These types of layouts are typically referred to as lofts. Sometimes lofts have an industrial style with exposed pipes and brick and lots of big windows and a surprising amount of square footage. But you don’t have to have thousands of square feet to get the benefits of a loft-style apartment. In fact, I’ve seen impressively small spaces get creative with how they carve out different “zones” in their open-plan homes.

Take this 800-square-foot loft in Brooklyn: It’s technically a studio with just one big main room (in fact there’s not even a separate kitchen), but the renter was able to visually “carve out” distinct spaces. The living room area was created, thanks to the furniture placement, and a neat bedroom area was created with smart styling of shelves and a room divider. 

Ashley also uses a big bookshelf in her 480-square-foot studio apartment, quite literally creating a separation between the living room and the bedroom area. There aren’t officially any “rooms,” but its spaces are separate enough that you don’t feel like you’re living in just one room.

It’s not just bookshelves that can be used as visual dividers in a loft or studio, though; Leecy Li uses thick, tall curtains to divide her living area from her sleeping space in this 425-square-foot studio. And if you want something even more substantial, you could take a note from this small Estonia apartment, where Liisi Väli actually added a wall to turn this studio apartment into a one-bedroom.

See more of Liisi Väli’s small studio apartment in her full home tour, pictured above.

8. The studio apartment with tons of outdoor space

When rental apartment hunting, be on the lookout for a very special type of apartment layout that frankly doesn’t get enough attention in my opinion: The studio apartment with a sizable outdoor area. Depending on the climate where you’re located, you could nearly double your living space by finding a studio apartment that offers lots of outdoor living space.

While not normally counted in an apartment’s square footage, choosing a studio apartment on the ground floor of a building that opens onto a backyard or patio, for instance, can provide a ton more space for plenty of activities, from living room-like lounging to dining, entertaining, working from home, and more. Incorporating furniture into your outdoor area can literally make it an extension of your home. But it’s not just the ground floor that can offer extra living space; studio apartments on the upper levels of a building can offer balconies or terraces. 

Depending on your own personality and inclination to spend time outside, being open to a small studio with ample outdoor area can mean more living space at a more affordable price than a larger home with more indoor square footage.

For inspiration on how a little extra outdoor space can make a tiny space feel much more spacious, check out this 350-square-foot Williamsburg studio apartment with a cute balcony, a 400-square-foot NYC ground-floor studio apartment with a huge outdoor area, and this 250-square-foot LA studio with a little private deck turned into an incredible outdoor living room. This small studio apartment’s balcony even has a projector for movie nights outside! And this small Spanish studio has a huge terrace. 

See the inside and outside of the studio apartment pictured above in the full house tour

Credit: Chloe Berk

9. The railroad apartment

Railroad-style apartments are homes that don’t have hallways. In other words, each room leads right to the next, one after the other, like a train car. “Originally built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, they maximized space in narrow and overcrowded tenement buildings. They’re most often found in New York City, as well as some other major cities like Chicago, New Orleans, and Boston,” we previously reported in this article.

One of the biggest benefits of railroad-style homes is that they’re almost always more affordable than traditional apartments. According to Udi Eliasi, tenants can save anywhere between 15 to 20% on rent living in a railroad apartment compared to a regular one. And while you might have to go through one room to get to the next, there’s no wasted space like you sometimes see with hallways, so you maximize the amount of square footage you have.

A railroad-style apartment might require you to get a little creative with the functions of your rooms and the arrangement of your furniture, but you can see how it’s done with homes like this 600-square-foot railroad apartment and this colorful rental railroad apartment.

See all of the railroad apartment pictured above in the full home tour

10. The one-bedroom apartment

When you think of an apartment, a one-bedroom is sort of the typical space you may envision. And with good reason; it’s kind of the perfect amount of space and separation for a single person or a couple looking for a cozy place to live, sleep, work, and entertain. The no-frills design of most one-bedroom apartments is efficient, and you can really maximize every square foot.

Open-concept one-bedroom layouts embrace the kitchen, dining, and living area as one space, whereas some older buildings might feature more distinction between rooms with walls and even doors. The single bedroom provides a private retreat for sleeping (and the ability to shut the door if you’re not someone who makes your bed daily), and the rest of the apartment will often fit all the functions you need.

Perhaps best of all, a one-bedroom layout simplifies the amount of cleaning required, making maintaining a neat home fairly doable. Ultimately, this apartment layout is perfect for those who like a little bit more room and visual distinction between their home’s living spaces than a studio apartment can provide. But know that they are often more expensive than studio apartments too. 

There’s no shortage of different kinds of one-bedroom apartments, but you can see a few good examples with this renovated one-bedroom loft, this Chicago rental apartment, and this New York City rental

11. The one-bedroom apartment plus small office or other nook

A one-bedroom apartment with a small nook layout offers the perfect blend of efficiency and versatility. It’s essentially a one-bedroom apartment because only one of the rooms has a door to it, but it offers just a little bit more space for those who work from home or need room beyond the bedroom. While the primary bedroom can provide a private place to sleep, the nook can serve as a multifunctional space tailored to individual needs.

Whether an alcove off of the main living room, or a little nook somewhere else in the space, this extra bit of square footage can house one of your essential functions without stealing space from any of the other important rooms. And it can even evolve with you as you live in the space, acting as a home office, reading nook, or even a nursery. While potentially a bit more costly due to the extra square footage, it probably won’t be as pricey as an official two-bedroom apartment. 

A great example can be found in Dianna Mazzone’s New York City apartment, where a small but effective nook off the main space acts as a dining room for the couple, but could have easily been used for just about any function. Craig’s apartment in Oakland also has a little bonus nook that he uses as a home office. 

See more of Craig’s one-bedroom apartment pictured above in the full house tour.

12. The two-bedroom apartment

A two-bedroom apartment layout offers not just the spaciousness of more square footage, but also the versatility of function that can cater to a diverse array of lifestyles. This room configuration can provide dedicated living, dining, and sleeping areas, meaning separation of public and private spaces. While it can be shared by two roommates, it can also be shared by a single person or couple that uses the second bedroom as a multifunctional flex space, accommodating guests, a home office, or even a home gym.

Families or roommates benefit from the enhanced privacy and personal space that two separate bedrooms (with two doors you can shut) can add to the home, perhaps even providing a little extra harmony that’s worth the price of more rent. Usually sporting plenty of square footage, two-bedroom apartments often mean lots of storage space (or at least the potential for lots of storage space) and therefore can be perfect for people who love (and have a lot of) stuff.

While you can certainly find some two-bedroom apartments with equal size bedrooms, the more typical arrangement is one larger bedroom and one smaller bedroom, as seen in this great two-bedroom apartment example in Lisbon

See all of the two-bedroom apartment pictured above in the full home tour

Credit: Alícia Salvà Roura

13. The three-bedroom (or more) apartment 

If you’ve got the funds to afford a three-bedroom apartment on your own, or share a three-bedroom apartment with your family or roommates, the issue for you probably won’t be space. It’s a layout type that presents an ideal solution for families, roommates, or those seeking ample living space, and its versatile configuration can offer dedicated areas for living, dining, and sleeping, as well as working from home, working out at home, crafting, and more.

The additional bedrooms provide flexibility, accommodating home offices, guest suites, or rooms for kids. With generous square footage, three-bedroom apartments offer the luxury of spacious living areas, perfect for entertaining or just enjoying solo. And a three-bedroom home can mean three closets, too, which can provide extra storage capacity for an organized, clutter-free home. In other words, choose a three-bedroom apartment and you’ll be swimming in space you can use any way you’d like. 

See a three-bedroom apartment shared by a family of four in Barcelona in the full home tour