Berlin-Charlottenburg Eisenzahn1 Entree

What makes a penthouse apartment so luxurious: Pure living comfort

Nothing enhances a property like a penthouse – and there’s no more coveted residential unit than the luxury apartment on the top floor. For good reason too: a penthouse combines maximum comfort and privacy with unobstructed panoramic views to create an extraordinary feel-good ambience.

Bettina Schneuer 1. September 2021 · Updated: 15. September 2021 · Reading Time: 8 minutes

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lthough nowadays the term ‘penthouse’ is closely intertwined with apartment buildings, hotels and high-rises, the word itself is much older. It derives from the Late Latin ‘appendicium’, which translates as ‘appendage’. This term first morphed into ‘apentis’ in Old French and, in this form, found its way to England, where it first entered the language in the shortened form ‘pentis’ [1], with ‘penthouse’ emerging in the 14th century [2].

While early forms of the term designated any extension to an existing property – from an awning to a shed – the word ‘penthouse’ took on a whole new meaning in the course of the 20th century, when it became the established term for a multi-storey property’s most exclusive residential unit: the luxuriously furnished top-floor apartment [3].

What distinguishes a penthouse apartment?

Today, a penthouse is defined as an ‘exclusive apartment on the flat roof or the top floors of a multi-storey (residential) building, usually with a large (surrounding) terrace’.  This residential unit is usually designed as a so-called recessed storey, which means that the penthouse floorplan is a little smaller than the floor area of the building itself. As a result, the penthouse is slightly set back from the roof edges of the floor below, thus creating space for the aforementioned surrounding terraces while also ensuring the owners’ privacy. The higher the building and the further back from the edge of the roof the penthouse windows are, the better protected the residents of this exclusive unit are from prying eyes.

“In contrast to a traditional top-floor apartment, however, a penthouse has no sloping ceilings – or at least very few,” adds Maciej Auda. As Head of Acquisition and Sales, he brokers exclusive properties for RALF SCHMITZ’s clients – including selected penthouses in Berlin and Hamburg.

“This particular residential unit is about more than just making the best use of space under the roof: a penthouse is a deliberate extension that, in a way, adds the crowning touch to a luxury property. Here, living comfort takes precedence over everything else. High ceilings and rooms flooded with light are the absolute minimum standard.”

For this reason, a penthouse is always an additional final storey that blends harmoniously with the aesthetics of the entire property, while also providing its owners with design freedom that no other apartment can match.

Exceptional architecture seen in the bathroom of a penthouse in Berlin
Exceptional architecture at its purest: Penthouse bathroom in the palatial RALF SCHMITZ development Eisenzahn 1 in Berlin

What distinguishes a penthouse apartment?

Today, a penthouse is defined as an ‘exclusive apartment on the flat roof or the top floors of a multi-storey (residential) building, usually with a large (surrounding) terrace’.  This residential unit is usually designed as a so-called recessed storey, which means that the penthouse floorplan is a little smaller than the floor area of the building itself. As a result, the penthouse is slightly set back from the roof edges of the floor below, thus creating space for the aforementioned surrounding terraces while also ensuring the owners’ privacy. The higher the building and the further back from the edge of the roof the penthouse windows are, the better protected the residents of this exclusive unit are from prying eyes.

“In contrast to a traditional top-floor apartment, however, a penthouse has no sloping ceilings – or at least very few,” adds Maciej Auda. As Head of Acquisition and Sales, he brokers exclusive properties for RALF SCHMITZ’s clients – including selected penthouses in Berlin and Hamburg.

“This particular residential unit is about more than just making the best use of space under the roof: a penthouse is a deliberate extension that, in a way, adds the crowning touch to a luxury property. Here, living comfort takes precedence over everything else. High ceilings and rooms flooded with light are the absolute minimum standard.”

For this reason, a penthouse is always an additional final storey that blends harmoniously with the aesthetics of the entire property, while also providing its owners with design freedom that no other apartment can match.

The ordinary gives the world its existence. The extraordinary gives it its value.

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Luxurious dressing room of a modern penthouse apartment in Berlin
Meticulous luxury: Dressing room in the modern penthouse apartment of Eisenzahn 1 in Berlin
Flawless panoramic view from the roof terrace of a penthouse in Berlin
Flawless panoramic view: Penthouse roof terrace of the exclusive RALF SCHMITZ development LINIE72 in Berlin

Lofty heights: the characteristics of penthouse living

“Just being able to say: ‘I live in a penthouse’ carries enormous prestige. Some clients tell us they’ve dreamt their whole lives of standing on their own roof terrace in the evening, looking out over the rooftops of the city with a glass of wine in hand,” says Maciej Auda.

“Anyone who lives in a penthouse has literally made it to the top, and I think that’s also why the vast majority of penthouses aren’t bought by investors but by people who want to live in them themselves.”

The stand-out feature of penthouse life is primarily comfort, without ifs or buts; after all, this kind of luxury apartment has no discernible disadvantages as such.

“Of course, a large roof terrace requires regular maintenance and an apartment that gets lots of light needs to be excellently air-conditioned, especially in summer,” says Tobias Kotzorek. “But firstly, state-of-the-art equipment is the absolute gold standard for a penthouse; and secondly, these luxury apartments are synonymous not just with living space but pleasure too. Anyone buying a Bentley or a Rolls Royce knows this kind of car’s upkeep comes at a price; but the comfort and lifestyle are also on a completely different level than what you’d get with a cheaper small car.”    

A lifestyle that, in its architectural exclusivity, is afforded immense freedom by one aspect in particular: the care and attention to detail that goes into planning and constructing a penthouse during the project development phase. This can include features such as discreetly installed irrigation systems in the aesthetically designed roof garden or automatic window tinting against glaring sunshine. For RALF SCHMITZ, as an experienced developer, this is the usual practice and is firmly anchored in the company’s quality standards, earning them heartfelt thanks from highly satisfied penthouse owners even years after purchase.

Bettina Schneuer

Bettina Schneuer studied law in Hamburg and then graduated from the Henri Nannen School of Journalism. She lives in Berlin and works freelance for magazines such as "Architectural Digest"

References

  1. For a history of the term 'penthouse', see the corresponding entry in the Collins Dictionary.
  2. Cf. the aforementioned entry in the Collins Dictionary oder auch das Merriam Webster Dictionary.
  3. The comfort and luxurious furnishings of a penthouse apartment are also an integral part of many current definitions of the word 'penthouse'. See, for example, the definition in the Cambridge English Dictionary
  4. Cf. the entry for 'Penthouse' in the historical-linguistic 'DWDS – Digitales Wörterbuch der deutschen Sprache' (Digital Dictionary of the German Language) project curated by the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities.