What Is a Loft Apartment? What to Know About Homes With Space to Spare

If you’re looking to rent or buy a spacious apartment with few walls closing you in, loft living can be your ticket to happiness. As its “lofty” description suggests, these studio apartment buildings are characterized by their soaring ceilings, concrete or hardwood floors, and open, all-one-room floor plans.

Characteristics of a loft apartment

Loft apartments are typically converted factories or other industrial buildings, and often highlight this architectural history by leaving many of their raw features intact. These apartments often have exposed brick walls, high ceilings, visible piping and support beams, and wood or concrete floors. These features are actually a large part of the apartments’ charm.

“Converted loft apartments have more of a cool factor than a typical condo does,” says David Kean, a Realtor® in Beverly Hills who lived in a Los Angeles loft for seven years.

A brief history of loft apartments

Although there’s debate about when loft apartments originated—some say urban homesteaders converted industrial spaces to lofts as early as the 1940s—these wide-open studio apartments began finding their groove in the late 1960s and early 1970s in the SoHo district of New York City, at the time a wasteland of abandoned sweatshops and retired factories.

Metropolitan developers soon found highly profitable ways to turn all of that roomy space into living areas. Lofts were a way to upcycle old factories, industrial buildings, and commercial real estate into spacious apartments with a minimum of fuss and drywall.

The original spaces already had the infrastructure, from HVAC to plumbing and electrical systems, so converting them to lofts required minimal work. Typically a builder would add bathrooms and kitchens and spruce up the floors. Voila! You’re home—and free to choose which corner will be your bedroom and which area is just right for the living room.

Loft apartments first became most popular living spaces with artists and urban pioneers, and felt revolutionary—who needs a dining room, anyway? By the 1980s, this living style had caught on so much that developers began scooping up neglected warehouses and converting them as fast as the market would allow.

When the supply of factories dwindled, developers began constructing new buildings with open space apartments that they called “lofts” to impart a seductive cool factor among renters and buyers eager for a less traditional living style.

Today, a “hard” or “true” loft refers to a studio space created from an existing building, while “soft” or “loft-inspired” describes loft-style apartments created from new construction.

Due to the added space, loft-style apartments can often be a bit more expensive per square foot, to rent or buy, than condos or other apartments. But if you love the look and feel of a loft—natural light, large windows, high ceilings—it may very well be worth the extra cost.

And even if you like open spaces, you may want to consider some ways to break up the space and create the illusion of separate rooms by using bookcases, credenzas, or other structures to partition off areas, particularly the bedroom space and living area.

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