What Is a Pied-à-Terre?

simple primary bedroom with fireplace

Design: Lucy Harris / Photo: Francesco Bertocci

Pied-à-terres have become synonymous with luxury—but what exactly are these elusive spaces? Whether you've been curious about purchasing a pied-à-terre or are simply eager to learn more about their pros and cons, below you will find a general guide on the merits of owning a pied-à-terre, where these units are generally located, and more.

eames lounger in living room with tv

Gallery Kitchen & Bath

Meet the Expert

  • Leslie Banker is the principal designer of Leslie Banker & Co in New York City and author of the forthcoming book, Think Like a Decorator, which will be released in spring 2023.
  • Michelle Murphy is a designer and the founder of Demi Ryan in Raleigh, N.C.
  • Kevin Harris is the founder of Kevin Harris Architect, LLC, in Baton Rouge, LA.

What Is a Pied-à-Terre?

The concept of a pied-à-terre is actually quite simple.

"'Pied-à-terre' literally means 'foot on the ground' in French, which is an apt description of what it is: A small apartment that allows you to keep a toe in somewhere," explains Leslie Banker, who is is the principal designer of Leslie Banker & Co and author of the forthcoming book, Think Like a Decorator, which will be released in spring 2023.

Pied-à-terres are typically considered a part time escape rather than a home for day to day living.

"I think of a pied-à-terre being in a city and occupied by people who live in the country or somewhere far away," Banker explains. "It's not a full time primary residence, and it's not a summer home—it's a chic small apartment where you can go spend a few days whether it be for a weekend in the city or occasional business meetings."

Keep in mind that because of this fact, a pied-à-terre has historically been on the smaller side and is not meant to accommodate more than a couple of people at a time.

nyc pied a terre living room with simple modern decor

Design: Lucy Harris / Photo: Francesco Bertocci

Why Should You Consider a Pied-à-Terre?

For many, a pied-à-terre is a welcome alternative to a hotel or vacation rental.

"The focus is on having an easy and comfortable place to stay and space to have a friend or two over for dinner," Banker says. "I picture a small dining table that seats four or six. It's small, not cluttered, and like having your own personalized hotel suite."

Whether one owns or rents their pied-à-terre, they of course have much more freedom in regard to decorating, entertaining, and coming and going than they would if staying in a hotel or rental property, given that this apartment is theirs and theirs only.

As Michelle Murphy of Demi Ryan puts it, "If you travel to the same city frequently, this allows you the luxury of not needing a hotel as well as keeping your personal belongings in the space, which makes traveling much easier and allows all the comforts of home."

Additionally, for some people, purchasing a pied-à-terre is a means of investing in real estate beyond their primary home.

  • Easier to travel to and from a city frequently

  • Can be a means of investing in real estate

  • A way to live simply and minimally while traveling

  • Doesn't provide the same amenities as a hotel

  • Purchasing and maintaining a pied-à-terre can be costly

  • Needs to be designed and furnished to meet your needs and function as a home away from home

tv and built-ins in pied a terre

Gallery Kitchen & Bath

Where Can You Buy a Pied-à-Terre?

Generally, a pied-à-terre is associated with city living, and owning a pied-à-terre is a concept all over the world. One may own a pied-à-terre in a place such as New York City, London, or Paris, for example.

"They are usually located in dense urban areas, making commuting and other activities convenient," says Kevin Harris of Kevin Harris Architect, LLC.

That said, buying a pied-à-terre can be quite costly. While a pied-à-terre formerly referred to a small, minimalistic space, this has changed over time, Harris says. "Today, in major metropolitan areas, the price, size, and amenities rival any regular town mansion," says Harris.

Article Sources
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  1. Fiscal Policy Institute Releases Analysis in Support of Proposed Pied-à-Terre Tax. Fiscal Policy Institute.