What is a Maisonette?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

The word maisonette (pronounce may-zon-et) is derived from the French term, maison, which translates as house. The addition of ette is a diminutive, and essentially the whole term can be defined as little house. When used in English, maisonette can be defined in many ways, adding to confusion if you’re searching for a little house to make your nest in.

A duplex might be described as a maisonette.
A duplex might be described as a maisonette.

One common definition of maisonette is that it is a two-floor apartment with an internal staircase. It may be located in a larger building and usually has exterior access. Sometimes a single floor apartment with outside access is also defined as a maisonette. The idea of an apartment occupying two floors without renters or owners needing to share stairs with others, or the concept that you don’t have to enter an apartment building lobby to get to your dwelling is often thought upscale. Properties marketed as maisonettes might be a little more costly. This isn’t always the case; you may just be dealing with a landlord or seller with a good vocabulary or the word may be used to make a fairly standard apartment seem more luxurious.

Maisonette might also meet the definition of condo, townhouse or duplex. These residences share common walls, have street access, and many of them are two-story or higher. They are also “little houses” or part of a house, and square footage is usually smaller than that of a freestanding house, although there are exceptions. Very small houses may fall under the heading of maisonettes too.

There are certainly very luxurious apartment buildings that don’t offer outside access, especially when the buildings are high rises. With multiple-story buildings, you probably don’t want to have to climb several flights of stairs to get to your apartment. The maisonette, especially one defined as having street access, is usually a couple of floors at most, and if it is a single-storied apartment, you may have neighbors to your side, above, and/or below you. If your flat is on a second floor, expect to climb some stairs to get to its entrance.

Sometimes a very large home is rezoned as a group of apartments. These small parts of a home may be called maisonettes. They are little “houses” within a house.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


Can maisonettes have penthouses as well? I know that most penthouses are usually located in buildings with more than two stories. But technically, it can just be the top level of any building.

And what is the difference between a duplex and a maisonette? Duplexes are also two stories and have stairs.


I see the word maisonette often in ads. I think that sometimes people use maisonette to refer to stairs as well. That might not be the proper use of it. But if you see an ad that says "apartment with maisonette," it might just mean that it has internal stairs (rather a separate living area inside the apartment with stairs). Of course, the actual correct term would be to just use "maisonette."


We stayed in a "maisonette" last year while on vacation in the French countryside. These were five small cottages next to each other and the owners called each one a "maisonette".

It was one of the most beautiful places ever and the cottages also were very beautiful. They were two stories high, completely made of wood and surrounded by grass and trees.

Post your comments
Forgot password?