Urban loft living is a stylish way to take repurposing to a whole new level. But this trendy lifestyle has some drawbacks to overcome. Read on to find out whether loft living is right for you.
The launch of loft living
Over the last several decades, the United States’ economy has shifted away from manufacturing toward information-based service jobs. This demographic trend has led to the gradual abandonment of urban warehouses and manufacturing buildings, some built as far back as the early 20th century. Today’s developers are breathing new life into these spaces by repurposing and restoring them into residential and shopping centers. Both young urban professionals and empty nesters have flocked to these homes, which have the vintage industrial charm of antique brick, exposed overhead plumbing, high ceilings and big windows. There’s a look and feel to a loft apartment or condo that a typical modern complex with its cookie-cutter look can never match.
Characteristics of loft living
Urban loft living spaces feel spacious, even when each floor of the repurposed building has been carved up to create multiple apartments or condos. The ceilings of former manufacturing facilities, particularly the top floor, are sometimes 12 to 15 feet high, making even homes with limited square footage feel big. Exterior walls are made of brick that may date back decades, and exposed sprinkler system lines and HVAC ductwork soar overhead. Large windows provide lofts plenty of natural light. The original concrete floors can be polished, etched with a pattern and sealed, or a hardwood floor can be laid.
Loft spaces are fun and flexible to decorate. It’s common for loft dwellers to mix contemporary furnishings with the vintage look of the walls, ceiling and floors, but a wide range of decorating styles work well.
The dark brick tones of loft walls contrast with light-colored furniture and shelving. The straight lines of overhead ductwork offer a natural place to hang track lighting and harmonize with the lines of contemporary furniture. Bright wall art provides pops of color in the muted vintage setting.
If the ceilings are high enough, you may have room for a loft bedroom and bath — a loft within a loft.
Though urban loft living can be a terrific experience, living in a loft also has its disadvantages.
- Lofts’ high ceilings mean that sounds will bounce off the brick walls and concrete floors, creating echoes and reverberation. You can cut down on this problem by decorating with lots of area rugs, canvas wall art, hanging tapestries, tall potted plants and anything else that helps deaden the sound waves.
- Lofts’ utility bills are generally higher than other living spaces. With their high ceilings, yesterday’s warehouses and factories were not made to be energy efficient. Your loft may have little to no interior insulation, and if the windows are original, they will admit heat in the summer and cold in the winter. You can alleviate these issues to some extent by replacing original windows with energy-efficient ones, but this can be expensive. Placing dark thermal ceiling tiles overhead or installing a spray-on radiant barrier on the ceiling can also help cut utility costs. (These changes may only be possible if you own the space.)
- When those ducts and pipes high overhead get dusty and need cleaning, or a ceiling light bulb needs changing, you’ll need a tall ladder to take care of the work.
- Lofts typically have much less storage than standard apartments and condos.
- The concrete floors may have big stains or worn paint from the days when the building was used for industry.