What Is A Maisonette - Everything You Need To Know


A maisonette, derived from the French word 'maison' - meaning house- is a distinct housing style often linked with the elegance of European architecture. These residences are typically two-story dwellings within a larger building, offering the best of both apartments and houses. The term 'maisonette' originated in France and was used to refer to a small house situated separately within the premises of a large house or palace. Over time, the concept evolved, and today, maisonettes represent a unique architectural style that encapsulates affordable luxury in urban living.

It's important to note that the term 'maisonette' can hold different connotations depending on the geographical context. In the United Kingdom, for example, it typically refers to a self-contained part of a residential building spread over two floors and having its own separate entrance. On the other hand, in the United States, 'maisonette' often describes a high-end apartment that has a street-level entrance, offering the privacy of a house with the convenience of apartment living. Hence, the interpretation of 'maisonette' may vary, reflecting regional architectural trends and housing norms.

Main Characteristics of a Maisonette

Maisonettes are characterised by their distinctive architectural and design features. Unlike flats with a shared hallway, they typically feature a separate, private entrance that leads directly outside. This not only provides the dweller with a greater sense of privacy but also gives the impression of living in a standalone house. Inside, the living space is usually spread over two or more levels, connected by an internal staircase, creating a feeling of spaciousness.

From a design perspective, maisonettes often feature a compact yet efficiently planned layout, maximising the space. Many have an open-plan living area on the lower floor, which often includes the kitchen, dining, and living rooms, with bedrooms on the upper floor. This separation of public and private spaces within the dwelling adds to the allure of maisonettes, providing you with a unique blend of communal and private living within a single home.

Difference Between A Maisonette and a Flat

The distinction between a maisonette and a flat is quite significant due to a number of factors:

  • Entrance: A maisonette has its own private entry directly from the outside, giving it a sense of individuality and privacy. On the other hand, a flat typically shares a common entrance and hallway with other flats in the building.

  • Layout: Maisonettes are typically laid out over two or more floors, connected by an internal staircase, providing the feeling of spaciousness. Flats, however, are generally on a single floor. Maisonettes can also come with garden space, which is a bonus.

  • Design: While flats have varying designs, maisonettes often have an open-plan living area on the lower floor and bedrooms on the upper floor, separating public and private spaces.

  • Privacy: Maisonettes provide more privacy as separate units within a larger building, unlike flats that are part of a single, larger unit with shared spaces.

Difference Between A Maisonette and a House

While maisonettes and houses share some similarities, they differ in essential aspects. Here are some key differences:

  • Structure: A house is a standalone structure, usually spread over one or more levels. In contrast, a maisonette, while it may have multiple levels, is part of a larger building.

  • Ownership: When you purchase a house, you usually own the land it sits on. However, owning a maisonette typically means you only own the dwelling, not the land or the building it is part of.

  • Entrance: Both houses and maisonettes have private entries, but a maisonette's entrance may be directly from the street or a shared hallway.

  • Maintenance: House owners are responsible for the maintenance of the entire property, including the garden, roof, and exterior walls. In contrast, maintenance responsibilities for maisonettes may be shared with other occupants or managed by a property management company.

  • Outdoor space: Houses often have private spaces like gardens or yards. In contrast, while some maisonettes may have small private balconies or terraces, outdoor space is usually limited or shared among building residents.

  • Privacy: While both offer more privacy than a flat, a house generally provides more privacy than a maisonette since there are no shared walls or floors with other dwellings.

  • Cost: Maisonettes are generally more affordable than houses, making them popular for those seeking a house-like living experience on a budget.

Advantages of Living in a Maisonette

Living in a maisonette has numerous advantages beyond its architectural charm and compact design.

Maisonettes are often part of a larger building complex, offering residents a unique sense of community. This can provide a sense of security as neighbours are nearby. They also come in various styles, offering residents different design options. From modern minimalistic designs to more traditional European styles, maisonettes provide an aesthetic appeal uncommon in conventional flats or apartments.

Unlike flats in high-rise buildings, maisonettes often offer more possibilities for customisation. Depending on the building's rules, residents may be able to make substantial modifications to the interior of their maisonette, allowing them to create a home that truly reflects their style.

Given their unique combination of privacy, space, and access to shared resources, maisonettes often provide excellent value for money, especially in urban areas where space is at a premium.

Disadvantages of Living in a Maisonette

Despite their numerous advantages, living in a maisonette also has disadvantages, which prospective buyers or renters should consider. One significant drawback is the maintenance cost. Although certain maintenance responsibilities may be shared or managed by a property management company, any issues that arise within the maisonette itself, like plumbing or electrical problems, are typically the responsibility of the owner or tenant. This could potentially result in unexpected and substantial costs.

Another downside is related to accessibility. Maisonettes, by their very nature, are multi-level dwellings. This means that residents have to navigate stairs frequently. This can pose a real challenge for individuals with mobility issues, older people, or families with young children. Unlike single-level flats or bungalows, maisonettes may not be the best choice for those with difficulty with stairs or who require wheelchair accessibility.

While maisonettes allow for a degree of separation from neighbours, they are still part of a larger building. Noise from neighbouring units, especially if the soundproofing is poor, can be an annoyance. Similarly, residents may have to abide by specific rules or restrictions set by the building management or homeowners' association, which may limit the extent of personalisation or modifications one can make to the maisonette.

All these factors contribute to the fact that, while maisonettes can offer an attractive compromise between a house and a flat, they may not be the ideal choice for everyone. Prospective residents should weigh these potential drawbacks against the benefits to make an informed decision.

Are Maisonettes Freehold or Leasehold

Maisonettes can be either freehold or leasehold, depending on the terms of the sale.

In a freehold sale, the buyer owns the maisonette and the land on which it is built. Therefore, they have control over the property and are responsible for its maintenance. They do not have to pay ground rent, and there is no expiration date on their ownership. As a freeholder, the owner can alter the property as they wish, subject to planning permissions. Owning a freehold maisonette can provide long-term security because you own the property outright.

On the other hand, with a leasehold sale, the buyer only owns the maisonette for a set period, defined by the length of the lease agreement with the freeholder (the person or company who owns the land). After the lease expires, ownership of the maisonette reverts to the freeholder. Leaseholders may have to pay ground rent to the freeholder, along with service charges for maintenance of common areas. While a leaseholder can live in the property as if it were their own, they may face restrictions on alterations without the freeholder's consent.

Generally, maisonettes in the UK tend to be leasehold, although there are exceptions. Buyers should always check the tenure of a property before purchase, as it can significantly impact the responsibilities, costs, and rights associated with ownership. It's also worth noting that laws related to leasehold properties are subject to change, and different conditions may apply in other jurisdictions. Therefore, seeking professional advice when buying a maisonette is sensible, especially if it's leasehold.

Deciding if a Maisonette is the Right Choice for You

Determining whether a maisonette suits you will depend on several factors. The unique combination of advantages and disadvantages makes maisonettes suitable for some people, while others may find them less appealing.

First and foremost, assess your lifestyle, preferences, and needs. A maisonette may be an ideal choice if you value a sense of community, appreciate architectural variety, and enjoy the convenience of shared amenities. Personalising your living space may also appeal if individuality and style are important to you.

However, consider the potential downsides as well. The maintenance responsibility, the presence of stairs, and possible noise from neighbours might be deterrents. Moreover, the restrictions related to modifications and the terms of leasehold agreements might not align with your long-term goals or financial situation.

Maisonettes represent a unique type of property that offers a blend of features from both flats and houses. They could be considered a viable alternative for those seeking a balance between a sense of community and individual privacy, architectural charm and practical living space, and affordability and value for money. As with any property purchase or rental, weighing all these factors against your needs, preferences, and financial circumstances is crucial to making an informed decision.

How Lux Homes Estate Agents Can Assist

Our team at Lux Homes Estate Agents can guide you through the intricacies of maisonettes, whether you're considering buying, selling, or renting one.

We can provide comprehensive information about the features, advantages, and potential pitfalls of maisonettes in your preferred location. We understand that everybody's needs are unique and offer advice that reflects your circumstances and goals.

View all Blog