6 outdated rules you can break when designing a loft apartment

Reimagine the optimal design for a loft apartment by breaking away from tradition – 6 expert tips

(Image credit: Ike Kligerman Barkley / Darren Bradley / Binyan Studios / Sharps)

When designing a loft apartment, there are a number of traditional and outdated rules and assumptions that guide its design. These are often influenced by the architectural features of this space, such as high ceilings and open floor plans

However, these can ultimately limit the style, layout, and decor of a loft in a way that may not suit your personal preferences or maximize the functionality of your space.

So, breaking these outdated decorating rules can transform your loft apartment into a functional, stylish, and unique living space that reflects your personality. Our experts have explained the top six outdated loft design rules and how to break them.

Outdated rules you can break when designing a loft apartment

Traditional loft apartment design principles may not work in your space, so don't be afraid to challenge these to create a personalized space and make your own rules for creative and flexible design choices.

1. 'Stick to open floor plans'

White framed windows, wooden tables, pink armchairs

(Image credit: Binyan Studios)

'While open floor plans are typical in lofts, don't feel limited to them,' advises Cyble Rizwan from Persimmon Design. 'You can use furniture and clever room dividers like bookshelves or screens to create distinct zones within your loft. This adds a sense of coziness and helps define different functional areas without enclosing them entirely.'

Make your loft work for your lifestyle by prioritizing functionality, rather than adhering to the notion that you must stick to a specific layout or design
concept. Instead, your layout should be adapted to your daily practical needs. For example, it may be more beneficial to have separate spaces for a home office and entertaining space and an open concept layout for living and dining areas.

You can then consider how to maximize style and practicality while dividing up your space. This can be accomplished by finding dividers with storage solutions, decorative screens to add color and texture to your space, or sheer curtains to ensure light is carried across these spaces.

2. 'Ceiling heights are empty space'

Open plan living and dining space with rugs

(Image credit: Ike Kligerman Barkley / Darren Bradley)

High ceilings in loft apartments are often discarded as wasted space, with a focus being on eye-level design, however, this space doesn't have to be left untapped.

'Instead of treating high ceilings as empty space, use them creatively. Hang dramatic lighting fixtures, incorporate lofted storage, or even consider adding a loft within your loft for a private retreat,' advises Cyble Rizwan.

You can also add other hanging fixtures, including decorative options such as plants in hanging baskets, a vertical garden wall, wall-mounted storage, a hanging chair, or even a suspended bed. 

This can help maximize floor spaces while adding visual interest and depth, ensuring no area is visually underwhelming or underutilized. 

3. 'Follow conventional layouts'

Cream chairs, wooden back, open plan dining room

(Image credit: Binyan Studios)

'In the past, there were strict guidelines for how to lay out furniture in a loft apartment. However, breaking these rules can give you more freedom and flexibility in designing your space,' suggests Zach Shelley, founder of A-List Properties. 'You can experiment with different configurations and place furniture in unconventional ways to create a unique look.'

For example, you can merge different areas and use furniture placement, rugs, and lighting to define zones instead. Place your furniture at intriguing angles to create a dynamic and visually captivating environment. 

You can transform traditionally unused corners into reading nooks or mini home offices, and opt for a more casual dining setup, using unconventional dining furniture, such as a mix of mismatched chairs, picnic tables, or even bar stools. You can also opt for one oversized couch in a living space, rather than the traditional few smaller pieces.

The beauty of loft apartments is their unrigid structure, with limited space or shape restrictions, meaning you have more freedom to experiment with unconventional furniture and layout choices.

4. 'Stick to a single decor style'

Light blue bedroom, dark blue bedside table and cabinets, gold bedframe

(Image credit: Sharps)

Many of those who own loft apartments feel pressured to use muted color palettes and stick to a specific decor style that matches the architectural details of the loft – which are often exposed, industrial-looking elements – and struggle to add color or warmth to this space. However, this doesn't have to be the case. 

By breaking this outdated rule, you can mix and match various design elements such as vintage, modern, rustic, industrial, and bohemian to create a space full of personality. The key is to find a balance and create a cohesive look that reflects your personal style.

'Don't hesitate to combine different textures and materials,' advises Cyble Rizwan. 'A concrete wall can pair beautifully with plush velvet upholstery, and rugged wood beams can be a striking contrast to sleek glass elements. This juxtaposition can create a rich and inviting atmosphere.'

You can add warmth to a concrete loft floor with the use of plush rugs, or break the monotony of exposed brick walls by painting them or adding a plant wall

5. 'Minimalism is key'


(Image credit: Snug Sofa)

'Minimalism used to be the ultimate goal when it came to organizing a loft apartment. However, breaking this rule can add warmth and intrigue,' recommends Zach Shelley. 'You don't have to go maximalist with busy patterns and lots of decorative items, but incorporating meaningful and personal items can make your loft feel more like a home rather than a showroom.'

This can be particularly transformational in a loft apartment that is spacious and open plan since it can otherwise feel uninviting. Incorporate decorative storage ideas and meaningful, functional decorative additions such as plush pillows and light fixtures.

You can find a balance between maximalist design and minimalist decor to fill your home with character and match your personal style.

6. 'Storage will be limited'

Bedroom cupbaord

(Image credit: Sharps)

Lofts often lack built-in storage, with a majority of open shelving or cabinets. Wall-mounted closets can be a creative way to maximize your space while creating visual interest, or you could opt for staircase risers with pull-out drawers or a bed with built-in bed storage.

You can also opt for decorative storage options, such as multifunctional furniture pieces, creative hanging storage, such as this Temple Street hanging wall shelf, from Pottery Barn, or even room dividers with storage, such as this Genoveva folding room divider, from Wayfair.

By embracing a mix of options you can craft a distinctive, eclectic look.


How can I decorate pipes or ductwork in a loft apartment?

While exposed industrial elements are a hallmark of loft design, they may not suit the style of your loft apartment, so rather than trying to cover them up, you can decorate them to match your aesthetic.

You can paint them bold colors or install decorative covers to make them eye-catching design features, or use neutral colors to blend them into the background.

While the idea of a loft apartment may incur certain design styles that you may feel you should stick to in order to make this space work both practically and aesthetically, don't be afraid to divert from these traditional ideas with creative alternatives that work better for you.

Lola Houlton
News writer

Lola Houlton is a news writer for Homes & Gardens. She has been writing content for Future PLC for the past six years, in particular Homes & Gardens, Real Homes and GardeningEtc. She writes on a broad range of subjects, including practical household advice, recipe articles, and product reviews, working closely with experts in their fields to cover everything from heating to home organization through to house plants. Lola is a graduate, who completed her degree in Psychology at the University of Sussex. She has also spent some time working at the BBC.