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What Is a Classic Six Apartment?

May 28, 2020 by Barbara Zito

Real estate trends may come and go over the decades, but one property style that remains virtually timeless is the classic six apartment. A jewel in the crown of New York City real estate, this spacious apartment tops homebuyers' wish lists for many reasons.

What is a classic six apartment?

Classic six apartments are highly coveted properties most often found in prewar-design buildings on the Upper West and Upper East Sides of Manhattan, as well as in Brooklyn's Park Slope, Brooklyn Heights, Crown Heights, and Prospect Heights.

This is what puts the "classic" in the name -- these buildings were built before WWII (during the 1920s to 1940s). Some of these prewar buildings have become famous in their own right as architectural marvels, like The Dakota and The Beresford, both exclusive luxury buildings in Manhattan's Central Park West.

As the name suggests, classic six apartments have six rooms: a living room, a formal dining room (usually with a window), a kitchen, two main bedrooms, and a small (often tiny, to be quite honest) third bedroom off the kitchen, usually reserved for the maid. All of these rooms are separate spaces -- no open floor plans or loft-style living here -- connected by a hallway. Today, that third, maid's bedroom is most often used as an office, nursery, or guest room or simply for extra storage space.

Additional space in a classic six includes bathrooms (usually two to three), pantries, and foyers, or "entry galleries." The total space of a classic six can average 1,500 to 2,000 square feet, though there are larger and smaller units with this configuration. All in all, these apartments are ideal for families living in the city.

If it sounds like a dream to have a house-like space hovering over the concrete jungle, you'd be right. But wait, it gets even dreamier. While the square footage is the primary selling point, there are other features that make the classic six a gem of the New York real estate world:

Even those who have an eye toward renovating a classic six into something more modern usually try to keep some of these elements intact.

Benefits of a classic six apartment

In a classic six, rooms are divided into three main areas: public (living room and dining room), private (bedrooms), and service area (kitchen and the "servant's bedroom").

In this sense, the classic six is the very opposite of modern apartments, which often feature open floor plans. This is a benefit for those who wish to keep their spaces separate. It's also a win-win for dinner party aficionados in particular, who can feel free to make a mess in the kitchen while their guests in the dining room will never be the wiser.

Of course, the neighborhoods themselves are another reason a classic six is so desirable. Life on the Upper West or Upper East Side means you are within walking distance of Central Park, cultural institutions, nightlife, and shopping.

While the sprawling square footage is enough to get buyers talking, there are other reasons to choose a classic six. Many of these homes are in full-service buildings, which means there are inherent amenities that may include doormen and on-site maintenance. And if you're thinking prewar buildings mean pre-elevator, think again. Those buildings were indeed built with elevators -- though they have most likely been replaced with lifts that meet today's standards.

Where to find classic six listings

While you can start any apartment hunt online, the classic way to find classic six listings is to open the Sunday edition of The New York Times. This is where real estate agencies will take out full-page ads with photos of light-filled spaces that look like they're straight from a magazine spread.

The listings range from the original prewar buildings to renovated classic units in sleek new buildings up and down Manhattan isle. While the price ranges of classic six apartments vary wildly, you can expect that they start above the $1 million mark. With addresses like Park Avenue, Fifth Avenue, and Central Park West, the asking prices skyrocket accordingly.

With long waiting lists and high price tags, you can expect that these listings are held by experienced real estate agents. If you're in the market for a classic six, your best bet is to connect with a real estate broker with a keen eye for luxury homes.

Variations on the classic six apartment

While the classic six appears to still reign supreme in New York real estate, it is certainly not the only option for living space.

The junior four apartment is another traditional take on city living. This one-bedroom apartment also features separate rooms, with a living room, kitchen, bedroom, and dining room/alcove that is often converted to an office or a second small apartment. That's why junior fours are sometimes called one-bedroom convertibles. Whatever the name, these, too, are found in prewar buildings.

Many a bold real estate agent will list junior fours as two-bedroom apartments. But like that tiny maid's room in the classic six, this second bedroom is often too tiny to be considered anything more than a glorified closet.

Still, a junior four can feel monstrous given what's on the other side of the spectrum -- tiny studio apartments. The national average size of a studio apartment is 530 square feet, but New York studios are often much smaller. While a junior four is certainly an upgrade from a cramped studio, it still doesn't hold a candle to the classic six with its glorious 1920s design.

Where to find a classic six apartment

To be truly "classic," a classic six apartment is in one of the prewar buildings in New York City. However, new construction throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn features units with the classic six format, along with other modern-day building amenities including underground garages, gyms, and more. But if historic floor plans are what you're seeking, then you'll stay on the prewar side of the city's architecture.

These multimillion-dollar luxury apartments are usually listed with some of the most exclusive real estate agencies in the city, including the likes of Corcoran and Halstead. "Rarely available" and "highly sought after" are common terms you'll see in the listings. Many of these buildings are co-ops, which means that along with paying top dollar, prospective residents will have to jump through hoops to make the cut with discerning boards.

If you've got deep pockets and desire a classic style of living in New York City, then let your real estate agent know you're in the market for a classic six apartment. Once you find the perfect place, get ready to pounce on it with a strong offer. After all, there are many other cats in the concrete jungle who are just as hungry for a spacious city dwelling.

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