What Is a Penthouse? It’s a Deluxe Apartment in the Sky, Usually

What is a penthouse? If you’re lucky enough to live in one, it means you have arrived. The very word “penthouse” denotes luxury and exclusivity. In the words of the famous theme song for “The Jeffersons,” it’s a “deeee-luxe apartment in the sky.”

But if you automatically assume that a penthouse is on the top floor of a building, or the most opulent residence there, you might be surprised by what a penthouse really is in modern-day terms. Allow us to explain.

A peek inside penthouses—then and now

Penthouse apartments were born in the 1920s, when a robust economy sparked a construction boom in New York City, in which luxury apartments with to-die-for views were established on the top floors of many buildings.

One of the earliest penthouses was owned by Condé Montrose Nast, the magazine magnate who inhabited a 5,000-square-foot duplex at 1040 Park Ave. complete with a ballroom, drawing room, library, and salon—the perfect perch for the publisher of

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