Monday, April 12, 2010

Lofty Ambitions

With the popularity of loft living continuing to grow, many are still curious about what it truly means to live in a loft...

So, what exactly is a loft?  While it's been defined in a variety of ways, we're referring here to what people typically picture when it comes to loft living: large, open live/work spaces featuring high ceilings and interesting finishes such as brick walls, exposed wooden beams or concrete, typically found in former commercial or industrial buildings that have been converted into residential spaces.

There are two types of lofts available: hard and soft.  A hard loft can be found in buildings that were formerly used for commercial or industrial purposes, such as a factories, warehouses, offices, churches or schools.  These buildings are typically older, and are sometimes designated as heritage buildings.  In such cases, many of the original finishes and features may be restored or refinished to retain the look and feel of the original structure.  A soft loft is one that is built from the ground up; a brand new building that incorporates some of the more interesting features of original hard loft conversions, such as high ceilings and open concept living spaces.

Before you seek to find your new lofty space, there are some things you should consider.  While hard lofts offer unconventional living and work spaces that appeal to many, original loft conversions typically do not provide the convenience of modern day amenities that many expect to find in a condo building, such as concierges, fitness centres, party rooms or lounges.  In fact, parking may not even be available in some of these buildings!  In such cases and of course depending on location, residents either purchase monthly parking passes from public lots nearby, or opt to apply for street parking permits where available.  Having said that however, it certainly is possible to find historic conversions with a ton of amenities.  Consider Toronto's famous Tip Top Lofts, Toy Factory or Candy Factory Lofts, which all host a substantial variety of convenient building amenities.

Soft lofts, on the other hand, may offer more building amenities (typically underground parking as a bare minimum); however, anyone who lives in an original loft conversion would be sure to tell you that the quiet charm and rich character found in original loft conversions simply cannot be replicated in a new build.  Consider the popular Zen Lofts in trendy King West or the DNA buildings in Liberty Village; while these buildings offer modern finishes in unique residential spaces, proponents of hard loft living might consider even the most beautiful suites here to lack that "special something".
If you're interested in a loft home, you should be prepared to cough up a little more cash - lofts generally command a premium in Toronto, and in the case of both hard and soft lofts, you might even expect to pay higher-than-average condo fees.  This is due perhaps to the smaller number of occupants sharing in the cost of maintaining these smaller boutique buildings, and/or the higher maintenance costs of older, converted buildings.  Still, the benefits of loft-living are attractive to many: the unconventional lifestyle, luxury of space and of course, guaranteed compliments from friends and family!