How to Maximize Loft Space for Function and Style
Lofts are found in all different styles of homes, from Craftsman to Modern to A-Frames; however, when thinking about this type of space, we often think of small or vacation homes or cabins where utilizing every bit of space is important.
These small homes rely on creativity when it comes to living space. So, the flexibility of a loft area is the perfect answer. Plus, the open concept of a loft typically overlooking the main floor living room or Great Room provides a feeling of spaciousness, which can help a smaller home feel much larger.
The loft area to the right of this 2-story-tall Great Room overlooks the space with the magnificent stone chimney and coffered ceiling (Plan #161-1075).
What is a Loft?
A two-story single-family home typically has the general living areas – and perhaps the master suite – on the main level with the sleeping areas on the upper level. But sometimes spaces like a Great Room have cathedral ceilings that soar to two stories. In these cases, part of the upper level is cut away to make room for the high ceiling. That’s where a loft may come in. In this case, a loft is a general-purpose upper-level area at the top of the stairs that overlooks the space with the cathedral ceiling and that is not designated as a bedroom. It may be a sitting area or recreation area and serve as overflow sleeping space when there are too many guests for the designated bedrooms.
Top: This dramatic loft over the entrance to a 4-bedroom, 4-bath, 2-half-bath Luxury Craftsman style home looks out on the Great Groom as well as back over the entrace foyer. Bottom: The floor plan of the homes loft area shows that one side is a library with a wet bar while the other is general space that may be used at the owners discretion (Plan #161-1017).
Top: As an example of another treatment of a loft in a home with cathedral ceiling, this Contemporary Rustic home has a central loft area that overlooks the stairs and Great Room as shown here. Bottom: The floor plan of the upper level shows the loft area between two bedrooms. Here, the loft can be flexible space that would accommodate the owners needs at any given time (Plan #132-1313).
This space may also be an open general-purpose area – say, a sitting room, family room, or play room – at the top of the stairs in a two-story home that does not have a Great Room cathedral ceiling but does have a two-story-tall wide two-story stairwell or foyer with stairs. The loft may look down on the foyer over a partial half wall and lead to the individual bedrooms upstairs.
Lastly, it may be a modest-size “lofted” sleeping or storage space in a small single-level home with high and/or vaulted ceilings. Here, the loft is essentially a large platform built where the ceiling height can accommodate it, and it is reached by a ladder or spiral staircase.
This floor plan of the upper level of a Luxury European style home shows the loft at the top of a double-wiide staircase. The loft space adjacent to the unfinished bonus room has a window alcove and would be a great quiet place or Zen Den to get away to read or relax. Note that there is no overlook to another part of house other than the stairwell (Plan #142-1134).
Loft Space Ideas
Whether you're building a new home or in the midst of a remodel, oftentimes homeowners aren’t quite sure how to use loft space. Here are some functional ideas to consider:
Bedroom - If you’re in need of an additional bedroom in your home and privacy isn’t a problem, this space could be the perfect solution.
Guest room - Have guests that visit often? Set up a couch, bed, or bunk beds to give your guests their own space.
Home office - If you work from home often, place your desk and other work-related furniture in this area to create an office feel.
Playroom or game room - Not sure what to do with all your kids' toys? Convert your loft into an area for games and toys while also keeping the mess out of your main living area.
Sitting area or Zen Den - Set up a couch and a few comfy chairs to make this space one that promotes ultimate relaxation.
Workout room - If you’ve been looking for a place where you can work out and store all of your weights and exercise equipment, this could be a great solution.
Once you’ve decided on the type of room you want to use the space for, the next most important piece is the design. Since this extra space is often small, the way you design it can have a big impact on functionality.
Top: This alcove area in the loft of a Luxury Farmhouse style home makes a great place for a small out-of-the-way study/office. Middle: This floor plan shows the layout of the upper level loft and location of the study (Plan #161-1109). Bottom: A great way to make use of a loft is as sleeping quarters, or a "bedroom." Here, twin beds occupy the space in a 2-bedrrom, 2-bath Rustic Vacation Cabin style home; the wooden "box with doors" at left serves as a closet (Plan #196-1013).
10 Ways to Design a Loft Space
Here are 10 DIY ways to style your loft with both function and design in mind.
Choose Furniture Wisely
When tackling loft space design it’s best to keep the principles of minimalism in mind with every choice you make.
It’s very important to choose the kind of furniture you include wisely. It can be very easy to overwhelm a space with large furniture, so remember not to crowd it. Choose smaller pieces that don’t take up all of the available floor space, and only include essential furniture pieces that you know will get used.
This loft in a 3-bedroom, 2.5-bath Contemporary Farmhouse style home sits just opposite two bedrooms to the right of the couch. It is decorated in a minimal fashion for quiet readling, relaxing, conversing, or watching TV. The sofa could be a pull-out hideaway bed type to provide extra sleeping space when needed on special occasions (Plan #168-1129).
Create Separate "Rooms"
While it’s better to furnish a loft sparsely, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use furniture to accommodate the space’s shape and create separate “rooms.”
Furniture can help to create visual cues for separation of space that you would normally rely on walls for.
However, you can also do this by contrasting color and design. Perhaps your sitting area is a dark gray, but the bedroom area is a stark white. By carefully curating the design, you’ll find it feels much larger.
This loft space is set up to serve as a mini in-law suite in support of the bedroom beyond the door. The small sofa and easy chair serve to mark the "family" area as distinct from the "kitchen" space occupied by the table and chairs and kitchenette (photo by Deborah Cortelazzi on Unsplash).
Build a Small Wall
There are a number of ways to make a loft space feel a bit larger. The first of which is to construct a small wall. Obviously, if you are renting the space, then this isn’t a solution for you.
However, if you own your home, or are building one, then you have the creative license to make structural changes like this.
Building a “full length” wall can often make lofts feel boxed-in and even smaller than they already are, but a “hip height” wall offers a better solution. These walls not only help break up a larger space to give it more purpose but can also serve a second function as storage solutions.
Hang a Curtain
If you’re a renter, or if you prefer less permanent space solutions than physically building a wall, another great way to separate the space is to install curtain rods.
Instead of a “hard divide” of a wall, curtains allow more flexibility in how you use a space. If you believe a wall would make it feel completely claustrophobic, simply hang a curtain so you can put up and remove the “wall” whenever you’d like.
Make it Bigger with Mirrors
Due to their small size, one of the best design tips for a loft space is to use mirrors. It’s never a good idea to cover a home floor to ceiling and wall to wall in glass, but by adding one mirror accent wall to this area, you can seemingly double its perceived size.
Another option is to place smaller accent mirrors around the space if you don’t want to do an entire wall.
Consider “Hiding” Your Bed
When you’re working with a smaller space, you want to use every single inch. If you’re using the loft as a small bedroom or guest room, consider hiding the beds to get some extra floor space during the day. You can do this in one of two ways:
• A Hideaway od Safa Bed - If you don’t like the idea of a Murphy Bed, another great choice is to build a hideaway bed. This is a bed that you can pull out from a platform each night. It’s up to you what you use the space on the platform for.
• A Murphy Bed - The classic Murphy bed is usually associated with lumpy mattresses and cheap hotels. But just because you can tuck your bed out of the way during the day, it doesn’t mean it needs to be uncomfortable. There are many modern solutions to the Murphy Bed that actually make it quite comfortable.
Top: A convertible sleer sofa, or sofa bed, is a great way to disguise a loft space during the day but have sleeping space when you need it ocasionally (photo source: Zeb Queen Sofa Sleeper by Ashley Furniture). Bottom: The famous Murphy bed provides sleeping space when you need it but doesnt take up valuable floor space when you dont. It folds up into the wall as shown (photo credit: Murphy Bed by David Boyle under license CC BY 2.0)
Float Your Bed
If you prefer to have your bed accessible throughout the day, it’s still helpful to make it seem like a “separate” space. Many achieve this by adding a “float” for their bed into the loft design.
A bed float is a small platform that your bed rests upon. Floats are perfect for lofts because they help you use the vertical space available, which is otherwise neglected. They are the perfect extra storage space for clothes, bedding, and more.
It’s important that they are well-designed and constructed, however, as they support quite a bit of weight.
Choose Ladder vs. Stairs Wisely
Sometimes in a single-level small or tiny house with tall ceilings and an open floor plan a platform that serves as a bedroom or storage space is “lofted” above the rest of the interior to save space. If you’re building a new home with a loft, you need to choose how to access the second level carefully.
Depending on your floor plan, stairs may make the most sense. A ladder will save space immediately (it is straight up and down, after all), but consider your commitment to climbing it daily. Another space saving option is a spiral staircase, or stairs that hug the wall and offer storage options underneath them.
The loft in this home is reached by spiral stairs, which take up little floor space, though they can be tricky to navigate, especially by the very young and by older folk. This choice of stairs complements the contemporary style of the home (Photo by Noah Benjamin on Unsplash).
Use Sconces for Light
A “sconce” is a fancy term for a light fixture that is mounted to a wall. These are perfect to use to design a loft space because space is limited, so you want the design to keep as much floor space as possible.
They can also be paired with a chandelier or overhead ceiling light to provide ambient light for an entire room. While the larger ceiling lights might function as a nice centerpiece, oftentimes paintings or shelves look better under a wall sconce light.
If you’re building, another consideration is to add a skylight. This type of natural light can help brighten the space and could reduce the amount of fixtures you need.
Lean into the Architecture
Lofts come in all different sorts of styles. If youre revamping an older space, then really lean into the existing architectural elements rather than trying to cover them up.
Older homes tend to have a more industrial flair to them. This could be an exposed brick wall, wooden beams across the ceiling, or non-traditional flooring (concrete, anyone?). All of these elements really lend themselves to exciting design opportunities.
If you are constructing a new lofted space in a home, then you do have a little bit more flexibility as to what style you’d like to have, whether it be farmhouse chic, rustic, or modern.
Top: The worn, comfortable atmosphere of this loft is complemented rustic chic of the decor: a throw rug that covers bare floorboards, casual bookshelves, and pictures galore hanging and leaning on the walls (photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash). Bottom: This loft is decorated in Relaxed Contemporary Chic to match the vibe of the rest of the Transitional Bungalow home (Plan #187-1162).
Designing a loft space and using it in a functional way requires a lot of planning and plenty of creativity. The most important thing to keep in mind is that each square inch of space needs to have a purpose. But if you follow these easy tips, you can do this without sacrificing an ounce of style. If you’re planning to build, check out our house plans with loft space to get ideas on the different ways this space can fit into a home.