13 Nov /14


Penthouse as a word has been in the English language for a long time. But it was only in the last 100 years or so that it came to mean a flat on the top of a building, often with high social status.

Originally a penthouse was some sort of extra building tacked on to the side of a house. It could have been a shed, or a porch or even an outhouse. This was the main meaning of the word until 1892. Fittingly enough the new meaning came from business developers in New York. The Real Estate Record and Builders’ Guide. It starts by stating “It would puzzle many of our readers to know what is meant by a penthouse” and then explains it is a “habitation for a janitor and his family on the roof”. Again, the penthouse was nothing much more than an extension at the top.

The idea of luxury came much later when the publisher of Vogue and Vanity Fair, Condé Nast had the first famous up-market penthouse built in New York – on 1040 Park Avenue. From the date of its completion in 1925 it became a social hot point of the city.

Monaco is a tax haven where one in three of the 40,000 residents is a millionaire. Recently an apartment was announced with a price tag of USD 400 million. – It was really only in the 1956 that the word was used in print as something luxurious. This is a very very long way from the early penthouse shed described in 1300 the first time the word was mentioned. In a sermon about Christmas, the preacher talks about no room in the inn. The only place available was a penthouse!