What is a Loft in New York?
In New York, a loft is an apartment within a building that was originally built for industrial, warehouse, or commercial use that has since been converted to residential occupancy. NYC Lofts often have distinct architectural features such as high ceilings, large open spaces, exposed brick, large windows, and iron or wood columns.
I am Jorge Fontan, an architect in New York and owner of Manhattan based architecture firm Fontan Architecture. I am going to review some of the key architectural features you can commonly find in lofts through examples from a few of our loft projects in NYC. We will also look at some design ideas for lofts that you may want to consider when designing and renovating your loft apartment.
New York Loft Style Apartment
Lofts were originally manufacturing and commercial buildings, and their architecture reflects this. Their original character and qualities like the high ceiling are what make lofts such a desirable type of apartment.
High Ceiling Loft Apartments
Loft apartments have a history in manufacturing buildings and this shows in their high ceilings which is common for industrial buildings and therefore common in loft apartments. The ceilings can be significantly higher than most apartments. In the apartment pictured below we see an 18 foot ceiling in the living room.
Open Loft Apartments
The most obvious architectural characteristic of lofts is the wide open space. Lofts tend to be on the larger size and are usually designed with an open plan and an open kitchen, dining, and living room combined as one great room.
Exposed Brick Loft NYC
Most loft buildings in NYC are built with brick exterior walls. These brick walls are often left exposed, although it is not always the case. This is why exposed brick is considered such a key element to loft design.
Large Loft Windows
Lofts often have large windows to go with their large open spaces. The windows often feel quite proportional with the high ceilings and openness of the lofts. The windows are usually large double hung windows.
Loft apartments often have either cast iron columns or heavy timber columns. If the loft building is narrow there may be no columns at all and the entire structure may be supported only by the brick walls. If the building has a larger floor plate there are sure to be columns. These can be left exposed or sometimes covered.
New York Loft Style Interior Design
Designing a loft starts with assessing the existing features of the loft and determining how to address them. As previously mentioned, lofts typically have brick walls along the perimeter of the building. One must decide whether or not to expose this brick, as it will affect the entire feel and interior design of the loft.
The original occupants of New York City lofts were artists moving into vacant manufacturing buildings in neighborhoods like SoHo and Tribeca. This history of art is often present in lofts as they make for great display spaces for private art collections.
Material selection is important to any interior design, but especially in lofts. One can incorporate industrial materials into a loft design to emphasize the industrial history and create a more modern edgy space. The photo below is of a loft in the Financial District where we added concrete interior walls and used wood and steel to create a truly industrial space.
Even if you are going with a more simple loft interior design theme such as all white and minimalist there are certain elements that always work within a loft such as black steel and glass. This is a classic look for loft apartment renovations. Accent walls can also be used to create a little drama in a simple space.
Open Concept Loft Apartment
Most lofts are designed with an open plan or open concept. This means you have a minimal amount of partition walls between the spaces, making the space feel larger and open. In an open concept loft you will see a great room where the living, dining, and kitchen are all open to each other.
New York Loft Style Living Room
The most important aspect of a loft living room is the open plan. The space should be uncluttered and not overly furnished. This makes it feel spacious and elegant.
New York Loft Style Bedroom
Loft bedrooms can be quite minimalist, but they often have large windows with long curtains. These bedrooms can be decorated with some type of artwork as the high ceilings create a lot of blank wall space. The furnishing and bedding should also work with the rest of the space to provide the right feel.
The loft bedroom below is of an exposed brick loft in SoHo.
This loft bedroom, also in SoHo, has sheetrock walls and no exposed brick. There are 14 foot high ceilings and long draping curtains. The walls have artwork to add a touch of décor but also avoid huge blank walls.
New York Loft Style Kitchen
Loft kitchens are usually large and open. They can have islands or peninsulas and sometimes counter seating. In an open kitchen, the kitchen itself becomes a centerpiece of design. Loft kitchens should be modern and high-end using top of the line cabinets and appliances.
The picture below is a minimalist white kitchen in a Tribeca Loft.
New York Loft Style Furniture
In lofts you may not want to over furnish and clutter the space. It is often best to favor a few large pieces to remain in scale with the rest of the apartment. The furniture should work with the overall feel of the loft. Modern is often the chosen style in many lofts.
New York Industrial Loft
Since lofts were originally industrial spaces, it is very popular to bring additional industrial elements into a loft as in the concrete walls below.
Loft Architecture & Design
New York Lofts are known for being a unique type of living space with very specific architectural characteristics. Their architecture comes from a rich history beginning with industrial use and the repurposing for artist live/work spaces. Today lofts are some of the most luxurious residences in New York City. They can be unique, quirky, industrial, or minimalist, but good design is purposeful, intentional, and should carry through the entire space.
Thank You for Reading Our Blog Post on New York Loft Style Apartments
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.