Lofts are truly New York residential spaces filled with history that have become an icon of NYC living. These apartments are very unique in their architectural characteristics and in the manner they are occupied. Loft design requires an understanding and respect to the architecture, as well as balancing their challenges with their strengths.
I am Jorge Fontan an architect and owner of Fontan Architecture a NYC architecture firm that works on lofts throughout New York City. In this blog post I will share a few lofts we have worked on over the past few years and discuss some of the key insights from each individual project.
SoHo Artist Loft
In SoHo and Tribeca you can find some buildings with real artist lofts. These are called “Joint Live Work Quarters for Artists” or JLWQA. These are the original artist lofts that were illegally occupied back in the 70s and 80s. The city then made new codes to allow the building owners to legalize them. Today these are some of the most sought after apartments in NYC, and are rarely actually occupied by artists. the certificate of occupancy will say JLWQA if it is one of these original artist lofts.
Lets take a look at a real Artist Loft that we worked on. In this loft the owner is not an artist but has an extensive art collection. We used the art throughout which brings the loft to life.
Modern NYC Loft Design
This loft has a very modern and simple feel. The details and lack of details are what really make this apartment work. Notice the wood floors below, how uniform they are. This is a select white oak wide plank flooring with a rift and quartered cut. This makes for an incredibly modern space. The simplicity adds a great elegance against the rough brick backdrop and colorful artwork.
SoHo Maisonette Loft
This next loft is in SoHo and is a duplex maisonette apartment. A maisonette is an apartment on the first floor that has a private entrance from the sidewalk. These are very convenient and allow for optimal privacy. Also contractors love to work in these apartments because they do not have to go through the lobby of the building during the loft renovation.
High Ceiling Loft Apartments
Usually the first floor has higher ceilings and this one certainly does. This loft has a fourteen foot ceiling which makes a truly awesome space. You really feel the height when you stand in the space.
This picture shows the high ceilings accentuated by the verticality of the original cast iron columns. People often ask me if the columns in lofts are really structural or just decorative so just in case you aren’t sure yes these are structural columns holding up the building. Besides the structure you can also see the maisonette entrance straight out to the sidewalk at the front double doors.
Exposed Brick Loft
This loft is quite simple but there is one very important issue that must be addressed in all loft apartments. To expose the brick or not to expose the brick, that is the question. The couple that own this loft did not really like exposed brick. They are both from California and said to me that only New Yorkers like exposed brick. I am not sure if I agree with that but I am a born and raised New Yorker and I love exposed brick. I think lots of people do. In this apartment they chose to leave it exposed in the end.
Loft buildings in New York have brick exterior walls at the perimeter of the building. It will come down to personal taste but you need to make a decision as to whether or not you want to expose the brick and if so how much of it. You will want to take the quality of the brick into consideration. If it looks really bad this may sway your decision. If the brick is covered up you can expose just a small area and see what it looks like before committing. It does not have to be perfect lofts are gritty and industrial in their history and it is ok if that comes through. Of course I will show you some other projects below whit a completely different take.
Simple Loft Design
The idea in this loft was to keep it simple which really comes out in this bedroom design. The white walls and black hardware are a simple response to the exposed brick in the living room. The bedroom becomes more intimate and elegant while still feeling like a loft.
White Tribeca Loft
This loft is a bit different than the previous ones in that the owner wanted this to be a much cleaner space by going all white with minimal texture. The loft is in Tribeca and is over 4,000 square feet with it’s mezzanine level.
In the picture below you can see the owner had a lot of colorful furniture and photography. She wanted to strip the architecture down to its simplest state and the furniture brought the color. An all white apartment is not for everyone but it can be an elegant option for a loft.
In New York the word loft is used to describe an apartment in a building that was originally commercial or industrial use that was converted to residential use. In other parts of the world it is used to identify what we call a mezzanine. A mezzanine is an elevated level within a space such as the one below.
This is an all white loft which becomes very simple, but moments such as these wall niches create great spaces for plants to add life.
This next apartment is a small loft in the Financial District with a very unique design. The original apartment was all white ans very stark. The owner wanted to add texture and we went with concrete as the primary material for the apartment design.
Concrete Loft Bathroom
Even the bathroom walls and floors are made of concrete in this loft apartment.
Chelsea Loft Home Office
This is a home office we added to a loft in Chelsea. I want to point out two key issues here. First that black metal and glass go very well in a loft. Second is that accents and a bit of color can be a great addition to any home. This office has a bright red vibrant wall that stands out bringing life to this white loft.
Loft Architects in NYC
Planning is key to renovating your NYC loft apartment, one must understand the unique characteristics of a loft and engage in the personal nature of home design to develop a final result that suites it’s individual owners.
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 NYC Loft Renovations
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.