Loft: definition, history and Russian features

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Translated from English “loft” is translated quite simply – “attic”. But in the American interpretation, this short word is usually translated as “the top floor of a warehouse or industrial premises.” This double definition has led to the fact that lofts are sometimes called the second floor of an ordinary cottage, turned into a single space or an apartment, the decoration style of which can be called industrial, and the rooms are combined into a single space.

However, in Europe and the United States, it is customary to call lofts not attics, but exclusively former industrial buildings – factories, plants, warehouses, workshops – which have been converted into offices, art objects and residential complexes..

Thus, a classic loft apartment is an apartment with a fairly large area, located in a former industrial building and retaining such details as beams, various pipes, brickwork on the walls, concrete and metal structures in its interior..


Loft is a typical American phenomenon. It was in the United States in the 1920s that industrial premises began to receive a completely different purpose in such famous areas of New York as Manhattan, Soho and East Queens..

There were several prerequisites for the appearance of such an unusual phenomenon:

  • First, industrial plants in New York were mostly built in the form of townhouses to save money on the purchase of expensive land. After the city began to grow, all these factories and plants were literally in the center of New York, and the land rose in value tenfold..
  • Second, the Great Depression that hit the United States in the late 1920s caused many businesses to go bankrupt and shut down. The vacated premises, located at that time in already very prestigious areas, could not be empty for a long time, of course..
  • Thirdly, the cost of renting such abandoned industrial premises was much lower than the cost of living in an ordinary apartment in the same area, so there were quite a lot of people who wanted to become owners of such a building..

Initially, lofts were rented exclusively by bohemians: painters, musicians, actors, writers and sculptors. These creative people were attracted not only by the low rent, but also by the features of the former industrial building – unusually high ceilings, huge spaces not divided into traditional bedrooms and living rooms, floor-to-ceiling windows, additional ceiling lighting, free and original interior. It was the perfect solution for organizing a studio, workshop, exhibition gallery.

Very often, artists and artists lived here, in the same room as the workshop, so the lofts very quickly turned into trendy, unusual living apartments.

Developers quickly appreciated the prospects of the new trend and began to buy out, re-equip and put up for sale industrial buildings themselves. Over time, the functionality and special style of lofts were appreciated not only by bohemian New Yorkers, but also by businessmen, lawyers, bankers, those who in the United States are called the establishment..

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Modern bohemia

Already by the 50s of the 20th century, lofts firmly occupied their niche in the United States in the category of expensive housing “not for everyone.” And not only because the cost of these huge apartments (the average area of ​​an American loft is 1 thousand square meters) was very high, but also because, despite the growing popularity, not every home buyer is ready to live in such an unusual, industrial interior.

Lofts reached their peak of popularity in America in the 60s, when the famous Andy Warhol opened his now textbook “Factory” on East 47th Street in Manhattan, a building where he and his students lived..

And only in the 60s, lofts began to migrate to Europe – Germany, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Austria. For example, in England, the first loft was the buildings in the Clerkenwell area, located in north London. And such “factory housing” became widespread during her tenure as British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The main impetus for the development of a new concept of “loft” in the UK was the economic actions of the government: a law came into force that equalized industrial and office buildings in central London. When the rent of industrial and office buildings became equal, many manufacturers began to move their production out of town. And then the same system worked as in the United States – the advantageous location and unusual design began to attract the attention of bohemians to the lofts, and then ordinary residents of the capital of Great Britain.

With the growing popularity of “factory housing” in Europe, there is a shortage of such premises, because not every city can boast of having an abandoned factory. In this regard, sometimes old warehouses, orphanages, schools are being converted into lofts, and the railway station has become a popular residential complex in Finland..

By the way, the loft has become an excellent outlet for city authorities and developers in cases where it is impossible to demolish a historic building, since it is a valuable architectural object, and it is no longer possible to use it for its intended purpose..

Vincent van Gogh. Factory town. 1887

In the post-Soviet space, the first classic loft is considered to be an elite residential complex that appeared in Riga in 2003 in Kipsala. Architects Zaiga and Maris Gailis have preserved all the features of the historical appearance of an old gypsum factory, and the interior has turned into loft apartments.

New buildings have even appeared in Europe and the United States now, in which apartments are made in the “loft” style, but experts believe that such “remakes” can no longer claim the title of classic lofts, but are rather industrial-style apartments.

The popularity of the loft is also evidenced by the fact that it often becomes a scene of action in Hollywood films. So, in the most popular film “Ghost”, the heroes of Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore live in the loft, in the series Close Friends, the “factory apartment” became housing for Brian Kinney, in the series “Gossip Girl” the Humphrey family also lives in the loft.


According to experts, lofts have gained such great popularity not only due to their architectural features, but also due to the fact that “factory housing” has become a real way of life, a new, non-standard worldview. In the West, the loft is a symbol of the departure from everything bourgeois, traditional and ordinary. That is why, in order to emphasize such a free attitude, the loft is defiantly original even inside.

Firstly, this space is always huge in size, as experts say, premises less than 200-300 square meters can no longer be called a classic loft. Only the bathroom and the bedroom become separate rooms (and even then not always), the rest of the area is a single space, divided into zones only with the help of furniture or design solutions.

Secondly, almost the only interior design option for such a room is the industrial style, which implies an abundance of metal, the preservation of old brickwork, a minimum of finishes and textiles, and pop art furniture. Non-standard materials are often used, such as exotic woods, glass, natural stone.

Thirdly, usually lofts are divided into two main areas – working and living. For example, a large workshop and a slightly smaller living room-bedroom.

A very accurate description of the loft was made by Lyudmila Ulitskaya in her book “Merry Funeral”, describing the New York apartment of a Russian emigrant artist: “… a tiny kitchen, a toilet with a shower, and a narrow bedroom with a piece of window were cornered. And a huge, two-light, workshop “.

Loft in Russia

It is currently impossible to talk about any loft market either in Moscow or in St. Petersburg. Russian real estate buyers have not yet appreciated the possibilities and originality of such industrial housing, but there are already first proposals.

In our country, former buildings of factories and factories often become not residential, but office premises. In addition, it is often easier for developers to demolish an old building and build a typical new building than to carefully remodel the structure and turn it into lofts..

Do not forget that lofts belong to the category of elite housing, most often they are located in the historical center, have a huge area and not all Russians can afford it..

According to experts from Moscow real estate agencies, the proposals that have now appeared on the Moscow housing market are designed for representatives of the political and business elite, as well as for the “golden youth” who will be able to appreciate the unusualness of the “factory apartment”.

Today, one can single out such interesting real estate objects as the residential complexes “Nikolaevsky House” and Manhattan House in Moscow. The cost of one square meter of a loft in these complexes ranges from 6 to 9.5 thousand dollars.

In St. Petersburg, the most significant project in this direction was New Holland, an industrial island, many of whose buildings date back to the 18th century. Now experts are discussing the concept of reconstruction of this interesting object, it is planned that among the commercial and residential premises in the complex there will be lofts, developers intend to preserve the historical atmosphere of the island.

Among non-residential lofts in Russia, one can distinguish:

  • Loft Project Etagi in the Northern Capital is a multifunctional cultural center of contemporary art, where exhibitions of contemporary artists are often held;
  • “Winzavod” – the center of contemporary art in Moscow, the building of the former beer, and then the winery “Moscow Bavaria”, in 2007 became an exhibition center;
  • the former Danilovskaya Manufactory in the capital, which has become a popular office center;
  • creative space “Tkachi” in St. Petersburg, the former complex of the “New paper spinning manufactory”, founded in 1846. The building has been included in the list of newly identified sites of historical, scientific, artistic or cultural value. Now in the creative space of the former manufactory exhibitions are held, office and retail loft premises are leased.

Experts emphasize that the plans of the Moscow authorities to move industrial enterprises out of the city limits will open up new prospects for the appearance of classic lofts on the real estate market. Experts call the Krasny Oktyabr confectionery factory located on the Bersenevskaya embankment as the most promising objects in this direction. The production is planned to be transferred to the territory of the “Babaevsky” concern, the authorities intend to preserve the historical appearance of the factory, and to give the internal premises for a residential complex.

The development of the loft market and the mayor’s ban on construction in the center of Moscow will also contribute to the development of the loft market, in which case developers will turn their attention to the former industrial buildings, and the conversion of industrial facilities, the demolition of which is prohibited due to their value for history and architecture, into residential complexes will begin.

Many experts note that there are many interesting industrial buildings in Russian industrial cities such as Yekaterinburg, Chelyabinsk, and in Moscow and St. Petersburg themselves, so that loft apartments have great prospects in our country. Other specialists, who are more skeptical, emphasize that lofts, which are inherently expensive housing, will remain a piece goods “not for everyone” and if they take their niche in the real estate market, then as separate, rare and elite offers.

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