The concept of converting dormant factories, warehouses and office buildings into residential spaces called lofts took root in U.S. industrial cities during the 1960s. Known for their open floor plans and high ceilings, lofts can be renovated to include a mezzanine-like level that offers views of the living space below it. A duplex loft has this amenity, which gives residents additional living area without sacrificing their apartment's characteristic spaciousness. New residential buildings that replicate converted commercial space also can include these bi-level types of lofts.
Lure of the Loft
Character, history and location attract loft buyers. According to the Yo Chicago website, most loft buildings were constructed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The overbuilt nature of these former commercial sites -- concrete, columns and heavy wooden beams -- gives loft apartments a sturdier feel than new construction tends to offer. Because loft are usually in neighborhoods in the center and on the outskirts of cities, their location cuts commute time for downtown workers who prefer urban life.
Lofts have character, and duplex lofts are no exception. Hardwood floors, ceilings at least 10-feet high, terra cotta or iron exteriors, and floor-to-ceiling windows make these spaces that once hummed with manufacturing or commercial activity architecturally unique. Instead of relying on walls, you use furniture -- entertainment centers and armoires, for example -- to create "rooms" out of a loft's 1,000- to 2,000 square feet of open space. The more personalized approach can focus on the architectural elements, including even exposed plumbing, heating ducts, and electrical conduits, that differentiate lofts from modern condominiums.
The very features that make lofts unique homes also can make them challenging places to live. Unless renovators invested in noise reduction, sound traveling between floors and between apartment units can irritate loft residents. High ceilings, exposed mechanicals and tall windows play havoc with utility bills and make keeping an even temperature throughout the loft difficult. Dust from improperly sealed brick, concrete and timber can mean constant cleaning, but prospective dwellers may find that the aesthetics of life in a duplex loft outweigh the inconveniences.
Artists first discovered how lofts suit combining work and living space under one roof. You can easily incorporate an office or studio in a loft by using pressure walls, screens, partitions or furniture placement to close off space. Duplex lofts lend themselves well to separate living and work-dedicated space. Concrete flooring commonly used in converted industrial properties can be softened with carpeting, while ceiling fans can help combat cooling and heating costs.
Trudy Brunot began writing in 1992. Her work has appeared in "Quarterly," "Pennsylvania Health & You," "Constructor" and the "Tribune-Review" newspaper. Her domestic and international experience includes human resources, advertising, marketing, product and retail management positions. She holds a master's degree in international business administration from the University of South Carolina.