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What Is a Maisonette?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 16, 2024
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The word maisonette (pronounce may-zon-et) is derived from the French term, maison, which translates as house. The addition of ette is a diminutive, and essentially the whole term can be defined as little house. When used in English, maisonette can be defined in many ways, adding to confusion if you’re searching for a little house to make your nest in.

One common definition of maisonette is that it is a two-floor apartment with an internal staircase. It may be located in a larger building and usually has exterior access. Sometimes a single floor apartment with outside access is also defined as a maisonette. The idea of an apartment occupying two floors without renters or owners needing to share stairs with others, or the concept that you don’t have to enter an apartment building lobby to get to your dwelling is often thought upscale. Properties marketed as maisonettes might be a little more costly. This isn’t always the case; you may just be dealing with a landlord or seller with a good vocabulary or the word may be used to make a fairly standard apartment seem more luxurious.

Maisonette might also meet the definition of condo, townhouse or duplex. These residences share common walls, have street access, and many of them are two-story or higher. They are also “little houses” or part of a house, and square footage is usually smaller than that of a freestanding house, although there are exceptions. Very small houses may fall under the heading of maisonettes too.

There are certainly very luxurious apartment buildings that don’t offer outside access, especially when the buildings are high rises. With multiple-story buildings, you probably don’t want to have to climb several flights of stairs to get to your apartment. The maisonette, especially one defined as having street access, is usually a couple of floors at most, and if it is a single-storied apartment, you may have neighbors to your side, above, and/or below you. If your flat is on a second floor, expect to climb some stairs to get to its entrance.

Sometimes a very large home is rezoned as a group of apartments. These small parts of a home may be called maisonettes. They are little “houses” within a house.

What Does Maisonette Mean?

When searching for a new place to live, you might consider a maisonette apartment. This term means "little house" in French. However, a maisonette is not a house; it is an apartment with a street entrance. The phrase may also have derived from smaller buildings and structures, like shops with living areas attached.

Since the term maisonette does mean "little house," it has some features in common with a traditional house. You usually find:

  • A street entrance
  • A backyard
  • Extra space
  • More exclusivity and privacy
  • Two or more floors

A maisonette can be the best of both worlds to those who like living in the city. You get the space and privacy of a house, but you can enjoy the luxuries of a city.

What Is a Maisonette Apartment?

This type of apartment is on the ground floor of a building and typically has access to the street. This feature separates these homes from regular apartments, since most do not have private access to the sidewalk. A maisonette is a hybrid between an apartment and a townhouse and shares some features with both dwellings. Usually, you find maisonettes in prewar buildings, especially in cities like New York.

A maisonette can be a condo, co-op, duplex, or rental. When searching for this type of residence, use these terms to help narrow down your choices. A real estate agent can help you find the most suitable maisonette for your lifestyle.

This living situation is ideal for couples as well as for someone single. In both cases, there is enough space to be comfortable. Since there are often multiple floors, each person can have their private area.

Maisonettes are located in larger overall structures and can have multiple stories. Sometimes a maisonette apartment used to be a commercial space or an office. Technically, any residence that offers you private street access could be considered a maisonette, for example, a dwelling with a private elevator or staircase. A private entrance to the lobby is also a possible feature.

Other perks common to these homes include large amounts of space and sometimes a backyard. Backyard space is valuable to those who want to invite friends over or entertain outdoors.

However, some people do not like this type of residence because of its ground floor level. This means strangers are constantly walking by your front door, and noise can be an issue. Depending on your area, pests may also be a problem. However, in popular cities, a maisonette is often cheaper than other living situations, like a penthouse or townhouse. If price is a factor, consider this type of residence.

What Are the Differences Between a Maisonette House and Other Dwellings?

This kind of residence has many features in common but also differs from other everyday city dwellings, such as:

  • Townhouses: These homes are similar to a maisonette apartment, but they are not part of a larger structure. However, the multiple stories and private entrance makes these dwellings similar. A townhouse may be more suitable than a maisonette depending on your living situation. If you like having an independent building, a townhouse can suit your needs.
  • Penthouses: These residences are luxury spaces like maisonettes, but penthouses are on the top floor. Because of this, they often have lots of natural light and excellent views. However, if you do not like traveling upstairs, you might find a penthouse inconvenient. Also, they do not have a backyard or a private entrance.
  • Ground floor apartments: Some ground-floor residences can be considered maisonette apartments. However, most apartments on the ground floor do not offer private street and lobby access.
  • Houses: A house is an independent property and is not part of a larger structure. It can have multiple floors, extra space, a front or backyard, and a garage. These homes are often in the suburbs, unlike a city-focused maisonette apartment.

Depending on your needs, a maisonette may be preferable to these other homes. Remember that maisonettes are not always easy to find and are often in larger cities. While many of these residences are in older buildings, you can also find new maisonettes due to their increasing popularity.

Someone living in a city who does not wish to live in a suburb may find a maisonette ideal. In the past, a ground-floor space was unwanted and was associated with cheaper living and offices. However, in recent years the extra space and exclusive entrances have become desirable. A maisonette may be an excellent investment property if you are interested in real estate.

HomeQuestionsAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a HomeQuestionsAnswered contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

By SteamLouis — On May 12, 2011

Can maisonettes have penthouses as well? I know that most penthouses are usually located in buildings with more than two stories. But technically, it can just be the top level of any building.

And what is the difference between a duplex and a maisonette? Duplexes are also two stories and have stairs.

By ysmina — On May 11, 2011

I see the word maisonette often in ads. I think that sometimes people use maisonette to refer to stairs as well. That might not be the proper use of it. But if you see an ad that says "apartment with maisonette," it might just mean that it has internal stairs (rather a separate living area inside the apartment with stairs). Of course, the actual correct term would be to just use "maisonette."

By serenesurface — On May 08, 2011

We stayed in a "maisonette" last year while on vacation in the French countryside. These were five small cottages next to each other and the owners called each one a "maisonette".

It was one of the most beautiful places ever and the cottages also were very beautiful. They were two stories high, completely made of wood and surrounded by grass and trees.

Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen


With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a HomeQuestionsAnswered contributor,...
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