Interest in loft living within Toronto has been booming for nearly two decades. With this trend, minimalism and convenience have become increasingly appealing lifestyles for Torontonians. Perhaps this is why lofts have become such a popular real estate choice with new and exciting builds expanding the way we think about living.
Learning the Lingo
There are two main types of lofts available for purchase depending on your personal preference. A hard loft is a ‘traditional’ type of loft that comes to mind for most people when they think about loft living. Hard lofts are conversions of former historical buildings like factories or warehouses, into livable spaces. Their trademarks are their ‘hard-edges’ that consist of concrete or mill construction of exposed brick, along with the original posts, beams and floors that existed in the space when it was first built. Builders continue to push the boundaries of innovation with former churches, breweries, and schools being converted into lofts.
A soft loft is one that was deliberately constructed for the purpose of living, but was made to reproduce the high ceilings and brickwork offered by hard lofts. These are much more common compared to hard lofts, and continue to work towards buyer’s needs and budgets by mimicking the look with the bonus of a space that’s original purpose was designed to be lived in. Since hard lofts are conversions they will come at a bigger price tag when compared to new builds/soft loft properties. Another factor to keep in mind is that most hard lofts, with some exceptions, have lower maintenance fees compared to similar sized condos because they usually don’t have a concierge or some of the other amenities associated with many condos.
Adam Sprutza is a professional photographer who lived in a Toronto’s Network Loft, which is a converted Bell Canada office building, for five years and says:
I always liked the idea of having a commercial space converted into a living space and the idea of high ceilings to give you a sense of space compared to a condo with lower ceilings. I liked the idea of raw and exposed elements.
Many people believe that the purchase of a hard loft is a better investment than a condo because they are a rarer piece of property, with consistently high demand since there are only a limited number of properties available that are suitable for conversion. Others simply love the idea of owning a piece of the city’s history. Consider the high demand and even higher price tag when the Tip Top Lofts hit the market a number of years ago.
Making the Most of a Loft Space
To make the most of their loft space Adam said it was important to get creative:
We used IKEA furniture, but not necessarily as it was intended. We needed bookshelves so we used some IKEA cabinetry to provide a surface for decoration and finding alternative ways of using them. We would have kitchen cabinets that go over the fridge and we stacked them in a row to make a long low cabinet with doors on the front in our hallway. Any furniture we found had to have a storage element to it. If it didn’t do double duty it wouldn’t fit. Our kitchen island doubled as our dining room table that we were able to expand and reduce as needed.
Lindsey Low is a personal organizer with a knack for making smaller spaces streamlined and functional. Having lived in a soft loft for a number of years, she has a number of suggestions for those working with a loft space:
I know especially with a hard loft the best thing to do is to use open shelving on castors and rugs to divide the space. This would be shelving you can access from both sides and you can move around as needed to create additional privacy.
Storage Space Solved by cupofjo.com
For those who are a little less tidy with their shelving Lindsey suggests using bins for storage instead of open space since they can help hide some of the mess.
Warming Up an Industrial Space
In order to keep his space warm and inviting Adam says:
Our space and style is fairly minimalist but plants helped and neutral pallets so nothing made the space feel heavy or dominate. Our dog also helped make the loft feel like home.
Lindsey also feels that neutral colours are good to add warmth to the space, especially warmer tones, like a palette including warm greys instead of cold ones, with the same feel for area rugs. To really up the homey feel, Lindsey recommends using throw blankets, and pops of colour to compliment the neutral basics.
In terms of the large windows, which are a huge draw for many who live in lofts, there are a number of options. Lindsey says:
We loved the natural light coming in our space. Putting in long vertical sheer drapes, can add a warmer touch on the industrial look without sacrificing the light coming in. Our neighbours installed remote control shears that give some privacy but maintain the lighting.
Since the remote control drapery can be costly, Lindsey offered an affordable alternative of alternating sheer curtains with a solid swatch of fabric to get the length needed in your drapery. Lindsey adds, even using intertwined IKEA curtains that have been assembled by a seamstress can create a custom look on a budget.
It’s important for those living in a loft to understand that there is a lot of space, it’s just a different configuration than what they might be used to since it’s not floor space, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t functional space. Lindsey suggests making your storage appear as if it’s a part of the décor:
There are pulley systems where you can hang up a bike and make it look decorative. Others can create a gallery wall using a mixture of art as well as storage for functional items with many excellent ideas for this type of display on sites like Pinterest.
Bike Pulley System by Apartment Therapy
Adam says of his loft space,
We only had one closet so we added levels of clothing racks to maximize our space, we added storage above it by using decorative bins. Using the height to your advantage makes a huge difference.
For those who want to use the vertical space but don’t want to stare at their storage Lindsey suggests a movable curtain, large canvas, tapestry or even a rug to warm up the space and mask some of the storage. Lindsey shares another vertical space hack of using IKEA cubes on the wall as excellent and cost efficient bed side tables beside a loft bed.
Loft Living vs Condos
Despite there being many benefits to living in a loft, there are also drawbacks. Adam says of his loft living experience:
Since everything is exposed you have to keep things clean or the mess can become overwhelming. Our giant windows made the place really hot in the summer time, but curtains helped. In a hard loft you’ll often get spaces that don’t meet insulation the best ways, you may end up paying more for hydro...you’re going to spend more money on space, so check your insulation.
On the other side Adam adds,
The location was fantastic. We were so central and close to the subway. I loved the concrete floors, I loved the look of them. I miss the ceiling height, I think people underestimate how much of a difference a few feet of ceiling makes. I miss the simplicity of the space. There is no privacy, which is something you need to be okay with, but in that moment of life it was good."
Adam, who has since moved into a bungalow adds, "Sometimes I wish we’d never sold it. It’s a romantic part of our past. It was something we always wanted to do and I could never live in a regular condo after the loft."
Lindsey says loft living is a cool and fun way to live, but sound and privacy can be problematic in terms of cohabitation. This is a particular issue for those with children, so keep your five and ten year plan in mind before committing to a loft instead of a condo, which can offer additional privacy and sound reduction for sleeping children or partners on opposite schedules.
Think you’re too messy for a loft. Lindsey shares some interesting food for thought on this way of thinking,
If you’re messy you are going to be messy wherever you are, it’s just more of a challenge to conceal this in a loft. For some, being in a loft may force you to keep things tidier than you would in another space.
Getting creative is key to remaining organized and functional within a loft space. Recommendations for where to start in terms of shopping for multi-purpose furniture like sectional couches, loft beds with dresser storage, Murphy beds and Mezzanine beds from Lindsey and Adam include EQ3, Wayfair, West Elm, and IKEA. Lindsey adds,
Shoe cabinets affixed to the wall make for great storage for everything from occasional clothing like mittens and hats to linens and anything that takes up substantial storage space.
Another recommendation from Lindsey includes purchasing specially made chairs that hook into your wall like art, which can come down and provide seating when you have company.
For more inspiration, you can check our Lindsey's Pinterest Board with some Loft Design Inspiration.
What’s Available Right Now
Since Toronto has a robust manufacturing history filled with buildings that were once distilleries, meat packaging plants, and warehouses there are many hard lofts in addition to soft lofts being constructed around the city. With a higher concentration in neighbourhoods like The Junction, The Fashion District, Corktown, and Leslieville there are a number of options available for potential buyers who are looking into the loft lifestyle.
There are currently exciting pre-construction soft and hard lofts on the market including The Carlaw, Origami Lofts, and The St. Clements. Most of the current pre-builds are priced on average between $500-$565 per square foot. Current listings for lofts across the city range in listing price starting as low as 350K for smaller soft lofts to over a million dollars for some more iconic larger spaces.