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by Georgina Callan

Many people, at some point or other, have considered the idea of living in a loft, a wide open space,
preferably with floor to ceiling windows and great views. While many new apartments and condos at
first glance look like lofts, and may be marketed as same, possessing a sense of openness, there are also
chunks of the space sectioned off for bathrooms, a kitchen and storage according to a defined
architectural plan. A true loft space is usually re-purposed from an industrial or commercial building
and the location of the bathrooms and a kitchen have an arbitrary feel. Closets are rarities.
In a loft it is necessary to jettison the concept of “rooms” where walls define the space.
Furniture and area rugs dictate the layout of the space providing familiarity in terms of
sitting, eating, working and sleeping. Part of the pleasure of living in a loft is rethinking
the functionality of daily life, when only the bathroom and kitchen are fixed in place.
Layout is trickier. In a modern home of any kind a percentage of living space has to
be given over to electronics. Even if these devices are streamlined into a flat screen
television, and a laptop, there are cables, wires and general electrical paraphernalia
that needs to be considered. Indeed, the living space itself is often dictated by the
location of the electrical outlets which, in a loft, may be limited and appear to be
unplanned. The interior layout, therefore, is often subsequently defined by the location
of the electrical outlets, for electronics and light fixtures, and the view from the windows.  

Living in a loft requires a certain rigorous spirit unless the space is viewed as an over-sized
storage unit, one with a view, in which case the ideas herein may be redundant. But for
someone contemplating “loft life” for whom the strictures of the lifestyle may be either
necessary or welcome, or both, the following ideas may be helpful.
which may demand furniture with a vocabulary that speaks to the space, depending
on the origins of the loft itself. A loft carved out from an industrial building might benefit
from urban furniture, made from recognizable, rather than disguised elements of
unfinished wood and steel.
Or the opposite approach may be taken, that is to introduce large, oversize, squashy
sofas and chairs, for instance, furniture that is in contrast with the rugged nature of the
building. Another option is to look forwards and introduce sleek and minimal furniture,
tables and chairs and a bed and sofa that uses the older building as a platform, a
stage for a modern lifestyle. But lofts are not discriminatory, and older pieces of
furniture, from another era, are equally welcome.

There are more options than one might think.

Furniture and area rugs narrate the habitation story, creating areas for activity. If the loft
is tall enough and there’s room for a second floor or sleeping platform, the ladder or stairs
or means of access is a design feature as a staircase would be in a more traditional
home. For the upper floor or sleeping loft to integrate with the space and not feel like
an add-on, thought must be given to the location of access, and to the materials used.
Loft living is challenging. And that’s the fun part. The freedom of living without walls and
doors poses design dilemmas or offers a large opportunity for creativity depending on
one’s perspective. Perhaps one of the largest challenges is dealing with personal
possessions. What to do with books and photographs and accessories? Artwork,
canvasses and photographs, are often difficult to place. When you live with walls,
it’s easy to take them for granted, without walls, display space becomes something
of an issue.
In a more traditional environment, a wall becomes the backdrop for bookcases but in
the absence of walls, it’s necessary to become more creative. A cube may be built
around the bathroom or kitchen area to double up as a storage unit and to provide
wall space for books and accessories. Screens that help define the functions of the
space may offer double duty as a wall for art and books.
(photo Andreas Meichsner)
A welcome upside to loft living is the opportunity to use a wide range of lighting fixtures.
In a more traditional context the lighting is relevant to the room in which it is hung, but
in a loft space, the lighting relates to the space as a whole and therefore provides
opportunity for a different type of design narration, one that centralizes, unifies,
and offers visual communication to all elements in the room.