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What is a loft in a house?

When you hear the term loft, what do you think of? Or, maybe you’re wondering, “What is a loft in a house?” While the original loft apartment is still a popular part of urban living, particularly in New York City, the term has taken on new meaning in recent years. Home with lofts are now highly sought-after because of the added value and versatility of a loft space.


What is a loft in a house?

In real estate listings, a loft in a home typically referred to as a “loft space” is an open area on the top floor. This partially open space overlooks the main floor below connected by a staircase.

From media centers to playrooms and home gyms, homeowners transform this extra square footage into whatever room in the house best fits their lifestyle needs.


The evolution of the loft

Lofts were first used as studios by Parisian artists in the mid-19th century. The open floor plans, a substantial amount of square feet, and high ceilings made them ideal for the enormous popular paintings.

In the early 20th century, loft spaces made their way to the industrial areas of American port cities like Boston and New York City, where they were used as storage warehouses.

By the 1940s, many businesses had moved out of their Manhattan industrial spaces, leaving behind an abundance of abandoned warehouses, factories, and halls.

Realizing the value of these large, open spaces, artists moved into SoHo’s abandoned buildings, transforming them into functional loft apartments.

Nearly three decades later, many of SoHo’s abandoned industrial buildings had been renovated and converted into residential real estate.

Since these buildings were originally zoned for commercial use, 92% of these loft apartments, sometimes called studio apartments, were illegal.

The city was forced to pass the Loft Law, which rezoned the neighborhood and enabled residents to convert these New York buildings into living spaces legally.

This trend of urban living continued to rise, spreading to big cities across the United States.

Industrial spaces were the most economical solution for artists and students, as they had enough square feet to serve as both a work and living space.


Hard lofts vs. soft lofts

Over time, the loft concept has been updated to appeal to a more affluent demographic. This historic style has become so popular that loft spaces in new construction are highlighted in real estate listings.

The word loft is now often associated with several real estate spaces, including studio apartments and loft apartments.

To fully appreciate the reason why loft living continues to rise in popularity, it helps to know the architectural features of original lofts.


Hard lofts

True lofts are commercial buildings that were converted into residential spaces.

These former industrial buildings, known as hard lofts, are typically located in industrial areas and have a unique architectural style appealing to many people.

The term hard loft originated because the interior space has a more raw, industrial look.

Since a true loft is a former warehouse or factory used for commercial purposes, loft apartments have a unique look not typically associated with residential spaces.

Unique elements synonymous with loft living include:

  • One open, vast space
  • Minimum of 1,600 square feet
  • Few interior walls – Traditional lofts have an open floor plan, where only the bathrooms and kitchens are permanent. Aside from those two rooms, you have all that space to design in a way that matches your lifestyle needs. You can use temporary interior walls to create separate areas and storage spaces as your needs change.
  • Concrete or brick walls
  • Exposed brick
  • Industrial ductwork
  • Exposed pipes
  • Wood posts and beams
  • Industrial flooring
  • High ceilings – Some loft living experts state that high ceilings must be a minimum of twelve feet, while others define high ceilings as ten feet or higher.
  • Large windows
  • Natural light
  • Access to an upper storey deck or rooftop garden – The most unique lofts often feature a spiral staircase.

The higher ceilings and lack of internal walls, combined with minimalist decor, enhance the open concept and provide a spacious living space. The larger windows let in a lot of natural light, further enhancing the ambiance of the open floor plan.


Soft lofts

The open space and natural light make it easy to understand why hard loft apartments are appealing to so many.

Since there is a limited number of old commercial buildings available for conversion, contractors are now designing condos and apartments modeled after the hard loft style. This modern take on hard lofts is called the soft loft.

Soft lofts are built with many of the same architectural features found in hard lofts. They were dubbed soft lofts because they’re built with modern technologies and efficiencies.

Real estate listings often use the terms “loft space” and “loft apartment/condo” interchangeably, making it challenging to find lofts with large spaces typically associated with loft apartments.

In truth, the two are very different. A loft apartment/condo refers to a soft loft, whereas a loft space means living space has a loft area.


Where is a loft located in a home?

Now that you understand the meaning behind a traditional loft, you’re probably wondering where a loft is located in a home.

Recognizing the popularity of loft living, designers set out to find ways to incorporate these spaces into new construction homes. In a home, a loft refers to an upper storey space directly under the roof.


What is the difference between a loft and an attic?

While many homes do not have a loft, most come with an attic. Attics and home lofts are located in the same area directly under the roof.

Attics are typically unfinished and only used to store things. They are closed in and are not open to the rest of the home. Access is gained via a ladder.

Home lofts have stairs leading down to the rest of the home. They are finished, open spaces that have at least one window.


What is the purpose of a loft in a home?

The versatility that comes with having a loft increases the value of your home. These sought-after spaces can be used in multiple different ways.

While the loft is open, it is partially separated from the rest of the home. This means it can be used as a private space or open to the entire household.

Below are just a few ways to utilize this versatile space.


Game room

Lofts provide the ideal space for a game room. Because the room is partially open to the rest of the house, game players can still interact with you on the lower story.

All gaming equipment, however, is tucked away in one room. This can make all the difference in the world when you have a busy household.


Media center

Like the game room, lofts have enough square footage to equip a full media center. You can create a customized home theater, complete with a large television, couches, recliners, and that popcorn machine you’ve always wanted.


Office space

Whether you’re a freelance writer, an artist, or a real estate agent, a loft can be customized to fit your home office needs.

Lofts offer enough privacy for you to work without distractions, without feeling closed off from the main floor. Additionally, lofts have more space for you to store the inventory for your online business or artist’s tools and equipment.


Guest room

While some will claim that having an additional bedroom is better than the extra room a loft provides, this isn’t always the case. Lofts are open and spacious, which makes them versatile spaces. With all that space to work with, you can use temporary internal walls to create multiple separate areas, closing off certain parts entirely when you need to.

Check out our Guest Room Essentials for what you will need to furnish this space.


Mother-in-law suite

Does your mother-in-law live with you or do you have frequent guests? No problem. Your loft can serve as a mini studio apartment, complete with a fully-functional kitchen and bathroom.


Build the bathroom of your dreams

As long as we are dreaming, why not dream big? Many homeowners have successfully transformed their lofts into bathrooms dreams were made of.

Picture it. A walk-in shower, clawfoot tub, large windows overlooking the garden, and his and her sinks. Who needs a trip to the spa when you have this retreat just a few steps away?


Why do you need a loft?

Having a loft space in your home isn’t for everyone. However, they are the perfect solution for homeowners that need a flexible space that can adapt as their needs change.

As your children age, they can transform from a playroom to a teenage hangout room.

When the kids leave home, you can use it as additional space for storage or transform it into that workout room you’ve always wanted.

Because lofts cover sizeable square footage, they can be multifunctional. This means you don’t even have to choose between having additional storage space and your workout room.

Related: What Is A Hearth Room In A House? Find Out Here!

Value vs. Cost

Many consumers looking to purchase homes now include lofts as features in their home search. As a result, homeowners looking for ways to add value to their homes invest in loft conversions.

A loft conversion is when the homeowner converts an open, elevated area into a finished space.

This area can be multifunctional or serve one purpose.

Loft conversions vary in price based on many factors. However, the average cost is $20,000.

HomeAdvisor’s loft conversion calculator can provide you with a more accurate estimate of what this project would cost.

If the conversion is done well, it can add 10-20% to the value of your home and provide a 50%-70% return on your investment.


What is a Loft FAQ


What does a loft do?

A loft serves as an extra space, which can be used for a variety of purposes including a home office, art studio, and game room. They can serve as a quiet space, a guest room, or any combination that fits your household’s needs.


What is the difference between a loft and an attic?

Attics are closed in and separate from the rest of the main floor, whereas lofts are more open and have a staircase that provides access to the rest of the home.


Why do you need a loft?

If you need a space that can grow with you and your family’s needs, a loft is the answer you’ve been looking for. Additionally, these unique spaces increase the value of your home by 10% to 20%, making them a worthy investment.



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