When the words “loft apartment” cross our mind, you probably picture an urban bohemian life somewhere in a trendy New York City neighborhood. These living spaces have captured the attention of many due to their depiction in movies and books, but what are they exactly and are they as great as everyone seems to think they are? Read on to find out the varying definitions of loft apartments and what to expect from renting them.
What is a loft apartment? A loft apartment is a rental unit that comprises of a large open space that does not have internal walls. The only area that is separate from the rest of the space is the bathroom. Loft apartments would usually be found in buildings that served commercial or industrial purposes and were converted to residential units.
These apartments typically have high ceilings, concrete or wooden floors, exposed piping, and in some cases, floor-to-ceiling windows. These converted units are referred to as “hard lofts”, while loft apartments that were constructed exclusively as residences are known as “soft lofts’ in the real estate community. Variations of the loft apartment include rental units that have an overhead loft area and garage loft apartments.
Loft apartments are renowned for their large open spaces, but definitions can slightly vary from one city/region to another. Here are the variations you may come across:
Variations of loft apartments
1. Basic loft apartment
A loft apartment is generally a unit that has a large open space and a separate bathroom. Initially, they were exclusively associated with industrial or commercial buildings that have been transformed into residential units. Other than open spaces, other common features of loft apartments include large floor-to-ceiling windows; high ceilings; exposed beams and poles, piping, and ventilator tubes; as well as concrete or wooden floors.
Although loft apartments are most commonly associated with New York City, they can be found in many other cities and neighborhoods as well. While loft living is believed to have originated in The Big Apple, some areas of Brooklyn and Manhattan are believed to have loft apartments due to the original wave of conversion of commercial buildings to residential units.
Loft rental units that resulted from this era of conversions are sometimes known as “hard lofts” simply because they are found within buildings that initially served other purposes. On the other hand, “soft lofts” are rental units that were constructed solely to serve as residential units but have adopted the aesthetics of loft living.
While there are some contradictions regarding the origin of hard lofts, the concept of these living spaces is believed to have begun in SoHo. They were primarily occupied by starving artists who sought to find spaces where they could both work and live. As more people moved into the area, people began to see the perks that came with living in loft apartments, and their popularity began spreading to neighboring areas.
2. Apartments with an overhead loft
In some cities, loft apartments are considered to be rental units that have an overhead/upstairs elevated area that overlooks or partially opens to the main living area. This loft space is typically used as a bedroom, although it is not uncommon to use it as a sitting room or a home office. Most of these loft apartments usually incorporate wood or steel railings as a safety measure to prevent people from falling from the elevated level. While leaving the space open is an option, a more popular trend is to install a partial wall to allow for more privacy especially if the elevated area is used as a bedroom.
In some cases, this variation of loft apartments, takes the design of a duplex rental unit, while in some instance, you may find the apartment just has extra high ceilings, and the loft is elevated or situated on of the rooms on the main floor. In such units, you can access the elevated area via a staircase.
3. Garage loft apartments
As the name suggests, these apartments are built on top of a garage area. To access this type of apartment, you may use a separate stairway you will find outside the structure, or less commonly, go through the garage. These units may or may not include an open floor design that is associated with loft apartments. In most cases, these units are added above garages years after they have been built, and legality of renting out these spaces varies from one city to another. Most of them serve as home offices or bedrooms.
Living in a loft rental unit is best suited if you are looking for a nontraditional style of apartment, but it comes with its advantages and disadvantages. Here is what you can expect from loft living
Pros of loft apartments
- The open layout – One of the most outstanding features of loft apartments is the open layout with high ceilings and large windows which generally make your living space seem larger than the actual square footage. If you are claustrophobic, then a loft apartment should be on top of your list since it does not feel cramped. You also have more space to move around your furniture and generally experiment with the layout.
- Natural light – Thanks to the large floor-to-ceiling windows which let in a lot of natural light, you won’t have to rely on artificial light during the day. This generally freshens and brightens up your living space in addition to saving you some money when it comes to the electric bill.
- More wall space for decoration – Loft spaces have a lot of wall space that you can decorate as you wish, whether it is hanging art pieces or photos. As a result, you end up with an aesthetically pleasing living space.
- They feature unique elements – Another charming characteristic of a loft rental unit is the industrial elements in the design. They often feature exposed brick walls, ventilator tubes, and piping, as well as support beams and poles. These are aesthetics commonly associated with loft apartments more than any other type of rental unit.
- Simply stylish – Due to their nontraditional layout and unique features, loft apartments are generally regarded to be stylish rental units, and you can expect people to complete you on your living space when you live in one.
- The shared amenities – Since they are commonly found in upscale neighborhoods, loft properties tend to feature shared amenities such as club rooms, gyms and spas, fire pits, and patios.
Cons of loft apartments
- The cost of heating and cooling – Due to the high ceilings, there is ample space for air to circulate around the room, which means that it can get quite warm during the summer months and a tad too cool during the winter. In addition to this, loft units found in buildings that were formerly warehouses don’t always have the best insulation, which further contributes to the slightly higher/lower internal temperatures than average. During the summer, you will be forced to use air conditioning more intensely than someone who lives in an apartment with a more traditional layout, and the same goes for heating during the winter. As a result, you can expect your electric bill to spike during these periods.
- Lack of privacy – Unless you are living with your significant other, sharing a loft apartment with a roommate allows very limited privacy due to the open space concept. If you plan to live with a roommate, you can make use of room dividers to enhance privacy, although this will affect the open plan design of the apartment.
- Smells tend to linger – In a conventional apartment, when you burn food, the odor can often be limited to the kitchen, or if you want to get rid of it faster, you can use a box fan to suck the smell out. However, in a loft, when the odor of burnt food escapes into the open space, you will often find that neither the large windows nor a fan is effective in getting rid of the terrible smell.
- Sounds tend to echo – Another downside of having an open layout and high ceiling is the tendency of sound to echo. You will often find that a regular tone of voice can be heard all the way across the entire space, and having a conversation while the TV is on is almost impossible. If you have a dog, the barking will get to your nerves quickly due to the enhanced soundwaves. If you are bothered by loud sounds, you may be better off avoiding loft apartments.
- Limited storage space – In more traditional housing units, you will find that the built-in walls usually provide built-in storage options such as shelves, closets, and cupboards here and there. However, in a loft apartment, since there aren’t many walls, you miss out on the accompanying storage. Consequently, you need to come up with creative storage solutions for your belongings to avoid clutter.
- Often expensive – In addition to the potentially expensive electric bill, the rent for loft apartments may be costlier than that of rental units of the same size. This could be attributed to the unique industrial elements, the natural lighting, and the generally higher demand for these units.
Loft living is a great option that will offer you a lot of open space to exercise your creativity in addition to unique details whether your unit is in a converted building or a standard residential complex. However, it is also important to take into consideration other factors that come with living in a loft apartment such as lingering sounds and smells and potentially expensive utilities. Ultimately, the decision to live in a loft apartment depends on your preferences.