What Is a Convertible Apartment? All You Need to Know

Many people are finding it difficult to afford a traditional apartment, particularly in urban locations.

The rising rental expenses have made the dream of living in an apartment out-of-reach for low and middle-income individuals.

Convertible apartments are an affordable alternative to traditional apartments.

Here we will explain what exactly a convertible apartment is and what things to look for when selecting a convertible apartment for yourself.

What Is a Convertible Apartment?

A convertible apartment is an intermediate floor plan between a one-bedroom layout and a studio.

Also known as a studio alcove, a convertible apartment has a large living space with a separate bedroom area.

Convertible apartments are different than a studio apartment in the fact that it has one large open space without a separate sleeping area.

The size of the convertible units varies that starts from about 600 square feet. The units can be as large as 1,000 square feet. But the average size ranges between 600 and 800 square feet.

Most convertible apartments are L-shaped, with the bedroom located at the bottom right of the living space.

Some convertible units are also laid out similar to a traditional one-bedroom apartment but without a door separating the bedroom. Moreover, the convertible unit may have a sleeping area located near the entrance.

Can I Build Partitions in a Convertible Apartment?

You can build partitions to separate different rooms in a convertible apartment. But it is essential that you meet the building codes in your area for building a partition.

After a massive fire in 2005 in a convertible apartment, legislations were passed that banned certain types of temporary walls.

You have to contact the building code authority to find out walls you can install to separate a bedroom from the living space.

Most don’t allow windowless pressurized walls since they make it difficult for firefighters to move around the apartment in case of a fire.

If you want to install a partition, you should contact a licensed architect or engineer to draw up a plan. The licensed professional will inspect the work to ensure that it meets the local codes and standards.

A convertible unit must have a living room of at least 150 square feet.

Moreover, the wall should be installed so that it does not interfere with the sprinkler and the ventilation system.

Options for Building a Temporary Wall

Convertible apartments can have a temporary wall that separates the bedroom. However, the temporary wall must abide by the local building codes.

You have various options for building a temporary wall to create a separate bedroom in a convertible unit.

Sliding Doors

You can install Japanese style sliding doors known as Shoji doors. Installing Shoji doors may be expensive, but it is an excellent option if you want maximum natural light.

Installing the sliding doors will make the bedroom space appear more open and bright. The door can also have ornate designs that improve the overall look of the space


You can install bookshelves as a temporary wall.

Bookshelves will give you extra privacy and also look classy in the bedroom.

Foldable Room Partitions

Many people separate an open space using foldable room partitions. These are usually opaque that allows maximum privacy.

Moreover, they can have ornate designs and patterns that enhance the interior décor.

The best thing about foldable partitions is that you can easily store them in a closet. It gives you flexibility about separating the convertible space in the apartment.

Storage Shelves

Storage shelves with drawers can also serve as an ideal room divider. You can have a semi-permanent room divider with open cubical or dual-faced shelves with drawers.

Open shelves will allow maximum lighting to flow, while traditional shelves will provide more privacy but less light.

You can also install vertical storage shelving to maximize the utilization of space. Consider over-the-door shelves, vertical racks, stackable bins, and ceiling racks.

These can act as a room divider and also serve as a showcase for decorative items. Vertical pole shelves allow extra storage for items without having to drill holes in the walls.

Creative Room Dividers

You can use many different types of furniture items as room dividers. Get creative to make the most of the convertible space.

Small scale furniture items such as coffee tables and ottomans will separate the room without making it look cluttered.

You can also place television stands with concealed storage to divide the space.

Ensure the Space Does Not Look Cramped

The temporary wall should not take up too much space. This is important; otherwise, the convertible unit will seem small and cramped.

There should be enough space both in the sleeping area and the living room.

The temporary wall should not block the exit routes. Keeping the exit routes open is essential to safely get out in case of a fire or any other disaster.

Things to Consider When Renting a Convertible Apartment

You should consider your requirements when renting a convertible apartment.

Here are just some of the factors that you must consider before signing a lease agreement.

Cost of the Partition

Find out the cost of installing a new partition before signing a rental agreement for a convertible unit.

As mentioned above, you have different options for dividers: bookshelves, sliding doors, Japanese Shojo doors, and TV stands.

Bookshelf dividers typically cost over a thousand dollars. The cost of a Japanese sliding door is much more and can cost over $4,000.

But the pricier option looks more like permanent walls instead of a temporary divider.

Your length of stay will determine the type of partition you should select.

If you intend to stay for one or two years in the apartment, you should go for a temporary, low-cost divider.

In contrast, if you plan to stay for five or more years, it would be more sensible to invest in a temporary wall.

Allowed Partitions

Another important question when building a partition is the type of partitions allowed by the property owner.

Each building has its own rules about the type of convertible walls that you should understand before renting.

Landlords allow different types of temporary walls in a convertible apartment. If the partition meets the building codes, it will be legal to install the partition.

Most facilitate the separation of rooms by installing temporary doors, bookcase walls, or curtains.

Pressurized walls are not allowed in convertible apartments. You can install a sliding wall, freestanding shelves, or other temporary dividers.

Find out about the temporary dividers that are allowed by the local building codes. Most building codes allow dividers that meet the following conditions.

  • Not permanently attached to the ceiling or wall
  • Serves as a temporary wall
  • Does not block fire escapes
  • Allow the proper functioning of sprinklers
  • Does not radically change the use of the apartment

A room divider will be legal if it meets the above conditions. An important thing to keep in mind is that the partition should only separate the living space.

It should not change the usage of the room. For instance, you cannot install a partition to create another bathroom.

Permission for Partitioning the Space

You must get permission for the partitioning of the convertible unit before signing an agreement.

Find out if the management or the owner will allow you to install a particular divider. Make sure that the building owner or management approves of your plan.

If the building management may not give the green light to your plan, you will have to settle with a less than desirable compromise.

Most reputable companies that install temporary partitions or even freestanding dividers ask for approval from the owner or building management.

So, getting the approval for the sliding door, Shoji walls, or other partition is vital before signing the rental agreement.

Responsibility of Partition Wall

You should also discuss with the property owner or building management about the responsibility of removing the temporary wall.

Some rental agreement clauses for convertible apartments require the tenant to install and remove the divider.

If this is the case, you will have to bear the cost of removing the temporary wall and divider when you leave the place.

In some situations, the landlord takes the responsibility of installing the wall. In such a condition, you will not have to install or remove the divider.

In case the rental agreement stipulates that you must leave the unit in the same condition in which you had first rented the place, you will have to bear the cost if the divider had damaged.

As a rule, you must consider discussing the responsibility regarding the partial wall or divider before moving into a convertible apartment.


With the rent of two to three-bedroom apartments rising every day, many people are opting for convertible apartments instead.

The landlords allow tenants to convert a studio apartment to a convertible apartment by building a temporary wall.

Convertible apartments are great if you want a one-bedroom apartment in an urban location, but your budget doesn’t allow it at present.

As convertible units are a step down from a traditional one-bedroom apartment, you will find them much more affordable.

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