All About Lofts
The Loft is a classic urban form that inspires the senses - exposes brick and wood, iron, concrete, glass, granite and steel. It evokes a connection with history & at the same time is timeless, where your imagination may be provoked with the open space and you may be transported to other cities, other times - urban yet rustic, rugged yet refined.
Loft living has an authentic connection to the place, to the past, but also has international appeal and resonance. True lofts are rare, and part of the heritage of the city.
Even the Loft names evoke another time: The Movie House, The Brewery, The Schoolhouse, Corktown, The Knitting Factory, The Candy Factory, The Toy Factory, The Chocolate Factory & Zen Lofts (to name but just a few). Who wouldn't dream of living in such places, at least for a period in one's life? Best of all, Toronto offers some of the best values in the world for these spaces.
Why are lofts so popular?
Lofts have a certain allure. With high ceilings, open floor plans, rough-hewn floors, and brick walls, they are a hip housing alternative for many urban professionals. There are also very practical reasons why a loft would appeal to many as moving to an urban apartment is about tapping into the excitement and cultural opportunities of the big city and can also mean a shorter commute to work. But finding a place in the city can mean sacrificing the larger living spaces found in the suburbs or country. Increasingly, urban dwellers are finding that loft apartments offer the location and opportunities of city life with far more space than average condos or apartment homes.
Today's loft dwellers embrace new-age metropolitan living in all its glory. Those who buy these unique dwellings have shaken off long daily commutes, granting them more personal time, more cultural and entertainment possibilities and an active, city lifestyle. If you crave something eclectic, out of the ordinary and convenient to all the city has to offer, a loft may be for you! Select from newly constructed (soft) lofts, or restored historical building loft conversions (hard lofts).
What’s the mystery/history of lofts?
One great definition for a loft found on the Web is -- An appeal against convention - convention in thinking, convention in building and convention in living. They are a celebration of open concept living and unconventional spaces brought about by the considered application of imagination and a rejection of mass-market housing.
The origin of the word Loft comes from the Old Norse lopt, which means -- upper room or air. In 19th Century English usage the word came to mean -- the upper stories of a warehouse or factory. The modern boom in the conversion of such spaces into living areas came in the 1940s in the SoHo District of New York City. By the 1970s so many of these conversions had been done that the city was forced to re-zone the area to make such conversions legal.
By the 1980s the concept was spreading first across the United States and then to Europe and Asia. As the trend grew it caught the attention of developers identifying a new market. Developers being developers did not let a lack of owning an existing warehouse or factory building to convert stop them from moving into the new market. Thus the new word Loft began to be applied to units in ground up new construction. Needless to say the term grew fuzzy.
By 2005 the term “Loft” had matured. Lofts created from spaces in existing buildings are called -- hard lofts or true lofts. Lofts built new from the ground up are typically referred to as soft lofts or new lofts or loft-inspired or mezzanine suites. Whether created out of an existing building or built new from the ground up, all lofts have certain common elements or they are not lofts.
Lofts are part of the Postmodernism movement in architecture. Postmodernism is a counter- reaction to the strict and almost universal modernism of the mid-20th Century. It embraces elements from historical building styles incorporating them without a rigid adherence to one style. It also does not try to hide the structural or mechanical elements of a building but often uses these in the design.
What is a "hard" loft?
A true hard loft is the conversion of an older, former commercial/industrial use building such as factories, warehouses, schools and churches converted into unique residential living spaces. They have a harder edge as they are usually constructed of concrete or "mill" construction of exposed brick, original wood posts, beams and concrete or aged wood floors. Typically, these lofts have an open floor plan, unfinished ceilings that are at least 10' high with exposed ducts, plumbing & electrical & industrial type windows. Examples include the Merchandise Building, Liberty Lofts, Wallace Station and the Toy Factory Lofts.
What is a "soft" loft?
In recent years developers have built new buildings incorporating some of the interesting characteristics of a hard loft such as high ceilings, large windows and open floor plans but many with more divided space than a true hard loft would have. These lofts typically have a softer edge... with carpet in some areas and upscale kitchens and baths & generally none or very few exposed ducts and plumbing etc. Soft lofts have more in common with traditional condominiums than a true hard loft.
What is an "artist live/work" loft?
Toronto bylaws allow for the development of buildings with "artist live/work" zoning. The first of these developments appeared at 41 Shanly Street (near Bloor & Dufferin) a converted Felt Factory building by the prolific loft developer Bob Mitchell & Assoc. An extraordinary 10-unit loft building with most featuring minimal finishing while retaining & enhancing the warehouse flavour - with open spaces, brick, ceiling timbers and steel. The ceilings soar from approximately 11 to an incredible 33 feet in height. The City's zoning restricted their use to people who were engaged in a precisely defined list of artistic activities. Over time these buildings have come to be occupied by people who simply enjoy the loft life.
Here are some of the unique joys of the loft life:
* Industrial buildings - The term loft began in New York and Chicago when renters and owners began turning old industrial buildings into living spaces. The original tenants were artists who craved the high ceilings, large windows and open floor plans typical of converted warehouses and factories.
* Open spaces - The primary benefit of loft living is the large open spaces that allow you to live and move how you want, rather than having your movement defined by a permanent floor plan of walls, doorways and rooms.
* Define your areas - In a loft, the floor plan can be fluid and ever changing. You can set up a sleeping area in one part of the space, then move it somewhere else if you have guests or if you just need the area for another use. Kitchens and bathrooms are more permanent, of course, but temporary partitions, hanging curtains, or even changes in floor covering can define other spaces.
* Eclectic style - Another nice aspect of many lofts is the opportunity for eclectic design and decorating. For example, a loft might feature soft, delicate window treatments on reinforced factory windows, or a modern couch sitting on a hundred-year-old hardwood floor. This mixture of old with new and practicality with comfort can form a wonderful esthetic that makes the most of a loft's mixed-use nature.
Basic common elements of a loft:
· Open, flowing floor plans either on one floor or multiple levels
· Minimal uses of interior walls to define space and doors to close off areas
· High ceilings - some definitions set minimum ceiling heights at twelve feet or it is not a loft just a condo with high ceilings
· Exposed piping, ductwork, structural elements
· Large expansive windows & lots of light
· Access to the sky often with roof top gardens or decks
· Easily merges living and work space, blurring the lines between workplace and residence
· Mixes traditional mediums with modern finishes using concrete, metal, stone, brick, wood used freely alongside drywall, ceramic tile and vinyl & other materials available.