A bath tub built by hand from wooden slats and tar, used only in the summer as the winter was too cold to wash with no hot water – here bathed the understated artist Robert Rauschenberg, who in 1953 was one of the first New Yorkers to move into a ‘loft’. Only 10 dollars a month in rent, financial reasons were the fundamental triggers for the loft trend.
Six metre high walls, steel beams, large windows – these spaces were transformed into the studios and apartments of painters, sculptors and dancers. Soon, these artists’ lofts were creating competition for the galleries as they served not just as living and workspaces but also as exhibition areas. The pinnacle of this development came with Andy Warhol’s NYC studio ‘Factory’ - the clue in the name.
Things then developed at an alarming rate. The New York politicians realised the potential of factory floors and supported their development by legalizing the often not-quite-legitimate living situations of such artists. The loft moved from the margins to the mainstream of society. This also meant that rents rose – and quickly.
Soon, the creative scene in London discovered the new opportunities available. In Germany, Frankfurt and Leipzig developed into loft-cities and in Paris, the Bohème moved into derelict industrial spaces. Today lofts are no longer chaotic, improvised, stopgap solutions, but are an important element in the housing market.
"In Europe, the loft was ‘discovered’ only in the ‘70s, but by the '80s it was a status symbol. Currently, at least in big cities, there are only a small amount of derelict industrial buildings available to convert into houses." Ursula Geismann, Trend Analyst of the Association of the German Furniture Industry
This has led to a new and popular type of architecture: the building loft. The loft concept has also increased interest in the open floor plan – living together in a large, open space. Zoning has simultaneously become more important, ensuring a degree of privacy either with partitions, open shelves or other furniture that is placed in the middle of the room. "Since this development, our sofas also have visual appeal from any angle," says Ursula Geismann.
No longer able to divide the space into rooms, architects became sculptors that ‘model’ space with steps, small mezzanines or rooms in rooms. Many residents enjoy the large, airy space of a factory floor by attaching a swing or a hanging chair to a brace in the steel structure. The loft has become a playground for new ideas. The open floor plan has also contributed to trend of the kitchen, living and dining room becoming one unit.