Factory and warehouse lofts are synonymous with cool urban living, but buyers need to look beyond the “loft label”, warn specialist estate agents. Housebuilders have hijacked the “brand” and many so-called lofts for sale are cutesy versions of the real thing - “loft-style” rather than the genuine article.
Purists say a loft should be at least 1,500 sq ft (ideally 2,000-3,000 sq ft), have double-height space and big windows. Some owners like to make the most of the raw industrial features, others prefer a slick contemporary-design finish, even a breathtakingly minimalist one.
But lofts are not just about architectural flair; they are about lifestyle, or creative living, often with home and work integrated, which is why lofts are popular with freelances, media types, artists and designers. Like-minded owners feel they are part of a “movement”, a special breed. They have a vibe with the place as much as the property, and if the neighbourhood has a few rough edges, so much the better.
King’s Cross is a good example. Lofts started to appear in the early 1990s during the first wave of regeneration when it was still a red-light district. York Central stood out then, and still does. The former British Legion poppy factory was split into huge loft spaces, most with awesome views across the gritty industrial landscape of train tracks and gasholders. Arguably, these lofts are the closest to the New York originals. Visit www.loftcentral.net. Former residents include photographer David Bailey and entrepreneur Clive Sinclair.
Several re-sales and rentals have arrived on the market at the same time, including a 2,243 sq ft (one bedroom) loft with roof terrace, priced at £1.3 million. Call Hurford Salvi Carr on 020 7250 1012. This price equates to less than £600 per sq ft. Ten years ago that would have been outrageous, but not now because of the transformation unfolding around King’s Cross station.
In London, new loft developments are rare these days. The best buildings were converted in the 1980s and 1990s. St Pancras Chambers is a notable new arrival. This is a refurbishment of the splendid former Midland Grand Hotel, a Grade-I listed Victorian-Gothic structure alongside the new Eurostar terminal.
Manhattan Loft Corporation, a pioneer loft developer, has created the 67 new spaces. A dramatic three-bedroom double-height duplex with wooden beams running up through the room is for sale at £1,850,000. Call 020 7631 1888. Cheaper ones are appearing on the resale market, while a number are for rent - from £625 per week. Call Knight Frank on 020 7480 6848.
The core areas for loft-living remain Clerkenwell, Shoreditch and Bermondsey, where the typical price range is £600-800 per sq ft. The Jam Factory on Tower Bridge Road is gaining in popularity as regeneration spreads from fashionable Shad Thames. Bankside Lofts, next to Tate Modern, is another development to watch as values are rising in this SE1 hotspot.
In other parts of town, Victorian school conversions and small, one-off buildings are an option. Estate agent Unique Property Company lists lofts in places such as Chiswick, Clapham, Camberwell, Battersea, Hackney and Holland Park. Call 0870 9004050.