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A loft can be an upper storey or attic in a building, directly under the roof. Alternatively, a loft apartment refers to large adaptable open space, often converted for residential use (a converted loft) from some other use, often light industrial. Adding to the confusion, some converted lofts include upper open loft areas. Within certain upper loft areas exist even further lofts.
An upper room or story in a building, mainly in a barn, directly under the roof, used either for storage (as in most private houses), for a specific purpose, e.g. an "organ loft" in a church, or to sleep in (sleeping loft). In this sense it is roughly synonymous with attic, the major difference being that an attic typically constitutes an entire floor of the building, while a loft covers only a few rooms, leaving one or more sides open to the lower floor. In barns a hayloft is often larger than the ground floor as it would contain a year's worth of hay.
An attic loft can often be converted to form functional living accommodation (see loft conversion).
Loft apartments are apartments that are generally built from former industrial buildings. When industrial developments are developed into condominiums instead of apartments, they may be called loft condominiums. The general term warehouse-to-loft conversions may sometimes be used for development of industrial buildings into apartments and condominiums. "Loft-style" may also refer simply to developments where a street-level business occupies the first floor while apartment "lofts" are placed above the first floor.
Sometimes, loft apartments are one component of municipal urban renewal initiatives that also include renovation of industrial buildings into art galleries and studio space as well as promotion of a new part of the city as an "arts district."
Originally popular with artists, they are now highly sought-after by other bohemians, and the gentrification of the former manufacturing sectors of medium to large cities is now a familiar pattern. One such sector is Manhattan's Meatpacking District. The adoption of the Adaptive Reuse Ordinance (2001) in the City of Los Angeles (primarily the Arts District) is another example of such legislation to encourage the conversion of no longer economically viable industrial and commercial buildings to residential loft communities. Such is the demand for these spaces that real estate developers have taken to creating ready-made "lofts" in urban areas that are gentrifying or that seem primed to do so. While some of these units are created by developers during the renovation of old buildings, a number of them are included in the floor plans of brand new developments. Both types of pre-fab loft offer buyers or renters proximity to urban amenities afforded by traditional lofts, but without perceived safety risks of living in economically depressed formerly industrial areas.
Real estate industry distinguishes between "hard lofts", which are former industrial buildings converted to residential or live/work use, and "soft lofts", which are loft-style residential buildings built entirely anew as described above.
A commercial loft refers to upper story space, usually in a commercial or industrial building with higher ceilings; a second story area for storage or offices above may be added within the original space used by a previous business occupant, effectively becoming a mezzanine area within the commercial loft space. Such adaptation of loft space, can result in better operating efficiencies for ongoing light industrial, commercial and work/live use.
A live/work loft is a space designed to house a resident and their business. This concept has been a vital part of the redevelopment of major downtown cities' inner cores. The concept of cutting costs on space, travel and more is essential in the live/work loft.
A large, open, high ceilinged space where parachute riggers re-pack parachutes into parachute containers.
It is fairly common to convert all or part of a home into a loft to create an extra room in order to prevent needing to move to a new house. The most common additions are an extra bedroom or study. The attic area of a building tends to be unused, but when converted can add a large amount of floor space.