Shared Living Suites – Semi-Apartments within an Apartment


This layout option is for the Homeowner, who may not be willing to invest in our ultimate walkup shared living layout which has initial higher upfront costs with a higher return over a longer period of time making it more appropriate for the developer.  This version is more of a straight forward apartment with shared bathroom, kitchen and living rooms with more modest sized suites, the ultimate version to be released soon has individual suites with their own bathrooms and only a shared kitchen, the living areas are within each suite.


Shared living is a way to provide affordable housing to individuals, especially those who live on their own. The groups which could share would include students, the elderly, and singles or young professionals who really don’t what the expense, maintenance or headache of a larger apartment, yet want something affordable in a good location of the city.

There are two Shared Living Apartment types we will explore. The first is for the young college-age type and can fit in smaller footprint houses. The other type provides larger suites, for those who can spend a little more and want more amenities in their suite, like their own half-bathroom.  These ‘deluxe suites’ within a shared apartment could be single floor or duplexes, thus offering a larger great room for common use and shared dinners.

Essentially, it converts what is normally a 2 bedroom apartment into a 3 suite apartment where 3 or more people can share a higher rent, thus the landlord making an additional 14% in rental income while providing additional affordable housing to the public that is of a higher quality, all while registering the unit legally as a 3 bedroom apartment…

Because of the expected higher foot traffic within the building, since there will be more people living in what would typically be a 2 bedroom apartment, it would be wise to do acoustical treatments in the public and apartment halls, especially at the ceiling where there is no wear and tear or dirt that could affect the appearance of the treatment (not popcorn… since I was the Architect for Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center Acoustical Stage Project, I know exactly what to do regarding acoustical treatments). The doors also should all have impact pads and be on closers so they don’t become partners in creating a chaotic environment.

As such, each suite door has a privacy lock, bolt locks being illegal in NYC which (rant>) makes these type of suites not as desirable because if you have roommates you sometimes want to lock your room (<end rant).

Still, this is about saving money on rent, and if the floor is used as a typical apartment, it could command $2500 (less than a normal apartment because it simply is not as nice as our ‘Ultimate Townhouse Apartment Plan’ version ‘8’) and splitting that 3 ways (3 suites) leaves rent at about $833/month which most people can afford.  For the ultimate suite with its own half-bathroom, the goal would be to collect $1200 per suite or $3600 for a 3 suite apartment.

On a legal footing, the suites act as bedrooms, so the unit would be considered by the Department of Buildings as a 3 bedroom apartment.

Clearly there is a downside: the increase in tenants means an increase in noise and traffic.  This translates into more cleaning and maintenance. Acoustically, as mentioned, steps should be taken to reduce noise impact thus returning the building to a normal state of acceptable calm. For owner occupied buildings, the extra traffic might be too much to deal with, but for other buildings it is a way to increase the rent. It should be noted that I do not recommend this for every unit in a building, but perhaps having one floor be a shared unit, near the entrance, in a four or more walkup can help spread the worry of finding tenants.  That is, a landlord could rent each suite individually (as I have seen done, but do not know if it is legal) rather than renting the apartment as one rent, thus allowing individuals to have leases of different lengths with no one person relying on the length of stay of another person. On the flip side, if a landlord has nothing but regular one or two bedroom apartments, there is the possibility that the market will be flush with excessive units of the same size making it harder to find tenants, and in this way changing the types of apartments helps spread out the risk of having empty apartments.  That is, if a landlord has at least 10 apartments, there should be a mix of Studio, 1 bed, 2 bed, 3 bedroom apartments, and perhaps a shared apartment or two.  The quantity of each fits on a bell curve, with 1 and 2 bedroom apartments commanding the greatest number of units.  In this way, the concept of creating shared living apartment should be put in the context of this, and the location of the building.

In lesser than ideal neighborhoods, shared living is a great option.  In highly desirable neighborhoods, regular apartments are the preferred.  It is a balancing exercise to determine how many of each type one should have in their portfolio.

For the elderly, its not a bad way to stay independent, have company, share the chores and have a smaller space to maintain.

For students, the advantages are clear. A secure apartment with rooms large enough to get a roommate or put in a desk.

For singles, or people just moving to the city, it is a good option in that the suites and apartment is new, clean, secure and safe without costing too much. At $28/day it is clearly less expensive than a hotel.

For friends just graduating from high school, or college, it is a perfect spring board as it allows for social interaction and a room that is quite reasonable.


Minimum size building footprint to make this concept work: 20′-0″ x 50′-0″.

In order to make this work, each bedroom has to act as its own semi-independent unit.  Ideally each would have it’s own half-bathroom.  Given a 50′ townhouse footprint, the plan presented is as good as it will get and still be reasonably sized for a bed and a sofa or there about.

Each suite is the same size, except the suite next to the apartment door which needs some space. The closets for a 50′ long building are rather small.

The Living and Kitchen are modest in size, making the apartment a legal apartment, and provide an opportunity for the roommates to interact.

The bathroom is an okay size, also providing full laundry facilities makes sharing a bit more bearable.  There is a seat/shelf at the back of the tub/shower where each person could store their personal shower items.  Since this is living for adults, the tub isn’t necessary, a shower being preferred, if and only if, the tiles were large enough to limit cleaning duties in a heavily used shower stall.  Still, there is a small chance there is room to make a private shower stall, so that people could use the bathroom at the same time.

The closets in this layout are small, as one would hope for some extra space to store things since the public space of the apartment is generally off limits to personal items. Therefore it would be prudent to offer tenants lockable storage in the cellar, one for each suite.


Shared living quarters provides a type of living that is vastly under-represented in New York City, especially if the unit is designed correctly.  All too often people just rent out a 3 bedroom and try to make the best of it.  In this design, the unit is customized to serve its function, to provide private suites for multiple individuals who are okay with sharing a few common areas but still want a space they can call their own, that’s bright and spacious.  In this way this apartment type succeeds.


In order to command extra rent, one has to provide half-bathrooms in each suite.  In this example utilizing at 20’x60′ townhouse footprint, this is barely achievable.  I say barely because these suites should have walk-in closets and be wider than 9′-6″.  That would be doable with a 25′ wide lot, a study I will put off until we have a real client who wishes to pursue this concept.

Still, the Deluxe Suite is far better than the ‘Small Suites’ as they do have extra room that allows for different furniture layouts and a full or queen size bed. Position the bed near the window or near the door. The half-bath allowing those who want to hide away to do so, or at least have the ability to get ready in the morning without fighting over the sink or toilet.

In the bathroom there is now a private toilet stall, and a private shower stall, allowing access to the bathroom by roommates if they agree this is okay to do. And don’t forget, this unit comes with its own laundry facilities.

Finally the Living Room is now an acceptable size which can accommodate extra seating, some plants, or perhaps a small dining table.


This study has shown that share living is a viable option for landlords. For smaller landlords it can bring in extra income if used as a shared living apartment only for awhile.

The type of people one will attract also reflects on the size of the unit, smaller units will attract college age people, while full suites with their own bathroom will attract older people and professionals.

Size of the building footprint will have a weighing factor, as will the neighborhood your building resides in.  If on the fringe, lean towards upgrading to the deluxe or perhaps a regular apartment, especially if the footprint allows.

Finally, to really do this right, one needs a 25’x60′ footprint, so that the suites can truly function as semi-apartments within a larger apartment.  The extra size could also mean the possibility of a duplex, allowing for at least 6 suites with one large Great Room and a chef’s style kitchen.

Amenities: to also do this right, especially if you convert the entire building to shared living, you’ll have to provide amenities.  Private storage in the cellar is a must, perhaps a little gym and definitely a roof terrace and backyard access/garden.  A nice vestibule where each person can retrieve their mail, and perhaps a little lobby for people to interact in.

For the Ultimate Shared-Living floor plan, geared for the Developer, go here:

The above, as all of our articles and images, are ©2017 SimpleTwig Architecture.  Please share and comment.

2 Replies to “Shared Living Suites – Semi-Apartments within an Apartment”

    1. Thanks for asking, but this is a prototype concept and not an actual project. The concept for this type of living is to help accommodate individuals in high quality, low cost living accommodations who don’t want a high maintenance single family home. I am an architect based in New York City.

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