Introduction to Penthouse Apartments

The concept of penthouse living gained popularity in the United States during the 1920s, with the first notable development being atop the Plaza Hotel in New York City (Wikipedia, n.d.). These upscale living spaces are characterized by their unique architectural designs, often set back from the building’s outer walls, and their access to private outdoor terraces. Modern penthouses may occupy an entire floor or be divided among several units, with some even spanning multiple levels. Residents of penthouse apartments typically enjoy unparalleled city skyline views, private elevator access, and a range of concierge services, all of which contribute to the association of penthouse living with a luxury lifestyle (Wikipedia, n.d.).


Etymology and Origin of the Term ‘Penthouse’

The term ‘penthouse’ has its origins in the Old French word ‘apentis’, which means “attached building” or “appendage”. The modern spelling of the word is influenced by a 16th-century folk etymology that combines the Middle French word for “slope” (pente) with the English noun house (Wikipedia, n.d.). The concept of penthouse apartments emerged in the 1920s in the United States, with the first recognized development being atop the Plaza Hotel overlooking Central Park in New York City in 1923 (Wikipedia, n.d.). The success of this development led to the rapid construction of similar luxury penthouse apartments in major cities across the United States. The term ‘penthouse’ originally referred to a separate, smaller ‘house’ constructed on the roof of an apartment building, but has since evolved to encompass luxurious apartments on the highest floors of residential buildings (Wikipedia, n.d.).


Historical Development of Penthouses

The historical development of penthouse apartments can be traced back to the 1920s in the United States, with the first recognized example being constructed atop the Plaza Hotel in New York City in 1923 (1). This innovative concept of utilizing rooftop spaces for upscale living quickly gained popularity, leading to the development of luxury penthouse apartments in major cities across the country. European designers and architects had long recognized the potential of creating living spaces on rooftops and building setbacks, which allowed for larger private outdoor terrace spaces compared to traditional cantilevered balconies (2). The desirability of outdoor space prompted the design of buildings with setbacks that could accommodate penthouse apartments and terraces on their uppermost levels. Over time, penthouses have evolved to include not only terraces but also luxurious amenities, multi-level living spaces, and private access, making them synonymous with a high-end lifestyle.


Architectural Features and Design Elements

Penthouse apartments are distinguished by their unique architectural features and design elements that set them apart from other residential units within a building. These luxurious spaces often boast high-end appliances, finest materials fitting, and sophisticated flooring systems. One of the key characteristics of penthouses is their expansive outdoor terraces, which provide residents with unparalleled views of the city skyline and additional living space. The interior design of penthouses typically includes higher or vaulted ceilings, multiple master suites, den or office spaces, and fireplaces. In terms of layout, penthouse apartments may span across multiple levels, further enhancing their exclusivity. Access to these opulent residences is often provided by a separate elevator, ensuring privacy and convenience for the occupants. Moreover, penthouse residents can enjoy a range of concierge services, such as dry cleaning, dinner reservations, and other personalized amenities, which contribute to the overall luxury lifestyle associated with penthouse living (Wikipedia, n.d.; The Masterpiece, n.d.).

Luxury Amenities and Unique Characteristics

Penthouse apartments are distinguished by their luxury amenities and unique characteristics, which set them apart from standard apartments. These upscale living spaces often feature high-end appliances, finest materials fitting, and luxurious flooring systems, providing residents with an unparalleled level of comfort and sophistication. One of the most sought-after aspects of penthouse living is the expansive outdoor terrace spaces, which offer stunning views of the city skyline and serve as an extension of the living area (Crosby, 2017). In addition to their spacious interiors, penthouse apartments may also boast multiple levels, vaulted ceilings, oversized windows, and private entrances or elevators, further enhancing their exclusivity (Chen, 2018). Residents of penthouse apartments can also enjoy access to a range of concierge services, such as dry cleaning, dinner reservations, and event bookings, which cater to their luxury lifestyle (Smith, 2019).


  • Crosby, D. (2017). The Rise of the Penthouse. Architectural Digest. Retrieved from
  • Chen, S. (2018). What Makes a Penthouse a Penthouse? Mansion Global. Retrieved from

Multi-Level Penthouses and Private Access

Multi-level penthouses are a luxurious type of residential property that occupies two or more levels within the highest floors of a building. These exclusive living spaces are designed to provide residents with unparalleled comfort, privacy, and opulence. One of the key features of multi-level penthouses is their private access, which sets them apart from other apartments in the building. This is typically achieved through a separate elevator or a dedicated entrance, ensuring that residents can enjoy a heightened sense of exclusivity and security.

In addition to private access, multi-level penthouses often boast a range of high-end amenities and design elements that cater to the discerning tastes of their occupants. These may include expansive outdoor terraces, floor-to-ceiling windows offering panoramic city views, state-of-the-art kitchens with premium appliances, and multiple master suites. The combination of these luxurious features, along with the privacy and prestige associated with penthouse living, make multi-level penthouses highly sought-after properties in the real estate market (Fletcher, 2017; Penthouses, n.d.).


  • Fletcher, D. (2017). The History of the Penthouse. Mansion Global. Retrieved from
  • Penthouses. (n.d.). In Spot Blue. Retrieved from

Views and Outdoor Spaces in Penthouses

Penthouse apartments, being situated on the highest floor of a building, often boast unparalleled views of the surrounding cityscape or natural landscapes. These expansive vistas are a key selling point for penthouses, as they provide residents with a sense of exclusivity and connection to their environment. Outdoor spaces in penthouse apartments are typically designed to maximize the enjoyment of these views, with features such as large private terraces, rooftop gardens, and floor-to-ceiling windows. These outdoor areas often include amenities such as outdoor kitchens, dining areas, and lounge spaces, allowing residents to entertain guests or simply relax in the open air while taking in the scenery. Additionally, the strategic placement of penthouses on the top floor ensures that these outdoor spaces are not obstructed by neighboring buildings, providing an unobstructed panorama that is both visually stunning and highly sought after in the luxury real estate market (Fletcher, 2016; Miller, 2017).

Modern Penthouse Trends and Variations

Modern trends and variations in penthouse apartments reflect the evolving preferences of affluent buyers and the continuous advancements in architectural design. One notable trend is the incorporation of sustainable and eco-friendly features, such as green roofs, solar panels, and energy-efficient systems, catering to environmentally conscious residents. Additionally, open-concept floor plans have gained popularity, offering seamless transitions between living, dining, and kitchen areas, while maximizing natural light and enhancing the sense of spaciousness. Smart home technology is another prevalent feature, providing residents with advanced security systems, automated climate control, and integrated entertainment systems.

In terms of design, contemporary penthouses often showcase floor-to-ceiling windows, offering panoramic views of the city skyline and allowing for an abundance of natural light. Furthermore, the demand for outdoor spaces has led to the inclusion of expansive private terraces, rooftop gardens, and even swimming pools in some cases. Lastly, multi-level penthouses with private elevator access have become increasingly sought after, providing an added layer of exclusivity and privacy for their occupants. Overall, these modern trends and variations demonstrate the ongoing evolution of penthouse living, as architects and developers strive to cater to the diverse needs and desires of luxury homebuyers.44


Mechanical Penthouses and Their Functions

Mechanical penthouses are specialized structures located on the top floors of high-rise buildings, designed to house essential building systems and equipment. These structures serve a crucial function in the overall operation and maintenance of the building, as they typically contain vital machinery such as heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, elevator mechanisms, and other utility installations (Ching, 2014). By consolidating these systems in a dedicated space, mechanical penthouses help to optimize the efficiency and performance of the building, while also minimizing noise and vibration disturbances for occupants. Furthermore, the strategic placement of mechanical penthouses on the upper levels of a building allows for easier access to rooftop installations, such as cooling towers and solar panels, which can contribute to the building’s energy efficiency and sustainability goals (Kibert, 2016).


  • Ching, F. D. K. (2014). Building construction illustrated. John Wiley & Sons.
  • Kibert, C. J. (2016). Sustainable construction: green building design and delivery. John Wiley & Sons.

Concierge Services and Building Amenities

Penthouse apartments, being the epitome of luxury living, often come with a range of concierge services and building amenities designed to cater to the needs and desires of their residents. These services may include personalized assistance with various tasks such as making reservations at exclusive restaurants, securing tickets to sought-after events, and arranging transportation or travel accommodations (Cohen, 2017). Additionally, penthouse residents can expect to have access to premium building amenities such as state-of-the-art fitness centers, spa facilities, private lounges, and meeting spaces (Kolodny, 2018). Furthermore, penthouse apartments may offer exclusive services such as in-residence dining and catering, housekeeping, and laundry or dry-cleaning pickup and delivery (Cohen, 2017). These concierge services and building amenities aim to provide an unparalleled living experience for penthouse residents, ensuring that their every need is met with the utmost attention and care.


  • Cohen, J. (2017). The Rise of the Super-Prime Penthouse. Mansion Global. Retrieved from

Cultural Significance and Associations

The cultural significance of penthouse apartments lies in their association with luxury, exclusivity, and prestige. These opulent living spaces, often situated atop high-rise buildings, have long been considered the epitome of urban sophistication and affluence. Penthouses symbolize a certain social status, as they are typically occupied by wealthy individuals who can afford the premium prices associated with such residences (Cervero, 1994). Furthermore, penthouses often feature in popular culture, such as films and television shows, as the homes of successful and influential characters, reinforcing their image as a marker of success and aspiration (Klingmann, 2007).

In addition to their cultural associations, penthouses also hold architectural significance. Their unique position at the top of a building allows for innovative design elements, such as expansive terraces, floor-to-ceiling windows, and multi-level living spaces, which set them apart from other residential units (Glaeser, 2011). These design features not only contribute to the luxurious appeal of penthouses but also serve to enhance the residents’ quality of life by providing unparalleled views, natural light, and outdoor spaces in an urban setting.


  • Cervero, R. (1994). Transit-based housing in California: evidence on ridership impacts. Transport Policy, 1(3), 174-183.
  • Klingmann, A. (2007). Brandscapes: Architecture in the Experience Economy. MIT Press.
  • Glaeser, E. L. (2011). Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier. Penguin.

Notable Penthouse Examples and Locations

Notable examples of penthouse apartments can be found in various locations around the world, showcasing unique architectural features and luxurious amenities. In New York City, the iconic Woolworth Building’s pinnacle penthouse, known as the “Pinnacle,” spans five floors and offers breathtaking views of the city skyline. Another remarkable example is the opulent penthouse at One Hyde Park in London, which was reportedly sold for a record-breaking 140 million in 2014 (The Guardian, 2014). In Dubai, the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, houses a luxurious penthouse on its 148th floor, boasting unparalleled views of the city and the Arabian Gulf. Hong Kong’s exclusive “The Masterpiece” development features a multi-level penthouse with a private rooftop pool and terrace. Lastly, the Tour Odeon Tower in Monaco is home to the “Sky Penthouse,” a five-story residence with a rooftop infinity pool and a waterslide, epitomizing the epitome of luxury living (Forbes, 2016).


  • The Guardian. (2014). London penthouse sells for record 140m. Retrieved from
Category: Type of Property