Architectural Characteristics of NYC Lofts

by | Jan 5, 2021 | Apartment Renovations, Interior Design, Loft Design in NYC, New York City

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 Tirbeca, SoHo, Chelsea, and NoMad. These are typically high end residential units who’s architectural design comes from the building’s historic origins.

In New York City the term loft is used to identify an apartment in a building that was converted from commercial or industrial use into residential occupancy. Loft apartments commonly have very specific architectural characteristics such as: 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 leaving 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 has 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.

Open Plan Loft Apartment

Open Plan Loft Apartment in SoHo, NYC

 

High Ceilings

Lofts were originally manufacturing buildings and were designed for storage and industrial functions. They therefore have high ceilings which is common for industrial or warehouse buildings. This creates a great space for an apartment. Loft ceilings can reach 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.

High Ceiling Loft Apartment

Sixteen Foot High Ceilings in a Tribeca Loft Apartment

 

Exposed Brick

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 sited architectural features of NYC lofts and one of the most ubiquitous features within the city.

Exposed Brick Loft NYC

Exposed Brick Loft in SoHo NYC

 

Columns

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 will 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.

Loft Columns

Cast Iron Loft Columns With Heavy Timber Beam in SoHo, NYC

 

Mezzanines

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 do. Often the mezzanine level has a lower ceiling then the level below it and then the open space in front of the mezzanine has a very high ceiling.

Tribeca Loft Mezzanine NYC

Tribeca Loft Mezzanine NYC

 

Large Windows

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.

Large Loft Windows

Large Loft Windows in Tribeca, NYC.

 

Large Doors

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 I would not say this is a significant characteristic but it is common to find even with new renovations.

Tall Modern Loft Door Design

Tall Loft Door in the NYC, Financial District

 

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.

Open Loft Apartment

Open Loft Apartment

 

Architecture of Lofts

The one most important take away you should find is that New York City lofts are quite different from typical apartments because 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.

 

Contact Fontan Architecture

 

Jorge Fontan
Jorge Fontan

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.