We get a lot of people contacting us about lofts these days, more specifically about loft conversions. We can take them to a lot of buildings, but we hear many people saying the same thing, that they are not authentic “hard” lofts.
I have to say, I am starting to agree with more and more of them. Many developers these days simply buy up an old building, gut it and then divide it up into tidy drywalled units. This is not what hard lofts are all about.
Where is the brick? Where are the wooden beams? What about the high ceilings?
There is a large segment of the building industry today devoted to building new lofts, “soft” lofts. There is nothing wrong with this at all, as people know what they are getting into from the beginning. When you go to a nouveau loft building, you are expecting to see living space on the lower level with sleeping space above, open to the lower. Usually with a large wall of windows.
Some soft loft developers are now building units that are single level, with high-ish ceilings and exposed duct work. Again, as long as you know the building you are going to is new construction and not converted, then there should be no surprises.
This might be the time to have a small discussion about the word “loft” itself. I know a lot of die-hards don’t even want the word loft used in connection with the soft variety, which is their own prerogative. But, if we look at the two most common uses of the word, we can see that both are right, in their own way.
The purist says that loft only means a raw and open space in a converted industrial type building. This is what it has come to mean more and more, thanks mostly to movies and television. But a loft can also be an upper level, one that is open to below. In my father’s house, the master bedroom overlooks the living room – and is thus a loft. My uncle’s cottage has a bedroom in the upper level that overlooks the main room, again a loft.
So either way we use the word, we are correct in it’s usage. We just need the qualifier in front, be it hard or soft. In this way can we differentiate what sort of dwelling we are speaking about.
But I am unimpressed with the way the hard loft term is bandied about these days. We have the standard hard and soft lofts, but I am proposing a third category, the “medium” loft. This is the loft that is in a converted building, but has none of the character of a true loft. You can call it a conversion all you like, but no one in the know is ever going to truly think of it as an authentic hard loft.
This is not what loft conversions are all about. It seems that while Toronto may have a serious thing for lofts these days, we are too wimpy to go for the real thing. We want our industrial exterior, but have to have our standard cozy creature comforts inside.
So many people ask us about “raw” spaces, simple empty shells that they can do with as they please. If you are lucky, you can find one that someone thought to have the developer leave alone, a loft that is a single room with some plumbing and cooking facilities. But these are few and far between – and generally staggeringly expensive when you find them.
I am a huge fan of history, being an avid photographer of old buildings. I love the idea of preserving our heritage in this city as much as we can. Taking old industrial or commercial buildings and converting them into funky living spaces is a fantastic idea, one I wish we had jumped on many years ago before we lost a lot of the buildings.
But my one request of the developers vying for this segment of the market is to leave as much character in these buildings as you can. For those who want the nouveau soft loft with two levels open to each other, let one group of builders cater to them. But if you are going to buy an old building with the thought of converting into authentic loft spaces, then do so in the truest manner.
Let the brick and wood come through, let the pipes show, let the pillars get in the way. For that is the way the hard loft is meant to be and this is the way they should stay.
Contact Laurin Jeffrey for more information – 416-388-1960
Laurin Jeffrey is a Toronto real estate agent with Century 21 Regal Realty.
He did not write these articles, he just reproduces them here for people who
are interested in Toronto real estate. He does not work for any builders.