Studio Apartment vs. Loft: What’s the Difference?

Studio Apartment vs. Loft - What’s the Difference

When searching for apartments to rent, you’d be forgiven for thinking that ‘studio’ and ‘loft’ mean the same thing. But these terms aren’t just examples of airy real estate agent sales patter, and while you can happily dismiss adjectives like ‘cozy’ and ‘historic’ as simply more attractive ways to say ‘small’ and ‘old’, you should probably pay more attention when it comes to the differences between lofts, studios, and one- or two-bedroom apartments. Of the various sorts of apartments, it is lofts and studios that most often get confused, and for good reason.

Depending on whether you’re a bohemian artist-type looking for a unique space to fill with furniture and friends, or a student or young professional who just wants an efficient and economical pad with a bed and not much else, you should be looking for one or the other of these two very different styles of

apartment. But which one is which? Read on to find out!

So, what is the difference between a studio and a loft? Studios and lofts are both open-plan apartments. There’s no single rule to distinguish a studio from a loft, but there are several essential differences: lofts are usually spacious and high-ceilinged, while studios are small and compact; lofts tend to be converted spaces, while studios are purpose built; and lofts are usually expensive to buy, rent, or maintain, while studios are comparably affordable.

Lofts and studios in detail

In brief, lofts are bigger, older, and more expensive than studios. That’s a simplistic take, however, and when considering which of the two to choose, there’s a lot more to think about than simply weighing up the cost-to-space ratio. Below, I’m going to dive into the major differences between lofts and studios in detail, in order to weigh up the pros and cons of these very different spaces.

What is a loft?

Have you ever been watching your

favourite TV show or movie, only to be struck by jealousy when a character heaves open the oversized steel door to their cavernous, sparsely furnished apartment? Have you ever drooled over exposed brickwork, polished concrete floors, floor-to-ceiling windows and rattling metal pipework? Have you ever momentarily imagined yourself moving to a converted factory in Brooklyn? Then you probably have loft envy.

Lofts are, to many, the ultimate aspirational apartment. An authentic loft – known as a ‘hard loft’ – will be converted from a disused industrial or commercial space, and will retain many of the original features. High ceilings, large, open-plan living areas, rugged industrial design

and a central urban location are the hallmarks of these apartments, along with a hefty price-tag and a high demand. If you’re lucky enough to live in a loft, you’ll be paying premium prices for a premium living space, but you’ll be doing it in style!

What is a studio apartment?

While studios share the loft apartment’s open-plan, undivided layout, in many other ways these two spaces are worlds apart. Everything large about a loft is small in a studio: studios are defined by their small floorplans (often they are smaller than a two-car garage), their understated aesthetics and modern conveniences, and their affordability – all things greatly lacking in their loftier cousins.

Studios are far from boring, however, as their compact dimensions often call for innovative design solutions to

maximise the utility of the available space. With a small footprint and small energy requirements, easy-to-maintain convenience, and ready availability, studios are the perfect solution for students, young professionals, and anyone looking for the ultimate in simple living.

Other factors that differ between a studio apartment and a loft

1. Size

when it comes down to space, lofts will always walk

away the winner. The expansive floorplans and high ceilings of loft apartments are the main thing that distinguishes them from their smaller cousins, the studio. While there is no upper size limit on lofts, with many rivalling the floorspace of an average house, studio apartments are distinctly smaller: the average US studio is around the same size as the average two-car garage, at 450 square feet, and in the UK and elsewhere this figure can drop to as low as just 200 square feet!

2. Price

Just as a loft will always beat a studio when comparing available space, so a studio will almost always beat

a loft when it comes to price. Alongside their larger size, the loft’s hip, bohemian image, and the relative scarcity of authentic hard loft apartments in any city, means these highly desirable spaces can command a serious price-tag. Studio apartments, meanwhile, are usually much more affordable. Not only are they smaller, but they are also more readily available and usually developed specifically to cater to students and young professionals who are looking for a modern, central apartment on a budget.

When it comes to maintaining your apartment, studios win again. Their small spaces take less energy to light, heat, or cool, and since they tend to be only a few years old at most, they probably won’t suffer from any age-related maintenance issues. Your loft, on the other hand, likely began its life as space not designed for human habitation. Large windows, high ceilings, and poor insulation mean these spaces take a lot to heat, and their building’s generally aging infrastructure means there’s always the possibility of things breaking down and going wrong.

3. Geography

When it comes to the question of location, the difference between a loft and a studio is much closer. Traditional hard lofts, which are converted from authentic ex-industrial or ex-commercial spaces, are almost always found in relatively central locations in major cities. Their development often heralds the first wave of gentrification, as traditionally working-class neighborhoods situated close to factories and warehouses are redeveloped to cater to the trendy, urban middle class. If you like your local neighborhood to mix authentic edge with hipster cool, then lofts are what you should be looking for.

Studios are also frequently centrally situated. Studio developments tend to be purpose-built, rather than renovated, but occasionally developers will take empty office blocks and convert them into studio apartments. Regardless, developers tend to situate their studios in central locations, where the appeal of a city’s amenities on the doorstep can counterbalance the sacrifices of living in a micro-apartment.

4. Function

In both form and function, the question of whether to choose

loft or studio is largely one of personal preference. Hard lofts have a very distinctive industrial aesthetic, with exposed brickwork and pipes and lots of concrete and steel. Studios, meanwhile, tend to aim for a more minimalist vibe designed to ensure the space appears as light and uncluttered as possible. Lots of light colours and hidden storage leads to a very different feel from the dilapidated chic of the loft. Of course, that doesn’t mean you’re stuck with either. You can easily furnish a loft in a way that softens some of its hard edges, while your minimalist studio can quickly be decorated to suit a more eclectic taste.

The most functional aspect of the loft is undoubtedly its large, open layout, which can be customized to suit almost any need. Studios offer a very different definition of functional and usually depend on clever design and furnishings that can fold away or are multi-purpose in order to make the most of the space available. For a creative interior designer, each offers its own unique challenge to be tackled.

5. Benefits

As you’ve probably gathered by now, there are distinct benefits and disadvantages to both lofts and studios. Another thing to consider is the availability of amenities in each space. Lofts are large enough to easily house a full kitchen complete with all conveniences, a laundry space, and even storage for a bike. You’re unlikely to get anything like that amount of room in a studio, which often features kitchenettes and no personal facilities for washing clothes. Instead, studio apartment buildings tend to take a communal approach to amenities, offering residents access to everything from laundromats and common rooms to private gyms and cinemas.

What is best for you?

Ultimately, when choosing between a loft and a studio, you will need to consider a number of factors including your budget, your space and location needs, and your personal taste. Probably the most limiting factor for the loft is the steep price and relative rarity of these unique and highly desirable spaces. Studios, on the other hand, require a different sort of sacrifice, and unless you’re a budding minimalist already you’ll likely find the challenge of fitting your existing life into these tiny spaces a challenge.

There’s no one answer as to which apartment style will suit you, just as there’s no one answer as to what exactly the difference between a loft and a studio is. But if you’re a fan of living a life with fewer walls, you’ll definitely want to consider both of these unique living spaces when looking for your next apartment.

Related questions

  • What is a condo? Also sometimes confused with a loft, a condo refers to a type of apartment building in which each apartment is privately owned, while some amenities in the building are shared by each homeowner.
  • What is an attic?If you tell your British friend you live in a loft, they might look at you strangely. In the UK, both loft and attic refer to the storage space at the top of a house, directly under the roof. There, an attic is the entire space, and is usually big enough to be converted into a living space if the homeowner desires, while the term ‘loft’ refers to a smaller space usually only suitable to be used as storage. 

Melanie Asiba

Melanie is an author, and she enjoys traveling, reading, and trying out new things. In addition to writing for Apartment ABC.

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