Efficiency and studio apartments are similar, and the terms often get confused by those who are unaware of their few unique differences. Pay close attention to the kitchen space to tell the difference. Also note that large urban areas tend to prefer the term studio apartment regardless of whether it is the correct term.
Check the Kitchen
The distinguishing feature of the efficiency apartment compared to the studio apartment is its kitchen space. The efficiency apartment has a full separate kitchen that is not a part of the general living space, though it is not an entirely separate room since there is not a door. Kitchens in efficiency apartments are small versions of the kitchens typical in most apartments.
In contrast, studio apartments do not have a separate kitchen. As a result, all of the kitchen appliances and pantry areas are not set apart from the rest of the living and sleeping areas.
Layout and Design
U.S. housing law requires that the bathroom be located in a room separate from the rest of the residence. In both an efficiency apartment and studio apartment, this is the only entirely separate room. The layout and design of both efficiency and studio apartments is open and mixes together the sleeping and living areas.
Efficiency apartments tend to be smaller than studio apartments. In fact, studio apartments do not necessarily indicate a small space at all. Some studio apartments are converted from warehouse or industrial space and are actually quite large, but not divided into separate rooms or living areas.
Price is not necessarily indicative of a difference between efficiency and studio apartments. In general, any price differential is likely due to differences in size and location, rather than the mere designation as efficiency or studio.
Kimberly Goodwin has a Ph.D. in finance from the University of Alabama and is an associate professor of finance and the Parham Bridges Chair of Real Estate at the University of Southern Mississippi. She publishes in top real estate journals as well as on her blog, Your Finance Professor. Goodwin is also the managing editor of the Journal of Housing Research.