What makes a loft a loft?

Picture of Paul Travers

Paul Travers

As urban lifestyles become more common, there’s a lot of property development going on where the marketing or spiel purports to offer loft apartments to an unsuspecting public.

The L-word has been somewhat hijacked by the larger house-builders in a drive to add an element of cool – and thus money – to their ultimately mainstream developments. But rather than actually making lofts (which aren’t as cheap to build), they simply add the term to their marketing. And to be clear, removing the wall between the kitchen and living room does not turn a regular apartment into a Tribeca loft.

What is a loft?

Strictly speaking in a New York kinda way, a loft is an apartment created from a former industrial space like a warehouse, factory, or workshop. However, the term has been justifiably widened to include apartments converted from a wider gamut of non-residential buildings – schools, hospitals, office blocks, churches – that display elements of a building’s original fabric (windows, exposed brick or concrete, original timbers, iron columns, etc) and whose layout and design are clearly informed by their industrial peers.

Loft Apartment Property & Development

In general, buyers in the inner cities are more exposed to genuine loft apartments than buyers further out. That makes it easier for a property developer to palm his modern apartments off as lofts in the suburbs and, from seeing inside some of their creations, you might wonder if the developer had ever actually set foot in a genuine loft anyway. That would at least make their abuse of the word accidental.

Some of the new developments where the developer is trying to sell them as lofts, are anything but. Very often the only lofty thing about them is that they are not quite so dreary as most of the boring boxes that major house-builders foist upon the British public. And by not quite so dreary all we really mean is there might be a kitchen with a nicer work surface; or laminate floors upgraded to wood; or – generosity alert! –windows that are a bit bigger. However, no matter how much anyone insists upon it, a newly built block of apartments with 8ft high ceilings is NOT, we repeat NOT, a loft.

There are some notable exceptions to the new-build rule. Bankside Lofts, opposite Tate Modern, is a good example of how it’s perfectly possible to create lofts in a new building. There are high ceilings, double height voids, massive factory-style windows, mezzanine levels and exposed concrete. It is possibly the only genuine new-build development that can be accurately included in the London loft apartment marketplace.

This isn’t to say there aren’t some great new build developments in London, particularly from the smaller, niche developers. They create some truly wonderful modern living spaces that are excellent places to live and call home. They will give you years of pleasure.

But they’re not lofts.

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