In New York City the term Loft means an apartment in former manufacturing and commercial buildings that have been converted into residential use. These buildings are found all over New York City, but mostly in neighborhoods such as SoHo, Tribeca, Chelsea, NoMad, and the Flatiron District. Lofts have unique features and deserve architectural and interior design ideas that complement their inherent architectural character. I am Jorge Fontan, an architect in NY and owner of Fontan Architecture, a Manhattan based architecture firm. In this post I want to look at a few Lofts that we worked on in New York City and discuss some design ideas for loft renovations. I will go over some general tips from big picture items such as layout and major architectural elements to interior design and decorating for lofts.
In New York, a loft is an apartment in a building that was originally built for commercial or industrial use and later converted to residential. There are many architectural features that we commonly see in lofts that one should consider when planning a loft renovation. Everyone has their own personal taste and how you deal with the details of a loft renovation will vary, but these are all items you need to think about when planning your loft design. Don’t worry if it seems like a lot, that’s what architects like us are for. If you want to read more about the architectural features of lofts and their history we have another blog post you can check out: What is a Loft Apartment?
This first loft design idea should be the most obvious, but in case it is not, let’s discuss open plan lofts. An open plan means having a minimal amount of walls in a space. This usually results in an open kitchen, dining, and living room that are all one open area sometimes referred to as a great room. The single most awesome aspect of loft apartments is that they can be large open spaces. You should do everything you can to take advantage of the openness of a loft and create a space that feels vast and generous. Having one large open space as the centerpiece of a loft apartment is great for social gatherings or lounging at home. It feels amazing to sit in a large open space and take it all in. This is really critical to take advantage of for a loft apartment design when you have the space.
If you are going to make an open plan space you will probably want an open kitchen. In fact open kitchens are generally standard today. All of our clients want open kitchens. There are many ways to address an open kitchen in a loft but start with a few critical decisions. Do you want any of the following:
- Kitchen Island
- Counter Seating
- Fully open or semi open kitchen
Nowadays a kitchen is an essential part of home design. They are usually a bit larger than they used to be and people put them on display within the home. Open kitchens make the space feel larger but also allow for a more interactive and inclusive means of living.
A great contrast to an open plan loft is to have some small cozy moments or intimate spaces within the apartment. These can come in many forms such as a breakfast nook or as in the picture below a small sitting nook. Playing with the size of spaces relative to their use in this manner will add an extra layer to the overall design allowing you to function on different levels of scale within the space of your home. These types of areas create a more close experience as a relief from the overall openness of a large loft apartment.
Kitchen Counter Bar Stool Seating
It is very likely that you will want an open kitchen in your loft. With an open kitchen you will most likely have a peninsula or an island and can therefore incorporate stool seating. It is a small detail but one to consider as it will alter the function of the space. This can be a good place for breakfast and less formal situations like having a coffee or a glass of wine but you may prefer to do that in an alternate location.
Exposed Brick is the most ubiquitous architectural feature of New York Lofts. Loft buildings were typically built with brick walls at the building perimeter. You may have exposed brick in your loft or you may not. It is very likely that some of the walls are brick even if they are covered with sheetrock or plaster. These finishes can be removed to reveal the brick below. It is always best to probe the walls first before committing to opening large portions of the walls. Exposed brick is almost synonymous with New York City Loft Design but some people do not like it. Of course you also have to consider the condition of the bricks, as in some buildings the brick may look better than in others.
Black Metal and Glass
Black Steel and Glass Doors are a great look for a loft. This will depend on how you use the space but in the example below you can see black steel and glass double doors with sidelights to a home office in a Chelsea Loft. We have another post you can see if you want to read more about Adding a Home Office.
Lofts have their origins in industrial buildings. It is therefore quite fitting to incorporate some industrial features. This is of course up to personal taste and is not for everyone but it can bring some nice details for someone looking to have a more industrial modern loft feel.
Texture and material can add character to a space but this is very subjective. Material selection is very personal as everyone has a different vision for their own home, this is why as an architect I work closely with my clients to understand what will make them happy. I had a client who made her entire 4,000 square foot loft white as you will also see in this post. Whereas in the image below my client bought an all white loft apartment and said “It feels like living in a hospital”. We transformed the entire apartment into a concrete loft incorporating concrete into almost every room. Additionally, we used black steel and wood to add texture and play against the concrete. Of course, I am not telling everyone to build themselves a concrete apartment but I want you to understand there are lots of options when it comes to materials and if you like the look it may be for you. You can see another blog post of ours with more on this Concrete Loft Apartment Renovation.
Lofts are usually on the larger side and may have large bathrooms. If not, you can always expand your bathroom or Add a New Bathroom if your building allows it. If you have the space, a freestanding tub can make a bathroom feel more grand and luxurious. It is a quite simple and beautiful element that adds a nice touch to the interior design.
A concrete bathroom is a very modern addition to a loft apartment design. We already looked at an apartment where we added concrete throughout the living spaces to add texture, this is the bathroom in the very same concrete loft apartment. A few things about concrete for a bathroom is that it can be dynamic and minimal at the same time. Also concrete bathrooms are monolithic in that there are no seems. This is a very different look from tiles. There is literally not a single grout line in this entire bathroom making concrete a very unique alternative to tile. The linear drain also adds a nice touch to the overall modern design.
High End Modern Kitchen
If you are going to have an open kitchen you better make it nice. It is worth it to spend some money on high end appliances and cabinets for your loft apartment design. Keep it modern and go for quality, it will show in the end. Kitchens today are on display, they are an important part of the overall design of the entire home and will be a great focal point of interest. The kitchen is also the most expensive space in the home and the one that usually takes the longest to fabricate.
All White Loft Interiors
An all white apartment is not for everyone but some people love white interiors. The image below is of a loft apartment painted in all white and off whites. It has a very clean and simple look that provides an elegant feel in this 4,000 square foot luxury Tribeca Loft.
Dark Paint Color Loft Interior Design
We just saw an all white loft apartment design but here is an alternative with a darker colored bedroom in a SoHo loft. The grey walls set a mood and provide a completely different feel. The bed is made in black and white to complement the grey bedroom design.
Tall Modern Loft Doors
Tall doors go well with high ceilings. Even if the ceilings aren’t so tall you can still try to put large doors in your loft, the bigger the better. Here the doors are orange stained wood against a concrete wall but the material and color could be anything. The tall doors make a space feel more grand and is a very strong architectural move in a modern loft apartment design.
Wide Plank Floors
A wide plank floor is a great look for a loft. The picture below is of a 10″ rift cut White Oak Floor. This is modern, simple, and elegant.
Keep It Simple
Keep it simple. Sometimes people try too hard when putting together their interior design. Don’t over do it. The bedroom below has a simple clean white feel with long curtains that accentuate the high loft ceilings.
Large Loft Wall Art
Lofts have large spaces with high ceilings giving you lots of big blank walls. These are great for hanging art. Lofts like the JLWQA lofts in SoHo and Tribeca were originally artist lofts. It is great to have a reference back to this history while decorating your home.
Lighting can really set the mood and lofts are apartments that can handle quite a bit of mood. Adding accent lighting can be a great way to add a bit of drama to a space.
Modern Bathroom Fixtures & Accessories
Lofts generally are a more luxurious and modern type of apartment. It is very appropriate to go with high end modern fixtures and accessories throughout your loft, especially in the bathroom.
Minimal Furniture Loft Decor
It may be better not to clutter up your loft. The furniture can be relatively minimal and there should be plenty of open space. The great thing about lofts is the openness, don’t fill it so much that it loses the open feel.
Modern Wall Niche Detail
There are many ways to add a little detail to a loft apartment. One example are the wall niches in the image below. In this apartment the wall niches are used for plants which bring life and vibrancy to an otherwise all white loft. Small details and moments such as these can add to the overall design and enhance a space with a subtle extra touch of design.
Loft Apartment Design
Lofts have their own natural character but you must make it your own home. Take your needs and wants as the first step to design and then move onto the aesthetic decisions. These choices will come from personal taste, project goals, budget, and your attitude to the lofts own architectural features. As an architect, I study design and construction, but these are complicated and quite involved issues. Every project is different and must be assessed on its own unique characteristics. This post does not assume to cover every possible issue or condition but provide a general overview of the topic.
Thank You for Reading Our Blog Post on Loft Apartment Design Ideas
I hope this was helpful. If you would like to speak with an architect about a potential project you can contact us 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.