The loft look is one of the most popular styles of residential real estate today, and it continues to evolve. Most attribute the beginning of this industrial look to the 1950s and 1960s when manufacturers moved out of large cast-iron buildings in New York's SoHo district. When this occurred, artists, musicians and other creative types moved in. At this time, the typical loft had 10-foot to 15-foot ceilings, thick plaster or brick walls, few or no interior doors and walls, cast-iron columns and factory-size windows.
As Realtor Magazine points out, when the loft movement gained momentum in the mid-to-late 1970s, the idea of how a loft should look evolved. “The original ‘hard’ lofts gave way to ‘soft’ lofts with room-like divisions and softer ceilings, walls and floors. The prices also climbed.
“Interior decorations changed, too, from found objects and furnishings that many artists favored to elegant spaces with area rugs, swank furniture, high-end kitchens and other status symbols of the day. Starting in the 1990s, architects and developers began to use the loft design as inspiration for new condominium and apartment buildings and even for single-family houses in suburban neighborhoods.”
Are These Homes Lofts or Condos?
Some loft purists argue that these modern-day, industrial-inspired, suburban homes and apartments are just condos with high ceilings. “It would be more accurate to call these structures either ‘clofts’ or ‘londos,’” said Scottsdale, Arizona real estate broker Robin Diessner. However, other architects and real estate professionals welcome this look as a natural evolution of the loft style.
The magazine points out several high-profile, successful developments that have a decidedly loft look. These include:
- Stone Canyon, Las Vegas
- Tribute Lofts, Atlanta
- Randolph Place, Chicago
- Vetro, Chicago
- DUO, Atlanta
Who’s Attracted to the Loft Look
The loft look found in single-family homes, townhomes and condominiums in the suburbs is particularly popular with millennials. As a member of that demographic group, Jason Hamilton of Acme Brick offers his opinion as to the popularity of this loft look.
“It feels like people gravitate to places that have a past or historical context,” he said. “Reclaimed spaces provide elements that people have previously touched, both literally and figuratively. I think this is also part of the charm of brick as a construction material.
“I’m not sure this feeling can be duplicated in a new build, but the charm and aesthetic of this look is definitely driving popularity among younger buyers.
There have been media reports that the “baby boomer” generation, attracted to amenities such as mass transit and entertainment, and whose children have “left the nest” are moving from the suburbs to the city center. More in-depth research has shown that while these older people are attracted to smaller homes with less maintenance, they still favor a suburban residence.
“That being noted, I don’t feel this loft look is tied to any specific age group. For the most part, people want to surround themselves with what they find beautiful or comfortable. Younger families who love that loft look are drawn to the suburbs for two reasons: better schools and a safer environment for kids.”
Design Elements of Loft Homes
The developers of suburban lofts have several criteria that are used in their construction. These include authentic 19th-century materials, such as hardwood floors, brick for walls and real tin for ceilings, as opposed to synthetic materials.
“Traditionally, brick was used for common walls in the construction of warehouses that became lofts,” Hamilton said. “Brick offers the feeling of something substantial and timeless. It is the ultimate reclaimed material because it comes from the earth.”
Other considerations for suburban lofts include:
- Ample storage and energy-efficient windows
- Updated kitchens and bathrooms
- High ceiling and few walls
- Good location and wide-open floor plans
- A quiet atmosphere
It is this final consideration that favors brick construction.
“Hardwood floors and large windows can make loft spaces noisy,” said Hamilton. “Home buyers should look for surfaces that can absorb sounds. These can include wooden ceilings, stucco and, of course, unfinished brick. Strategically placed rugs and wall tapestries can also help with sound abatement in a loft.”
Advantages and Disadvantages of a Suburban Loft Home
The charm of living in a warehouse that was built when Teddy Roosevelt was president can wear thin for residents who are accustomed to modern amenities, such as covered parking, energy efficient heating and cooling and storage. This is part of the attraction of having this loft look in a newly constructed home in the suburbs.
“New wiring and plumbing in a home make for a better quality of life,” Hamilton said. “Usually these newly built homes are in the suburbs, not in the inner city. They can be added to an older structure along with energy efficient windows and doors, but the costs are often prohibitive.
“One of the disadvantages of building a home with a loft look in the suburbs is its inconsistency with the other homes in the neighborhood. This can affect the resale value of the home. However, many will trade this potential downside for the opportunity to live in a space with an authentic uniqueness. A home constructed of classic brick actually minimizes this ‘standing out’ challenge and can prevent a homeowner from running afoul of any homeowner association regulations.”
If you are considering building a loft home, contact us for more information on including the charm of brick.