Loft apartments in New York City are a highly sought after portion of the city’s real estate stock. These unique apartments can be found in certain areas such as Tribeca, SoHo, Chelsea, and NoMad. They are typically high end residential units whose architectural design comes from the building’s historic origins.
In New York City the term loft refers to an apartment in a building that has been converted from commercial or industrial use into residential occupancy. Loft apartments commonly have very specific architectural characteristics. This includes wide open spaces, high ceilings, columns, exposed brick, mezzanines, large windows, and large doors.
I am Jorge Fontan, an architect in New York City and owner of Fontan Architecture. In this post I will discuss and show you some of the most common architectural features of loft apartments through a few of my own projects renovating lofts Manhattan.
Wide Open Space
In the 60s and 70s the manufacturing industry began to flee Manhattan, which left a large stock of empty buildings with large open spaces. The owners of these buildings began renting them to artists as live/work artist lofts. The spaces were commonly left wide open to allow for sufficient work space for the artists, to take advantage of the scale, and minimize building alterations.
Today the trend for wide open spaces in lofts is still maintained, as it is truly the most striking architectural feature of the apartments. The open concept layout leaves the living room, dining room, and kitchen all open in order to create one large “Great Room.” Partition walls might only be built for rooms requiring privacy, such as bedrooms and bathrooms. This results in an awe-inspiring grand living space. It is quite an experience to step into a loft and see a large spacious living room with a wide open floor plan.
Lofts were originally manufacturing buildings and were designed for storage and industrial functions. Therefore, they tend to have high ceilings, which is common for industrial or warehouse buildings. This creates a great space for an apartment. Loft ceilings are often ten to fourteen feet high, and sometimes even exceed heights over fifteen feet.
The high ceilings typical to loft architecture are certainly one of the reasons these apartments have been so highly sought after. This unique characteristic provides a luxury that is not normally found in other Manhattan Apartments.
Loft buildings in NYC were built at a time when brick was a commonly used material for exterior and bearing walls. Today people often leave these walls exposed because they add a level of texture and character to the overall interior design. It is also important to note that exposed brick walls have a huge cachet in New York City as they are a sign of history and considered aesthetically pleasing by many. Exposed brick is certainly one of the most commonly cited architectural features of NYC lofts and one of the most ubiquitous features within the city. You can see more examples of this in our article on exposed brick.
Not all loft buildings have columns, but many do. It depends on the width of the entire building; if the building is quite narrow it may not, but if it is wider, it is likely to have columns. The columns can be made of steel, cast iron, or heavy timber wood posts. Sometimes the cast iron columns are very decorative and sometimes they are more on the simple side, they can have a capital or a base as well. These are structural columns and they usually support a steel or heavy timber beam which supports the wood floor joists.
In New York City loft terminology, a mezzanine is an elevated level that is not the entire area of the floor below. Many loft apartments have mezzanine levels, but not all of them. Often the mezzanine level has a lower ceiling than the level below it, while the open space in front of the mezzanine has a very high ceiling.
It is common for lofts to have large windows. The windows are usually large double hung windows. The windows often feel quite proportional with the high ceilings and openness of the lofts, adding to the eminence of NYC loft apartments.
It is very common to find large doors in lofts. Even if they are new with the higher ceilings and open space, taller doors tend to be more architecturally proportional while adding an opulent feel. Not all lofts have large doors and it is not always a significant characteristic, but it is common to find even with new renovations.
High Square Footage
The most obvious point about lofts is the scale. These are usually large apartments with large features. This is why loft apartments are very popular for people with high end budgets and why neighborhoods like SoHo and Tribeca became some of the most expensive places to live.
Architecture of Lofts
The one most important take away you should find is that New York City lofts are quite different from typical apartments, since these buildings were not designed for residential use. They were originally made for industrial use and that leaves a significant mark on all their features.
Thank You for Reading Our Blog Post on the Architectural Features of New York City Lofts
I hope this was helpful. If you would like to speak with an architect about a potential project, you can contact us at Fontan Architecture directly.
This post was written by Jorge Fontan AIA a Registered Architect and owner of New York City architecture firm Fontan Architecture. Jorge Fontan has earned 3 degrees in the study of architecture including two degrees from the City University of New York and a Masters Degree in Advanced Architectural Design from Columbia University. Jorge has a background in construction and has been practicing architecture for 15 years where he has designed renovations and new developments of various building types.