Artists have always sought out unusual and unexpected places to live, prioritizing cheap rents where they could sell or barter for their works of art. Up until the 1950s and '60s, many works of art were limited in size due to the spaces where they were being painted. Andy Warhol and his "art factory" in New York may have given birth to the idea of the loft. This transformative idea brought larger format works of art and performance art and even served as a new venue for art exhibitions in lieu of galleries.
Lofts and New York go hand in hand. It is hard to imagine any other scenario. Loft implies a certain urban culture that is in opposition to the establishment. Originally, lofts were created out of abandoned manufacturing spaces or warehouses. Large windows, tall ceilings, cement floors, exposed hvac systems, large freight elevators and industrial lighting fixtures are just some of the typical architectural elements that have become iconic of lofts.
Most every metropolitan city now boasts loft space, typically in the most creative and alternative neighborhoods. These spaces are proposed by developers and cities alike as a way to revitalize or gentrify blighted or abandoned areas, sometimes even downtown areas. It's a great way to reuse and rehab buildings without knocking them down.
In the past couple of years, cities from Miami to Memphis have begun to see condominium towers that play on the tectonics of lofts. Generally, these condos boast some sort of open floor plan with few or no dividing walls, taller ceilings and exposed AC vents to give one the feeling of being in a loft. Their innate openness makes lofts not really suitable for families or even roommates. These units work best for single occupants and newlyweds or even empty-nesters.
Although the original artist's lofts were just thriftily thrown together with hand-me-downs and picked-off-the-sidewalk furniture, today's loft decor can be quite lofty. Furniture designers have been creating lines for these cavernous dwellings, including larger upholstered sofas, high headboards and over-scaled dining tables appropriate to scale.
Flexibility is one of the biggest benefits. Because of the open floor plan, there are no formal rooms and no hierarchy or transition of rooms. Your bedroom area can actually be a part of your living area.
The beauty of decorating a loft is that there are virtually no rules. Any style can be brought in: Swedish classicism, Country French, Art Deco Streamline, Contemporary, etc. The furniture will accentuate the style, while the enveloping loft will always reinforce its modern and bohemian roots. Your artistic visions are the only limits to creativity in a loft.
Loft living, once seen as an unconventional lifestyle, has become part of the mainstream. As more and more professions and offices become more mobile, lofts are garnering even more appreciation. Not just for artists anymore, everyone from tech consultants and photographers to architects and online businesses find live/work lofts more appealing and relevant than ever.
Joseph Pubillones is the owner of Joseph Pubillones Interiors, an award-winning interior design firm based in Palm Beach, Florida. To find out more about Joseph Pubillones, or to read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.