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Breaking Down "Architectural Significant Features" in Rentals

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Rental listings like to throw around the term "architecturally significant features," but what exactly does that mean? There are parts to any apartment that can add value to the unit, which usually means paying extra for that little something extra. Here now are some features that make any rental apartment feel more like a home...if you're willing to pay for it. Any other features that always catch your attention? Drop us a line at the Curbed inbox or leave a comment after the jump.

Crown moulding:

[Photo via Flickr user Brian Moloney]
Crown moulding (or molding, depending on who you ask) is basically plaster or wooden trim installed on an angle where walls meet ceilings. The idea dates back to ancient Greek and Roman architecture, and utilizes classical proportions that are still popular today.
Why it's worth it: It seems like a tiny detail, but crown moulding adds a traditional touch that reflects light, adds dimension, and creates visual interest.

Bay windows

[Photo via Patricia Chang]
Bay windows are ubiquitous in San Francisco, as much a symbol of the city as the Golden Gate Bridge and cable cars. They actually date back to medieval times (the era, not the theme restaurant), but became super popular during the Victorian era.
Why it's worth it: Perks of a bay window are obvious - they add square footage to small rooms and let in tons of extra light.

Hardwood floors:

[Photo via Flickr user beatsrhymesnlife]
You may complain about the crusty carpet in your current rental, but at least be thankful you're not rocking the precursor to hardwood floors, which was often packed hard dirt. It wasn't until the 16th century that wealthy folks installed wood flooring in ornate designs like parquet. If your apartment is from the 50s or 60s, you might be unlucky enough to have some wall-to-wall carpet or linoleum.
Why it's worth it: Most people will admit hardwood floors look great, but they also add value to a property (especially if they're original).


[Photo via Patricia Chang]
Built-ins are basically fixed architectural elements that function like moveable furniture. Think bookcases and benches, which actually date back to the middle ages.
Why it's worth it: Built-ins, especially bookcases, can be crucial in small rentals since you can use less furniture that clutters the space.


[Photo via Patricia Chang]
If you've scored an apartment with a fireplace, it's pretty likely your place is the center for your friends' social universe. Everyone loves to snuggle up in front of a fire, and a working fireplaces adds major value to a property.
Why it's worth it: Bonus for renters - you can use your fireplace in winter to save on heating bills.

Chair rail/picture rail:

[Photos via Patricia Chang]
Chair rails, or dado rails, historically were meant to protect the wall when it was fashionable to leave dining room chairs against the walls away from the table. There are crazy rules about proportions for where the chair rail is supposed to be located, but no one really sticks to that anymore. Picture rails were also based in practicality - they were installed in old homes that had plaster walls so that you could hang pictures and painting without having to nail into plaster.
Why it's worth it:In addition to adding a classy traditional vibe, chair and picture rails establish proper scale and proportion in a room.

Transom windows:

[Photo via Flickr user Ed Stites]
Transom windows are the windows above a door or another window. They seem superfluous - what's the point of a window above a door? Sure, they can add some pretty visual design, but there's function too as they provide extra light and ventilation. They were especially popular in apartments before air conditioning because you could get fresh air without having to leave your door open.
Why it's worth it: Extra light, extra air, and they look pretty. What's not to like?

Floor-to-ceiling windows:

[Photo via MLS]
This one is a no-brainer. With massive floor-to-ceiling windows, your apartment can make you feel like a boss. These became super popular in the mid-century when huge windows used glass in place of traditional walls.
Why it's worth it: Dynamite views of a city of hills? Check. Loads of extra natural light? Check. A pain to clean? Check.