When a duplex trumps a penthouse

The term “duplex” may conjure up the image of a humble house in the suburbs with two front doors, but to Chicago luxury brokers, it means a two-story space in a high-rise condo tower with spectacular views of Lake Michigan.

The only way to get cathedral spaces and dramatic staircases is to buy two units and combine them into one, Koenig & Strey broker Nancy Joyce tells Michigan Avenue magazine.

In an age where the term “penthouse” gets bandied about rather casually — it’s often applied to units that “aren’t necessarily bigger, grander or even on the top floor,” Baird & Warner broker Tom Gorman says — a case can be made that the “ultimate duplex” is actually “the gold standard of luxury living.”

Gorman says that a “good duplex is a hell of a lot harder to find than a good penthouse” — they’re often marketed as pocket listings.

When Michigan Avenue checked in with the metro Chicago-area multiple listing service, Midwest Real Estate Data LLC (MRED), it found that 26 of 323 active listings in the lakefront and center city districts were marketed as penthouses, and eight as duplexes. Source: michiganavemag.com.