A loft apartment for rent or for sale in New York City is generally defined as a large, open space, usually without any internal walls, and, up until recently, usually in one-time commercial or industrial buildings that have been converted into residential apartments. In addition to their wide-open feel, loft apartments are also characterized by high ceilings; exposed piping, ventilator tubes, and support beams and poles; wooden or concrete floors; as well as oversized, and often floor-to-ceiling, windows.


Loft apartments of this sort can be found in many neighborhoods these days, and throughout much of New York City. Certain areas of Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens, however, are most likely to have loft apartments for rent or for sale from the original wave of commercial-to-residential rezoning, including Soho, Tribeca, and Chelsea, as well as parts of the Lower East Side, the Meatpacking District, Harlem, Hell's Kitchen, Williamsburg, Long Island City, Greenpoint, the Fashion District and several other pockets of the city that were commercial and/or the home of light industry well into the post-war years.


Loft apartments from this era of first-, second-, and third-wave conversions are sometimes referred to as "hard lofts" by real estate people, which simply means that these loft apartments are located within buildings that were once used for something else. "Soft lofts" are loft apartments which were constructed solely as residences, often in the last two decades, to take advantage of both the look and feel of loft-living, as well as the popularity of loft apartments. There is some disagreement about the location of New York City's first round of "hard lofts", but most people agree that the origin of the modern conception of the loft apartment began in Soho, in the late 1960s and early 1970s. At the time Soho—the historic and architecturally united area bordered by Houston, West Broadway, Canal, and Lafayette, running north to east--was largely deserted, having just ended it's time as "an industrial wasteland" of sweat shops and the like (and before THAT, the neighborhood was home to more bars and brothels than anywhere else in town… but that's another story). Artists and craftspeople, usually broke, creatively driven and seeking space in which to both work and (often secretly and illegally) live, began setting up their studios in these old factories and warehouses. As the neighborhood became more populated, outsiders saw how amazing some of the loft apartments were (or, more likely, they imagined what professional architects and designers could do with all that space), and a NYC love affair was born.


Decorating NYC loft apartments, with all of that uninterrupted square footage, has its unique challenges and rewards. Some owners and renters of loft apartments prefer to keep the space minimal and open: a huge beautiful bed here, a mammoth dining table there, industrial racks and shelving doing the duty of dressers and closets, all out in the open with little more than rugs or other flooring delineating the different areas of the home. Other people, especially families who live in loft apartments, put up temporary screens or rolling walls in order to achieve an acceptable level of privacy when needed, without losing that great open feeling that make loft living so special.

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