What is a loft apartment?
Loft apartments are open-concept living spaces with few dividing walls. Such open layouts give residents more freedom to personalize, making them ideal for people who need work or storage flexibility. In the past, lofts were sections of old factories or warehouses repurposed into studios with cheap rent—but that definition has broadened today to include industrial lofts, open office spaces, and apartments that feature a lofted sleeping area.
An example of an unused industrial space that might be converted into a loft. Much of the exposed pipes and brick walls would be preserved when repurposing such a space. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
The industrial aesthetic of exposed brick walls and pipes, tall windows, cement floors, and unusual curves and corners has not changed, and modern interpretations of loft apartments cater to this look.
A modern loft apartment with a raised sleeping area. (Wikimedia Commons)
What can I use a loft space for?
Lofts are versatile spaces, which is what makes them popular. Cities are known for dealing with urban decay by converting unused buildings rather than demolishing them. Turning an old warehouse into artist lofts or office spaces maintains the antiquity of the architecture while also revitalizing local economies. Entire districts within cities all over the world have been reborn from initiatives to update and modernize old buildings into new living quarters.
Lofts for Artists
Artist lofts are designed for individuals that need a lot of space to perform their work. High ceilings and open areas make it easier to do things like create large-canvas paintings, set up stages, organize equipment, and to shuffle and store items as needed. Many artist lofts are also places where like-minded individuals can gather, share ideas, and be loud (if needed) without disturbing the peace of a neighborhood that desires quiet.
Lofts as Office Spaces
Sometimes, businesses that rely heavily on collaboration prefer to operate in spaces that promote conversation—open spaces. By eliminating cubicles and replacing them with comfortable common areas where people can form rapport, loft office spaces can boost creativity, morale, and productivity. Lofts are also cheaper options for younger businesses that need a place to routinely gather.
A large, open-concept loft that is used as an office space. (Unsplash)
Lofts as Flexible Work/Home Environments
Loft apartments make it easy to convert portions into work spaces as needed. Maybe you have a woodworking table, or a sewing station, or a rack of musical instruments that you use to help with weekly lessons. Whatever your work may be, if it can be done at home, loft spaces make for fluid environments to store and transfer equipment that might not fit easily into a traditional apartment space.
What can I expect loft interiors to look like?
Loft apartments began as converted floors of factories. Exposed piping and wiring, cement floors, pillars, brick walls, large rows of windows, and little to no closed spaces (apart from bathrooms) are characteristic of the industrial-style loft. Industrial lofts are common in mid-to-large sized cities with high rates of gentrification, new development, and job and population growth. These environments are hotbeds of opportunity for both renting, buying, and developing loft spaces.
Highly populous and fast-growing places like New York City, Houston, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Denver, and Seattle have unusually high population growth–and thus high concentrations of industrial lofts. Areas such as New York City’s Meatpacking District, the Los Angeles Arts District and Seattle’s Pioneer Square are examples of neighborhoods rekindled by loft development and growth.
Lofts come in a variety of different looks. In some cases the piping and wiring may be hidden for a more modern apartment aesthetic. Some loft spaces incorporate the wiring, odd angles, and unique alcoves into the overall flow of the design.
A modern loft with exposed brick.
Old factory windows that are common within industrial lofts. Windows are large and can bring in lots of natural light, which is an ideal setting for painters and photographers. (Source: Morguefile)
Should I rent or buy a loft apartment?
Many people seek out loft apartments because they tend to be a little bit cheaper than traditional spaces. It makes more sense to rent a loft space if you value a flexible living style and if you want to take advantage of other benefits (like a specific artist community, for example). People come and go into such communities, however, so those looking for longer-term residence to start a family might want to consider an alternative.
Because of their versatility, lofts make for decent investments since they can be repurposed economically. If you have the opportunity to purchase a loft, it’s much easier to find a use for it if you decide you want to move onto a different living arrangement.