Tag Archives: field guides

Field Guide to Chicago Apartments: Studios

It’s been a while since we pulled out the old Field Guide for a humorous look at some of the different types of Chicago apartments. Last summer I gave you an overview of garden apartments and coach houses. Today we’re going to look at another common species of apartment with many quirks: the studio. As the economy starts to recover, many renters who have paired up with roommates through the recession will be able to move out on their own again. Studios, designed for single occupants, will be their next logical stop.

Habitat: Restricted

Unlike the previous two species we studied in the Field Guide, the studio apartment (apartmentus minisculus ecubiculus) cannot be found throughout Chicago. In fact, their territory is quite constricted. Studios can only be spotted in areas that currently attract large numbers of single residents, or in areas that attracted them in the past. They tend to flock together in high rise buildings along the lakefront and close to major transit hubs. Their slow appreciation makes them of little interest to condo developers. The ones that exist inland are usually converted from former hotels or clustered around college campuses and hospitals. (more…)

Field Guide to Chicago Apartments: The Coach House

The StrawStickStone Field Guide to Chicago Apartments series started a few weeks ago with a guide to identifying, tracking and handling garden apartments when encountered on your apartment hunt. Today we're focusing on the coach house, another excellent and unique choice if approached with due caution.

Like many members of the animal kingdom, the Chicago coach house is a master of camouflage. This unique specimen of rental hides in back yards behind larger buildings, invisible from the street. Unique to Chicago and desperately endangered due to shrinking habitat and restrictive zoning regulations, the elusive and wily coach house has a storied history, a valuable place in the Chicago landscape, and a high value to privacy-seekers, mothers-in-law and garage bands citywide. (more…)

Field Guide to Chicago Apartments: The Garden Unit

There are many varied types of apartments in Chicago, each appealing to a different audience. In this new "Field Guide" series (updating on a sporadic basis) I hope to cover some of the local species of apartments. Learn to spot, capture, tag and, if necessary, release them back into the wild.

Today we'll be starting with the Garden Apartment and its variants, the English Garden, the Fake English, the In-Law apartment and the Duplex down.


The Chicago garden apartment (Apartmentus fundamenti) can be found throughout the city although they rarely make an appearance in the downtown area. Any apartment with the majority of its square footage at or below ground level is referred to by Chicagoans as a "garden unit." It is a regional term which can mean anything from sidewalk level to deep basements. Nearly every Chicago apartment building under 7 stories will have at least one garden unit.

Comparative Value and Appeal

Formerly used by building owners for themselves while renting out the more expensive upstairs units, garden units have become more available to the tenant pool over time as apartment buildings get bought up by outside investors and others got converted to condominiums. While gardens have long been maligned as dangerous, with higher potential for break-ins, floods and pest control problems, they have their fans. (more…)