Rough brick or concrete walls, ceilings with open ventilation and pipes, huge windows, and concrete floors – spaces with these characteristic features have conquered the interior world today. More and more often, designers hear from the customer wishes to decorate the space in the loft style. In order to understand the features and understand essence of this style, let’s go back a few decades back to the distant 1940s and plunge into the industrial life of America at the end of the Great Depression.
A bit of history
In the 40s of the twentieth century, the Great Depression had just ended in the United States, which lasted 10 years and noticeably shook the entire economy. The central regions, which used to be a place of attraction for industrial giants, were massively built up with factories and plants that flourished until the 30s. Now, after the big crisis and the collapse of production, industrialists could no longer afford expensive land and began to massively move warehouses and factories to the suburbs, leaving huge empty spaces in the center of large cities.
At first it was housing for the poor, because not everyone wants to live in such conditions.
The idea of using the buildings of the former factories for apartments and workshops arose in the 1940s in the factory districts of New York when empty industrial buildings that filled Manhattan, Soho, and Queens began to be sold and rented out for next to nothing. At first, it was housing for the poor because not everyone wants to live in such conditions. Basically, these were students and young people in creative professions.
Then the most daring and free public actively reached out to the former industrial areas – artists and musicians, who saw a special chic in this industrial atmosphere and, with their inherent imagination, began to settle in vast spaces. Originally nondescript warehouses and industrial spaces were used as exhibition spaces and workshops. Then many moved here for permanent residence, having received a unique chance to combine housing with workshops and galleries.
The new owners did not remove wooden trusses and beams from the ceiling, hide pipes, or finish brick and concrete walls – they saw this as a special urban charm that allows them to feel free and independent.
Already by the 1950s, these apartments became very popular and rose significantly in price due to their convenient location and unique industrial chic. Thus, abandoned factory and warehouse areas turned into elite dwellings, and the features of the lofts, which once seemed to be disadvantaged, turned into virtues, defining the aesthetics of the distinguished style.
Since all these spaces occupied an impressive part of downtown New York and other large cities, real estate prices in these areas skyrocketed again. Representatives of the bohemian public – young artists and musicians – could no longer afford these spaces, and wealthy financiers and lawyers quickly took their place.
Following the United States, the crisis has also reached major European cities, displacing factories from the central streets to the outskirts. However, the former factory buildings were not empty for a long time. They immediately began to equip them for residential apartments, creating interiors in the American industrial style.
Abandoned factory and warehouse space turned into luxury homes, and loft features that once seemed like disadvantages turned into virtues, defining the aesthetics of a distinguished style.
The final popularization of the loft occurred at the moment when wealthy entrepreneurs and the aristocratic elite began to specially build residential buildings in this style. New buildings were specially made spacious, with large windows and without internal walls, equipped with open wiring, bare walls were not decorated, and a minimum of functional furniture was installed. Gradually, the loft acquired its own characteristic features that set it apart from other styles and trends.
So what is a loft?
The loft style is an architectural trend in the interior design of the 20th-21st century, for which residential or office space is created by refurbishing abandoned attic spaces or industrial buildings. It is a form of minimalism. “Loft” literally means attic, gallery, or top floor of a warehouse or factory building.
In the modern sense, a loft is a spacious open space with an industrial character, brutal, a little rough in design, but at the same time original and cozy. Loft-style design is characterized not only by the general features of a large-sized room but also by a special color scheme, furniture arrangement, decoration features, and surface finishing methods.
“Loft” literally means attic, attic, gallery, top floor of a warehouse or factory building.
The concept of style is based on a harmonious combination of various design trends and architectural solutions. In such a space, elements of antiquity and modern technology, rather rough interior decoration, and modern finishing materials are perfectly combined. Unplastered walls, brickwork, furniture of different styles – everything that is unacceptable in other styles is ideal for a loft.
Modern designers distinguish several directions in the loft style:
1. Bohemian. It retains the features of a classic factory building. However, furniture and accessories are selected with the inherent creativity of creative people. As a decor, preference is given to art objects – avant-garde paintings, sculptures, flower arrangements, art objects, and musical instruments.
2. Glamorous. It is distinguished by a peculiar color palette and contrast. Preference is given to gray-brown and gray-lilac tones. In this case, the walls are preserved in their original form. Particular attention is paid to the decor – intricate lamps, chandeliers, ceiling lamps, LED lighting, and floor lamps. There are usually a lot of them, and they serve as a kind of interior accent. The highlight of such a space can also be baroque mirrors, large plants in concrete pots, and skins on the floor. Rough unfinished walls effectively contrast with elegant decor items, and simple interior solutions are intertwined with luxurious furniture elements.
3. Industrial or industrial. This direction is the most popular. It is characterized by the creation of an atmosphere of an industrial building, factory, or factory workshop. For this purpose, metal structures, ventilation pipes, wooden trusses, and all kinds of wires are used. It requires rigor and the use of modern technology. The furniture is as functional as possible, without frills, with regular geometric shapes. The bright or useless decor is not allowed.
Today, the loft is in great demand due to its simplicity, conciseness, and plasticity. As a rule, the loft style is chosen by creative and young energetic people who like the deliberate negligence of the interior, or those who want to save on repairs, because this style does not require significant financial costs. Its popularity is also explained by the fact that it is quite creative, making it possible to fantasize and implement bold design ideas. At the same time, it is urbanistic and is not suitable for decorating a country house. But a spacious apartment or studio with high ceilings and large modern windows is ideal for this style.
As a rule, the loft style is chosen by creative and young energetic people who like the deliberate negligence of the interior, or those who want to save on repairs, because this style does not require significant financial costs.
The restrained and brutal, original and sophisticated loft is not just a style in interior design, it is a kind of lifestyle, a special area for creativity and expression of character. Therefore, modern designers have appreciated this style direction with a restrained masculine character, unique color, and bright personality.
Loft style features
The first and main sign of a real loft is that it is located in an originally non-residential building, the industrial past of which must certainly be emphasized. Hence such attention to the preserved industrial attributes in the former workshops and warehouses. In a modern loft, they usually play the role of a kind of art object that conveys the history of the style.
An integral attribute of the loft is the industrial atmosphere of the living space, which is created by rough brickwork, open communications, metal pipes, fittings, and raw plaster. Industrial objects are welcome, such as cast iron batteries, pipes, or obviously factory equipment. Open communications and undisguised structural elements are perceived as a special chic, emphasizing belonging to this style.
The basis of the loft style is a free and open layout, which excludes the presence of massive internal walls. Partitions have only bathrooms, bathrooms, and utility rooms. The rest of the home should be fully visible, creating the feeling of a large open space with visually delineated functional areas. Zoning is carried out exclusively with the help of color, furniture, lighting, and the use of materials of different textures. Bedrooms are usually made on the second level overlooking the main floor, where the living room, dining room, and kitchen are located.
The basis of the loft style is a free and open layout, which excludes the presence of massive internal walls.
The most typical elements of a loft is rough wall decoration, unplastered brickwork, or raw concrete, emphasizing the originality of the room. Industrial workshops, as a rule, were built of red brick, and later, when they were inhabited by creative people, they turned out to be open due to a lack of funds for the development of vast areas. Rough walls gradually became part of the legend and became the most iconic feature of the style. Later buildings had concrete walls. Therefore, the loft is also characterized by concrete, preferably rough and with traces of formwork.
To maintain the loft style, one or two raw walls are enough, usually, these are load-bearing walls. It is desirable that they have a pristine industrial look: rough, with areas of raw concrete, brickwork, or galvanized iron. Other interior walls may be plastered.
In modern apartments, it is allowed to style the walls under open brickwork using textured plaster with an accentuated rough texture, as well as cladding with a wooden board or plywood sheets that can be painted with white or gray matte paint. In rare cases, but in no case on load-bearing walls, wallpaper imitating brick or old masonry is allowed.
Lofts have high ceilings. And this is understandable – historically they were located in former industrial spaces, the height of which, on average, reaches 5-6 meters, but there are also higher ones – up to 8 meters. The ceiling, as a rule, is covered with snow-white paint, sometimes light gray, which visually enlarges the space and adds light to the interior. In tandem with load-bearing beams, uncovered ventilation structures, and communication pipes, it creates an expressive industrial atmosphere.
The floor in the loft style is usually concrete, typical for the production hall, however, it is quite cold and not practical. Therefore, this option is not always acceptable in residential premises. In a modern apartment, it can be replaced with cold-colored parquet or wood-imitating laminate. A floor made of artificial stone and marble slabs is allowed. The floor is usually done in dark colors, similar to that which has traditionally been in industrial premises.
Very often in the loft style, there is a second level – attic, mezzanine, second floor. High ceilings of industrial buildings allow you to organize additional usable space. With a height of 5-6 meters, they easily fit additional mezzanines, which are one of the key features of loft-style housing. They, as a rule, are located in bedrooms and offices, and below them, in low spaces, bathrooms, and kitchens. Initially, mezzanines were made from improvised means – materials left in the workshops. Therefore, even today, the style is characterized by rather rough, industrial style, mezzanine, and attics. It was possible to get to the second tier with the help of an attached or stationary ladder. Today, they are also equipped with premises, making them from metal and wood.
The loft has huge, often wall-to-wall windows that provide natural light to large open spaces. Ideal windows are floor-to-ceiling windows with a mesmerizing cityscape. They may consist of many small segments or consist of a single piece of glass. Window frames are predominantly wooden or painted in white or imitation wood.
Most often, there are no curtains on them, sometimes almost weightless curtains are used. White cotton roller blinds and vertical or horizontal blinds look advantageous. In a modern loft, plastic windows are allowed, but they must be attic or French, and certainly large. They are also not decorated with textiles so they let in the maximum amount of light.
The color scheme in the interior is based on the main materials of the loft – brick, concrete, glass, wood, and metal. Since the loft is a purely industrial style, the apartment is decorated in cool colors. An urban color palette is preferred – moderate grays and browns combined with white, and all kinds of “metallic” shades are welcome.
Despite some rudeness and negligence, the loft is not characterized by too dark tones. The color scheme of decoration and furniture is strict, consisting of two or three harmonizing or contrasting colors, and the color scheme differs in different countries. The variety is brought in by accessories of bright colors – red, blue, and yellow. These can be sofa cushions, lampshades, or small pieces of furniture. The most important requirement for such accents is to complement, but not interrupt the overall industrial sound of the style.
In the loft style, a minimum of furniture is used, it is placed along the walls and in the corners of the premises so that it does not block the view and does not clutter up the space.
The loft style is characterized by multifunctional furniture. Depending on the direction of style (bohemian, glamorous, industrial), it can be ultra-modern or antique. If this is a bohemian trend, then pieces of furniture are picked up in antique shops, in the grandmother’s attic, or at flea markets. These can be antique chests of drawers, tables, and chairs made of natural wood, as well as wrought iron items.
For a glamorous direction, new furniture is chosen, quite expensive and even luxurious, capable of creating a spectacular contrast with a rough industrial space. For an industrial loft, modern minimalist furniture with a geometrically correct shape is suitable. The main requirements for furniture in this style are functionality and conciseness. In the loft style, a minimum of furniture is used, it is placed along the walls and in the corners of the premises so that it does not block the view and does not clutter up the space. A characteristic feature of the style is mobile furniture on wheels. Furniture sets that harmoniously fit into the interiors of other styles will look out of place in the loft. But an unusual combination of furniture of different styles, trends, and eras is a feature of the loft.
The loft democratically accepts combinations of old or artificially aged objects with new, ultra-modern ones. All elements of the industrial space – rough masonry, plank floors, curved pipes – must be complemented by the latest technology and sparkling glass, steel, and chrome surfaces. A plasma TV against the background of bare brick walls is a typical sign of a modern loft.
An indispensable element of the interior is fireplaces and stoves. Traditionally, they served to heat the huge cold factory premises. Over time, these elements of the loft style have become its absolute highlight and are firmly entrenched in the interior.
An unusual combination of furniture of different styles, trends and eras is a feature of the loft.
The loft is characterized by the use of diverse lighting sources, which not only illuminate the premises at night but also zone the space. Lamps, lamps, large chandeliers, street lamps – they all play an important role in the interior. The signature touch of the loft is industrial lamps with a metal frame, suspended on cables from a concrete ceiling. In the case of high ceilings, this design is especially appropriate – the lamps can be easily lowered and raised to the desired height. To highlight another residential area, hang lamps of a different type. In modern small apartments, LED lighting is most often used.
The minimalism of the loft style requires the use of a minimum of decor, but it must be meaningful and memorable. The apartment should have accessories that remind you that the style was born in creative workshops and galleries. As a rule, non-traditional futuristic accessories are used in the design of the loft, original “street” decor – lamps with an unusual design, for example, lamps on brackets or reminiscent of street lamps, advertising posters, and road signs. Non-standard Graffiti accessories, advertising posters, photographs, and abstract paintings look impressive in modern or heavy antique frames that can be hung or simply lined up on the floor along the wall. The presence of mirrors is appropriate, and their design is completely unimportant.
Unusual decorative pillows on the sofa, floor vases, and original figurines fit perfectly into the interior. Elements that tell about the owner’s preferences are also used as accessories – these can be musical instruments, bicycles, and even motorcycles. In order to enliven the space, planters are sometimes hung up. The presence of a variety of design items makes the space as holistic and lively as possible, emphasizing the originality and uniqueness of the interior.
Many examples will help you understand this style better: all loft-style projects are published in our section, get inspired!