You’re preparing for an exciting move to a new city—and, whether you’re finally escaping your hometown, you scored a swanky new job, or you simply want a change of pace and scenery, you’ll have to find a place to live before you start packing up moving boxes. Before moving cross country or across town, you’d have to consider your living arrangement.
When you search for a new home, you’ll likely encounter numerous housing options, including lofts and apartments. But what is a loft exactly, and how does it differ from an apartment? And, most importantly, which one is right for you?
In this guide, we’ll flesh out everything you need to know about the loft vs apartment debate. We’ll define both, explore similarities and differences, describe the benefits of each, and help you decide which type of home is right for you and your lifestyle.
What is an apartment?
While definitions vary, the general population agrees that apartments:1
- Contain one or more rooms
- Can house one person or a small group of people
- Exist within a complex, building, or plaza, among other similar spaces
But, apartments are also typically rented. While a condominium is similar to an apartment in terms of size and proximity to similar units, condos are usually owned by homeowners rather than rented from a landlord or housing provider.2
Per the definition above, other home types can easily fall under the apartment umbrella, including:
- Townhouses, which typically include two or more units in a freestanding building surrounded by identical (or similar) structures
- Duplexes, triplexes, and quadruplexes, which feature two, three, or four conjoined units (respectively)
- Studios, which don’t wall off a bedroom space, opting for an open plan where all features (except for the bathroom) are in one room
- Lofts, which we’ll define in the next section
Housing categories aren’t always cut-and-dried, and home types can overlap or fall under the same umbrella. One example is the loft.
What is a loft?
A loft can be a type of apartment—it’s a space made up of one or more rooms within a building, complex, or plaza of similar units.3
But, housing experts generally agree that lofts feature specific architectural, design, or aesthetic elements that set them apart from other home types. Some of these include:
- An open floor plan
- Multipurpose rooms
- High ceilings
- Features that accentuate natural light (like large windows)
- An industrial feel with exposed structural elements or materials, such as
- Unpainted brick or block walls
- Steel beams
- Roof trusses or wood beams
Lofts can, in some cases, fall under the condo umbrella—as long as you own it, and it’s not a freestanding home, you can call it a condo.
And, like apartments, lofts can also be townhouses, studios, duplexes, triplexes, or quadruplexes. These definitions are somewhat fluid, and loft spaces can fall under multiple housing categories.
For a visual example, let’s consult some pop culture references. New Girl’s primary set is the quintessential loft, but other loft-like sets include:
- Matt Murdock’s home in Marvel’s Daredevil series
- Dev’s home base in Master of None
- Frasier’s swanky condo
Key comparisons between lofts and apartments
Now that we’ve defined both types of homes—though there is some overlap—let’s describe some significant similarities and differences between lofts and apartments.
A loft is a type of apartment, so the two share many similarities, such as:
- They contain one or more rooms
- They can house one person or a small group of roommates
- They’re adjacent to other, similar spaces in a multi-unit complex
- They’re typically rented (although a loft can be a condo)
But, there are a few major differences between the two spaces, too—traditional lofts typically feature an open floor plan, multipurpose spaces, and unique aesthetic elements. Let’s explore these in more detail:
- Open floor plan – An open floor plan generally describes a seamless transition between spaces.4 If you can see your TV from your kitchen or your home doesn’t feature any hallways once you’re inside your unit, you likely live in an open floor plan. If your kitchen is walled off from the living room or the entryway, or doors separate these spaces, you live in more of a closed floor plan. While they’re typically small, studios almost always have an open space.
- Multipurpose spaces – Loft spaces are often described as “multipurpose.” In context, this usually means that the main living space can be arranged in a number of different ways. Wall and floor space allow for flexible arrangements of furniture, TVs, dining areas, reading nooks, and more, giving residents the freedom to change their layout with ease.
- Aesthetic elements – When you imagine the New Girl loft or any of the other pop culture examples in the previous section, you likely envision the more industrial, gritty elements of the spaces—exposed brick, metals, or wood that aren’t covered by drywall, carpet, or ceiling tiles. Lofts hone in on the visual interest of the materials used to build them, opting for an unfinished look rather than a sleek look.
Common features countless apartment options in cities nationwide. Let’s explore some Common properties that epitomize the apartment feel:
- Common at The Frank – Homes at Common at The Frank in Birmingham, Alabama, are dictionary-definition apartments. The building offers studios and traditional apartments, but instead of natural, exposed finishes, homes feature sleek cabinetry, updated finishes, and smooth drywall.
- Common Sycamore – Common Sycamore in Los Angeles, California, features clean lines, light, bright spaces, and finished walls and ceilings.
- Common Cassell – Chic and modern, Common Cassell in Washington, D.C. offers a delineated kitchen and living room, giving each space a distinct purpose.
But, Common apartments are so much more than sleek finishes, efficient lighting, and optimized layouts—they provide the traditional apartment feel of living in a big city, whether you opt for a micro-unit, a coliving space, or a studio apartment.
Plus, all of our spaces give you access to the things you love about home—comfort, proximity to transit and nightlife, and a community of residents just like you.
No matter your loft-style preference, Common also features numerous loft-style homes in numerous cities. If you’re looking for the multipurpose appeal, open floor plan, or more rustic finishes of a loft, check out the following homes:
- Common Valencia – Lofts at Common Valencia in San Francisco, California, feature natural flooring, wall paneling, and window casings for the perfect loft feel. They capture the industrial feel of the loft space without sacrificing a chic look.
- Common Monroe – Common Monroe homes in Washington, DC epitomize the loft—they include exposed vertical support beams, skylights and structural features, and exposed brick.
- Common District – For loft vibes with a chic twist, look no further than Common District in Washington, D.C. Floor-to-ceiling windows, natural light, and pendant lighting make these coliving suites and private apartments unique and cozy.
Like our apartments, Common loft homes feature all of the benefits of the Common lifestyle—furnished space opportunities, community events and access, and central locations.
Loft advantages and apartment benefits
Both types of spaces offer advantages, so it can be challenging to choose which home style resonates most with you.
Some advantages of apartment life include:
- Privacy – If you don’t want to hear your roommates watching TV in the living room while you cook, a closed floor plan apartment is right up your alley. With delineated spaces, apartments can give you a solitary feel, even if you live with other people.
- Availability – Apartments are everywhere—they’re an effortless home style to find. If you’re looking for a home in a new city, you’re likely to discover countless apartment options.
- Traditional materials – Since apartments typically feature drywall, updated lighting fixtures, and modern finishes, they’re easy to repair if something goes wrong. OOn the other hand, lofts can pose a challenge since their vintage materials and fixtures can be very different from the building technologies available today.
If you’re on the fence about lofts, perhaps some of the following benefits will tempt you to explore loft home options:
- Multipurpose rooms – If you’re a creative type, or you simply need a change of scenery now and then, lofts are great for residents who love to rearrange their furniture on a whim. Do you want to move your couch to a separate wall or make space for a cozy reading nook? If you live in a loft, you have power over your space and furniture layout.
- Old-school charm – Some people are just into the vintage vibe. Older structures are often well-made, sturdy, and have a unique aesthetic—lofts are all about turning old-school looks into individual visual elements.
- Open floor plans – Maybe you love the idea of a communal space where all of your coliving roommates can gather while you do different things. If you want to hang with roommates or guests while someone cooks, another person watches TV, and another does a puzzle at the kitchen table, you’ll love a loft’s open floor plan.
Instead of picking from the two, another option is to go for a loft apartment. Loft apartments are more expensive, but they combine the best features of a loft and apartment.
Whether you pick a loft or apartment, you have to get your finances to pay for prorated rent, security deposit, etc. What is a security deposit? It is a sort of downpayment to the landlord to prove that you want to live in their rented property.
Common: Finding a home and a community
Choosing the perfect residential unit to live in a new city can be a daunting task—but, whether you opt for a chic apartment or a cozy loft, you can make any space a home.
When you find a home in a Common community, you make it even easier to build a home base, even if you’re trying to settle in after a cross-country move. Our spaces feature countless amenities (like on-site laundry and, in some cases, fully-furnished units), proximity to public transit and local restaurants, and neighbors just like you—transplants to a new city, recent college grads, and people looking to build relationships in their communities.
Say goodbye to traditional renting, and say hello to accessible, stylish, and tight-knit communities you can easily call home.
- The Spruce. What Defines an Apartment?. https://www.thespruce.com/what-is-an-apartment-155733
- Rocket Mortgage. Condos: Everything You Need to Know. https://www.rocketmortgage.com/learn/what-is-a-condo
- Apartment Therapy. What Makes a Loft a Loft?. https://www.apartmenttherapy.com/what-is-a-loft-36829833
- Masterclass. Open Floor Plans Explained: Pros and Cons of Open Layouts. https://www.masterclass.com/articles/open-floor-plans-explained