There is a definite allure to inhabiting a raw, floor-through space with high ceilings and remnants of a bygone era. But the design challenges are as specialized for a loft as for a Classic Six. Village West Design has completed several successful loft spaces, so, although each client deserves a unique solution, we thought we would share a few tips.
The key goals in a loft are about preservation. Residential lofts are typically converted from factories, storage facilities or other prototypes suited to large machinery, assembly lines or uninterrupted industrial or commercial functions. They may offer exposed brick (if it’s been covered over, check to see if plaster or wallboard can be removed); or, there may beautifully weathered wide-plank solid wood floors, wood or cast iron structural beams or columns, or mullioned wood-frame windows. All of these details are appealing historical details, but it’s important to assess feasibility of maintenance. Ensure that renovation plans include sealing exposed brick (no raining mortar!), swapping old windows with insulated but historicizing modern ones (that are easier to open!), and refinishing those floors (the right sanding, stain and finish coat will preserve the character but ensure a clean, splinter-free surface).
Also, if you’ve chosen to live in a loft, you covet air, light and space. Some lofts—especially those with skylights or flanked with numerous side windows—hold up well with intermediary partitions. However, most of the time it’s best to maintain the open, spacious feeling which has made the loft so desirable in the first place. So, how is this accomplished?
If you essentially have one large space, do you make it a Bedroom? A Living Room? An enormous Kitchen? How about all of the above? That’s what we do. With a clever design, light and air are preserved, while level changes, partial-height or translucent partitions, smart furniture placement and skillful lighting plans all work in harmony to subtlety distinguish public from private and entertainment from personal. The partner to these solutions is ensuring multi-functionality. An ingenious furniture layout can create overlapping functionalities where they suit the client’s lifestyle: dining/living, living/sleeping, entry/storage, work/prep.
In a home with standard ceilings, a traditional layout or multiple levels, interstitial spaces provide wonderful opportunities for storage. In loft spaces, however, another goal—and an important challenge—is to actively create storage opportunities. The two secrets to success here are (1) do not detract from the open character of the loft and (2) do not draw attention to the storage. Since a standard loft affords no natural opportunity, an astute designer must craft the layout in such a way that the storage spaces seem to have been generated organically. See if this has been accomplished successfully in the next loft you visit.
And while you are assessing that next loft, consider whether the design successfully preserves all those wonderful intrinsic characteristics while optimizing modern conveniences. Remember that as with any good design, the individual needs and personality of the owner shine through while maintaining a comfortable, functional home. And don’t forget to look for that light and air.