In the world of affordable housing options in NYC, there is one type of apartment that causes a bit of confusion when it comes to the layout: the alcove studio. While it is a unit that comes with the same features as a studio apartment (i.e., one large room with a separate bathroom), an alcove studio is differentiated by the presence of a small alcove. This is why the layout of an alcove apartment is usually shaped like an “L”. The main room of the apartment is a rectangle, while the alcove “juts” out slightly. Most of these units have the alcove situated at the end of the unit, although there are older units that may feature the alcove in the middle of the room.
Alcove studio apartments are popular because the additional space creates the illusion of a bedroom while still being cheaper compared to one-bedroom or even convertible apartments.
However, an alcove is legally different from these other apartments because the additional space is not enough to accommodate the structures required under NYC law.
For a bedroom to be legally recognized, it must have enough space to create a separate wall. In most cases, the alcove does not have enough space for a temporary wall, never mind a permanent one. What’s more, NYC also requires a bedroom to be at least 8 feet by 8 feet in dimension.
While most people prefer using the alcove space as a bedroom since it can accommodate a bed and even a small dresser, it is up to you to decide how to use the space. If you work from home, you can create a small office, which is great because you can designate the space as a “working area”. You can also use it as a creative space for your hobbies -- the sky is your limit!
Alcove units came about as the consequence of unusual floor plans as more and more industrial buildings and office spaces were converted into residential housing. Converting studio apartments into alcoves just by adding that extra small bit of space allowed unit owners and developers to charge a premium, even though there is no actual bedroom in the unit.
That being said, alcove apartments are usually more expensive compared to studios, but cheaper compared to one-bedrooms. The layout of an alcove is ideal for renters who want bigger or additional space but cannot afford to rent an apartment with an actual separate bedroom.
Here are some of the benefits of renting an alcove studio:
The average size of a studio apartment in NYC is around 550 square feet. Typically, the alcove adds around 40 square feet to the unit (5 feet x 8 feet). It might not sound like much, but in a crowded place like NYC, an additional 40 square feet makes an apartment that much more desirable!
Even though you won’t be getting an actual separate bedroom with an alcove studio, you’ll be able to create the illusion of one without having to pay the corresponding price. While it’s difficult to find the average price of alcove studio units, you can estimate it!
Studios have a median rent of anywhere from $1700 to $3000, while 1-bedroom apartments will range from $2600 to $4500 depending on the location. Thus, you can safely deduce that the average price of an alcove studio will fall somewhere between the price of these two apartments.
When you consider that a studio alcove is essentially a studio apartment, it’s easy to see why the utilities are generally cheaper compared to other apartments. Any heating or cooling only needs to be applied to one large area since there are no actual walls that separate the alcove.
You will also typically use fewer electrical appliances in your apartment. A single powerful air conditioning unit would be enough to cool the whole room.
The configuration of an alcove apartment allows you to enjoy some measure of privacy that you won’t have in a studio. There is still a difference between having your sleeping area “hidden” in the alcove as opposed to having it out in the open.
Many alcove studios are located in metropolitan areas of New York such as The Financial District or Astoria because it’s attractive to young professionals who can afford the additional rent. This means that you’ll be living near shops, convenience stores, and transportation hubs, making it easy to go around the city.
While there are perks to living in an alcove studio, there are some things that you need to consider before signing the lease!
At the end of the day, an alcove studio is still smaller compared to other types of apartments and is ideal for singles. Couples might be able to make the limited space work, but the available space can feel cramped even for just two people.
Since the alcove space is usually just enough to fit a bed (and a small bedside table, if you’re lucky), you’ll probably need to place your closet somewhere else. This is why many renters consider using space-saving furniture.
Whether you’re hosting a group of people or you have guests staying over, an alcove will feel cramped. You might need to host your gatherings elsewhere.
While there’s no getting around the fact that an alcove studio has limitations in space, you shouldn’t get discouraged by it. In fact, you can even take it as a challenge to see how you can be creative in maximizing the available room.
As mentioned above, one of the easiest ways to maximize the space in an alcove studio is by using double-duty furniture. Since there’s no closet, why not get a bed with built-in storage space undeath? You can also opt for an elevated bed so you can put a closet or even an office underneath. While you can get a Murphy bed that can fold away when you’re not using it, you should keep in mind that Murphy beds need to be installed into the wall.
Aside from the bedroom, you can also look for other areas in your apartment where you can use space-saving furniture! In the dining room, for example, you can opt for a table that folds up and can be stored away when not in use, chairs included.
While you can’t install temporary walls around your alcove studio like you would in a convertible apartment, you can still place demarcations in your apartment by using room dividers. You can go for something as cheap and easy to install as curtains, or you can invest in French divider screens so that you can move them around as needed.
When it comes to affordability and ease of maintenance, the alcove unit is an ideal choice. Of course, you need to sacrifice a little bit when it comes to space and you’ll still be paying more compared to a studio unit. However, if you’re planning to upgrade to a one-bedroom apartment in time, getting an alcove studio is a great starter apartment.