Rekha Iyengar and Justin Campbell, like many couples, have been spending all their hours together for more than a year—and it’s now informing their housing needs.
“We wanted a floor plan with designated workspaces for both of us even though Justin is likely to go back to his office in a couple of months,” said Ms. Iyengar, 38, who works for a health insurance company.
Their new condo at 1400 Monroe St. in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood, which cost approximately $2.6 million, has 3,200 square feet with four bedrooms, a den and five bathrooms. The unit comes with a 1,200 square foot private terrace.
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“We combined two units to get this much space and to get unobstructed views to the east, the south and the west,” said Mr. Campbell, 41, who works in finance.
The couple isn’t alone in their desire for a larger condo that shares a floor with only one other unit or, better yet, has an entire floor to itself. These floor-through units mimic the size and privacy of a single-family home yet offer the convenience of city living.
“I once read that it’s every New Yorker’s dream to annex their neighbor’s apartment,” said John Tashjian, a founder and principal of Centurion Real Estate Partners, developers of 200 East 59th St. in Manhattan, where the top three levels each have just one unit and floors 29 through 31 have just two units each. “Privacy is the ultimate luxury.”
Buyers attracted to floor-through units include families who want the living space of a single-family home and empty-nesters who use the extra bedrooms for office space and visiting kids and grandkids, said John Roe, principal of the Roe Corporation, developer of Charlotte of the Upper West Side at 470 Columbus Ave. in Manhattan. Some floor-through designs appeal to buyers who plan to entertain.
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“Floor-through units give you the opportunity to enjoy the liveliness of the city and the serenity of your private space,” said Mr. Tashjian. “In our 59th Steet building, each unit has a wraparound terrace, too, which adds another element of privacy.”
The additional space, windows, natural light and privacy provided by floor-through units are prized in urban environments such as New York City, Chicago, Miami and downtown Seattle, as well as in locations with spectacular views. Their convenience, with some buildings offering hotel-like amenities, has even drawn buyers away from Los Angeles’s lavish mansions—as was the case for singer The Weeknd and other high-profile buyers in the city’s nascent luxury condo market.
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Beyond the Penthouse
Full-floor penthouse units are not new to New York City, but some developers are adding more full and half-floor units to their buildings due to perceived demand for larger units. Sometimes, a narrow site or a location that appeals to families who need more space make a building with multiple full-floor units an ideal configuration.
For example, at 150 East 78th St. on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, a condo designed by Robert A.M. Stern Architects, sits on a small site and includes just 25 residences.
“We need to marry the market with the constraints of the site and designed this building from the beginning to cater to families,” said John Usdan, CEO of Midwood Investment and Development, which co-developed the site alongside EJS Group.
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Residences at 150 East 78th St., which are priced from$5.2 million, have three to five bedrooms. Sixteen of the residences are half-floor units and five are full-floor residences with fireplaces and terraces, including three duplex units. Every residence has a private elevator landing.
“We finalized the design in 2018 before the pandemic, knowing that privacy and exclusivity are important to buyers,” Mr. Usdan said. “The pandemic just drew a bright red line around environmental risk that reinforced the desire for privacy.”
At Charlotte of the Upper West Side, where prices start at $11 million, each of the seven units occupies a full floor and includes four bedrooms and 4.5 bathrooms.
“There hasn’t been any new development on Columbus Avenue in 30 years, so this is a special opportunity to create a unique building,” said Mr. Roe, who plans to live in the Charlotte with his family. “This is a family-oriented neighborhood, so we designed homes with a bathroom for each bedroom and outdoor space for each residence.”
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The garden-level residence has a private terrace, the penthouse has multiple terraces and other units have large balconies.
At 532 West 20th St. in Chelsea, where each of the building’s nine condos occupies a full floor, residents will have private parking, direct elevator entry into their homes and private terraces. Prices there will average $7 million.
“We acquired a former one-story art gallery and decided this location would work best for a small bespoke building,” said Joe McMillan, chairman and CEO of DDG, developers of 532 West 20th St. “We’ve designed buildings before with just one or two units per floor and we know the demand is there for bigger units. In our Chelsea building, the residences average 2,700 square feet and most have three or four bedrooms.”
Each residence has a 50-foot-wide great room, the width of the building, that faces south.
“We designed the residences for families and included a large entertaining area in each unit,” Mr. McMillan said. “The neighborhood lends itself to art collectors, so we also made sure that there are large art walls to showcase collections as well as large windows in the entertaining areas and the bedrooms.”
Big Condos in Chicago and Seattle
Multiple expectant parents and families with toddlers are anticipating moving into 1400 Monroe in Chicago, said Jordan Karlick, principal at JK Equities, Inc., developer of 1400 Monroe, where the units are priced from $2 million and up.
“Our buyers are mostly families who want to stay in the city and especially in this school district,” Mr. Karlick said. “We designed the homes with large bedrooms and play areas for kids and then several buyers opted to combine units for even more space.”
The two corner penthouse units, each with at least 3,000 square feet and a private roof terrace, have south-, west- and north-facing windows. One buyer combined units on the second floor for more than 5,000 square feet with a 1,000-square-foot terrace.
At the Emerald, a new 40-story waterfront tower built above Pike Place Market in Seattle, two penthouse units share the top floor.
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“The Marquise, a south-facing unit, has a big dramatic floor plan designed for entertaining, with a modern design meant to emphasize the views towards the west,” said Dehlan Gwo, director of sales and marketing for Create World Real Estate, developer of The Emerald. “The Trillion residence has a more classical floor plan with every area defined.”
Prices at the Emerald range from the mid $500,000s to nearly $10.9 million for the penthouse units. Mr. Gwo said the best-selling units are the “lower penthouse” residences which are the largest floor plans aside from the upper penthouses and average $3.5 million.
“Seattle doesn’t offer a lot of downtown high rises, so this building offers a lifestyle choice that appeals to young well-to-do buyers and empty nesters,” Mr. Gwo said. “We’ll probably see more of these types of units as the city becomes more global and more dense.”
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Florida Condos With Front-to-Back Views
Water views are premium features of Florida condos, so floor-through units there are often designed to maximize the seascape. For example, the 16 floor-through condos at Sage Longboat Key Residences outside Sarasota each have an unobstructed view of the Gulf of Mexico from the front windows and Sarasota Bay from the back. The sold-out condos, priced from $4.5 to $6 million, have more than 4,000 square feet, said Dan Kaplan, managing partner of PMG, the developer.
“This is a unique location with views on either side, so we designed the building with four units on each of the four floors, each with a private elevator landing,” Mr. Kaplan said. “Our buyers tend to be empty nesters who want the extra space for kids and grandkids to visit.”
Mr. Kaplan said PMG is looking for more opportunities to design floor-through residences since they offer a higher level of privacy and exclusivity that luxury buyers want.
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At Alina Residences Boca Raton, the buyers are a mix of families, executives expecting their college-age kids to return home, and couples who want private spaces for work and relaxation.
“The floor-through plans we offer have 4,500 to 4,800 square feet with entertainment spaces and a primary suite facing east and guest bedrooms and an office with a terrace facing west,” said Marisela Cotilla, executive director of sales for Alina Residences. “Before the pandemic we thought it might be a challenge to sell these larger units, but people are rethinking their lifestyle and want space to accommodate their family.”
Eleven of the 121 residences are floor-though units that list for $4.5 to $6 million, said Ms. Cotilla.
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“We’re finding the demand is there for 5,000-square-foot units, so in phase two of the development we may include more larger residences,” said Ms. Cotilla.
Developers around the country expect to design more floor-through units in future projects due to buyers prioritizing living space.