What Is a Garden Apartment, Anyway? The Answer May Surprise You

A garden apartment. Photo by Groundworks Inc.


    A garden apartment means one thing in Brooklyn and quite another in Queens. And if you live in another part of the country, you could very well inhabit a garden apartment in all but name.

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    A Bed Stuy townhouse features a garden apartment on the ground level. Image via Town Residential

    A quick definition of a garden apartment

    A garden apartment can refer to a unit within a garden apartment complex or a unit with an attached garden. The former usually refers to apartment complexes or housing clusters consisting of buildings connected by landscaped paths or surrounding a central shared garden.

    In Brooklyn, a garden apartment most often means the ground floor of a townhouse with access to the backyard, but it can have broader meanings as well. A garden duplex, for example, would include all of that plus the parlor floor.

    “I define a garden apartment as any property that has access to a private garden,” Town Residential broker John Chubet told Brownstoner, offering a slightly broader understanding of the apartment type.

    Garden Apartment Definition

    The backyard of a one-bedroom garden apartment in Boerum Hill. Photo by Brooklyn Bridge Realty

    What are the benefits of a garden apartment?

    The most obvious benefit of a garden apartment is having access to green space. In addition to the niceties that come with fresh air, the setup also, “has the potential of creating a light-filled living area that can also have the feeling of being a larger apartment,” Roy Leone of Leone Design Studio told Brownstoner.

    A garden apartment, depending on the setup, can be optimal for gardeners and families with pets or children. In Brooklyn, townhouse garden apartments are typically on the ground floor or slightly below it, and may lack the soaring ceilings of the parlor-level rooms.

    Garden Apartment Definition

    The view of the backyard from inside a Boerum Hill garden apartment. Photo by Brooklyn Bridge Realty

    A little bit of garden-apartment history

    The term “garden apartment” was coined in 1914 in Jackson Heights, Queens, by real estate company the Queensboro Corporation to describe its Greystones apartment complex. The buildings were designed around large green spaces rather than the small paved courtyards that were typical at the time.

    The company went on to build a number of other “garden apartment” complexes in the area, including Hawthorne, Chateau and Towers, which make up the heart of the now-landmarked Jackson Heights Historic District.

    Garden apartments such as those at Greystones are of a different breed than most Brooklyn garden apartments, however, in that the garden is a shared space among residents and not a private backyard or patio.

    Both types of garden apartments can be found throughout the U.S., but they are rarely advertised as “garden apartments.” Examples include apartments in San Francisco row houses, which usually share access to a backyard, and apartment complexes in Los Angeles, which frequently feature central gardens.

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    A garden apartment in Brooklyn Heights. Photo by Kevin Carberry

    Where to find a garden apartment

    Garden apartments are common in brownstones and other townhouses originally built as one- and two-families. All of brownstone Brooklyn as well as central Brooklyn, from Brooklyn Heights to Prospect Lefferts Gardens, are known for having a particularly large stock of garden apartments.

    Listings for apartments with gardens can be found via a rental search or a for-sale search in Brownstoner’s real estate listings.

    According to Chubet, garden apartments, “are located throughout Brooklyn, and are possibly one of the most common types of apartment found [in the borough]”. Chubet went on to note that such units tend to range widely in price, as the definition necessitates only that the unit has a garden and does not speak to whether it is a triplex, a studio, or anything in between.

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