What Exactly Is a “Stair Loft” Apartment? Here’s What an NYC Broker Says

published Dec 3, 2022
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Have you seen that viral TikTok of the absolutely stunning apartment in New York with a sauna, a nook kitchen, and multiple levels for $3,000 a month? Not only is that a remarkable deal on such an impressive place, but it’s also a style of apartment unique to NYC called a stair loft. According to Sydney Blumstein, a broker with Corcoran in New York City, they’re also called “split level,” “mezzanine loft,” or “loft” apartments. Essentially, they’re one-bedroom apartments where the bedroom is upstairs in a lofted area and the rest of the living space is downstairs.

“I think it’s a unique and special apartment, generally in a pre-war conversion (a building formerly used as something else: warehouse, shipping, distribution, printing) which was crafted into apartments in its second act,” Blumstein says. “The prewar nature of the building and the former usage leave apartments with very high ceilings — 11 to 15 feet — and owners or developers want to take advantage of the vertical square footage.”

Typically, she sees these apartments in older and historic areas, like Tribeca, Bushwick, the West Village, and Greenwich Village. If you’re looking to buy one, expect to pay between $500,000 and $1 million, Blumstein says, but remember that the value can change based on how the property was renovated. Buyers and renters tend to focus on ceiling height and whether they can stand up straight on the second level.

“If the mezzanine is only three, four, or five feet high and doesn’t fit most standing adults, I think you see value drop somewhat,” Blumstein says.

Another potential drawback is that the bedroom upstairs is usually open. Since the bedroom doesn’t have a door and you can see into it from below, it’s a bit harder to have guests stay over since you’ll all essentially be in the same large room.

That being said, the open loft level is also a huge draw in a city where space is a scarce commodity.

“In NYC, which can be a crowded place, enjoying a sense of space and sky is so special,” Blumstein says. “I think that standing on an upper level of an apartment and getting to look down is a grandiose feeling. …You get a bird’s-eye view of life in your own home! The ceiling height in the main living area is also a huge draw, as are the windows that usually run floor to ceiling in the main space.”

The kitchen is typically tucked under the loft level, which means sometimes ceiling heights in the kitchen are low as well. And the bathroom will most often be on the lower level — so if you have to use it during the night, you’ll need to head downstairs.

Regardless how you feel about ceilings, kitchens, or bathrooms, though, there’s no denying that stair lofts are an inventive use of space.

“I think the unicorn nature of these homes is key,” Blumstein says. “If a stair loft apartment is done well, it can be an architectural masterpiece and a feat of engineering and design to take cubic footage and make it usable.”