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Loft design: a technical guide with DWG examples

How to design a loft: the complete technical guide

How to design a loft: definition, layout types, construction features, 3D model and DWG CAD drawings ready for download

In this insight, we’ll be focusing on both the theoretical and practical aspects related to a loft design.

We’ll start off with the definition of the building type and we’ll continue with its essential characteristics, up to the realization of a complete project that will be particularly useful as a guide to the entire planning process. The article will also provide DWG CAD drawings (floor plans, prospects and cross-sections) and a 3D model of a loft project produced with the architectural BIM design software Edificius.

Loft design: a technical guide with DWG examples

Download here the 30-day free trial version of Edificius, the architectural BIM design software

Loft design has become appealing and desirable to increasing numbers of young people, worldwide. A loft, with its distinctive structure, is overturning the traditional idea of living. It represents a modern typology of flat, that is having an ever-increasing success in the real estate scenario. Hence the starting point for a technical study focused on the project of a loft that considers design criteria and space organization, in order to maximize comfort, roominess and functionality for every kind of requirement.

Definition of loft

A loft is a residential building characterized by a unique open space with no partition walls and very high ceiling that is generally built from former disused industrial buildings or commercial spaces. Therefore, a loft apartment refers to a large adaptable open space, often converted for residential use.

Loft housing is one prominent result of post-industrial urban adaptive reuse for the optimization of the built assets.

Loft design: a technical guide with DWG examples

Examples of this conversion strategy are the studio-houses popular with artists in New York, created in the seventies in old warehouses in the suburbs. But the most remarkable example is represented by Andy Warhol’s factory, a structure minimally furnished, used as  house, atelier, vernissage and space for meetings.

Following the industrial crisis, this housing trend became also common in Europe, starting from the mid-1990s.

Loft design: typologies and main features

Loft features mostly depend on the types of buildings from which they are designed:

  •  industrial warehouse-to-loft conversion – 7-10 mt high, a large horizontally distributed space, with a living / atelier area and sleeping area with mezzanine, accessible outdoor spaces and loading / unloading areas.
  • shops-to-loft conversion  – as a result of the changes in the urban commercial fabric, more and more shops are available for residential reuse, having medium heights and the possibility to insert a mezzanine.
  • office-to-loft-conversion – medium heights, independent rooms that can be used both as an office and a house.

In short, the main elements that distinguish a loft are:

  • absence of internal walls and open space.
  • height – considering that industrial, craft or commercial spaces are definitely high, lofts can have an intermediate floor used as a sleeping area.
  • visible elements – other features are visible structural and plant installation system elements. In some cases, as these buildings have been built in the 1800s, we can have load-bearing masonry walls, usually made of brick, with cast iron, uncoated or steel pillars at sight. Pipes are occasionally also exposed and sometimes highlighted by contrasting colours walls.
  • large windows – typical of industrial buildings bring in a lot of natural light making the environments very bright.

Functional solutions for loft design

The dimensions of the former industrial environments allow to have a wide range of possible functional / distribution solutions.

Consequently, renovation works can result complex.

Specific design intervention solutions can adopted according to the type of project results that you want to achieve:

  • the redefinition of the floor plan and layout of the warehouse with the possibility to create one or more mezzanines to be used as a studio, sleeping or relaxation areas;
  • attention to heat insulating solutions to improve energy efficiency, as a result of possible heat loss, due to the existing interior volume and to the building materials used during the construction phase;
  • in order to improve heat insulation, the use of double-glazed windows with selective films to filter UVB and UVA rays and bring in sunlight while avoiding overheating during summer;
  • it is advisable to design toilets in a corner, in correspondence of the mezzanine that can serve as ceiling for the room.

Finally, with the use of appropriate furnishing, you can create a continuum without  interrupting the open space between living / kitchen / dining areas.

With regard to plant installation system you can also consider different options.


The volume of a loft is generally larger than a house with traditional features:

  • if the ceiling does not exceed 3 and a half meters in height, a radiator system can be installed;
  • if the surface to be heated is very large and the ceiling height exceeds 3 meters and half, it is preferable to install a radiant type system under the wall or floor;
  • alternatively, it is also possible to use a ducted air conditioning system, with some vents for cold air in summertime and warm air in winter. This solution is also the most indicated in terms of aesthetic because the distribution pipes are suitable stylistic features of the loft.

Loft design: a technical guide with DWG examples

Heating by infrared panels is particularly suitable for very large rooms and environments with an inter-floor height such as lofts. This innovative solution for heating by radiation is sustainable and reduces costs.

Electrical and water sanitary system in a loft design

Additional solutions to solve practical problems, reduce costs and meet certain aesthetic requirements can be adopted when renovating or building from scratch the loft plant installation systems:

  • leave visible elements such as valves, grids and pipes, according to regulations; this allows to:
    • easily inspect the system
    • opt for an aesthetic solution that is perfectly integrated with the characteristic style of the loft
    • save on the necessary masonry works
  • insert plant installations inside columns and beams, already present in the loft structure
  • create a “floating” floor, that is a few centimetres raised floor above the existing one, where to insert installation systems; this solution is also very convenient.

Loft design: a technical guide with DWG examples

The mezzanine

Height is an essential feature of lofts. For this reason, in a loft design, you can frequently find the use of a mezzanine.

Loft design: a technical guide with DWG examples

An example of loft project

The project comes from the need to reuse a disused space, originally destined to production activities, and to transform it into a residential accommodation for a family of 4 people.

The project “current situation” is characterized by a large open space, with a visible steel structure, brick perimeter walls and large openings. The floor area is 145 square meters and the inter-floor height is 6.20 meters.

Loft design: a technical guide with DWG examples


All the design choices have been designed to enhance existing spaces and materials, trying to change their characteristics as little as possible: surfaces made of bricks were left exposed; the plaster was removed from the ones made of blocks and the metal structure treated and painted.

The conservative choice brings out and enhances the pre-existing structure, characterizing a space that is already suggestive and interesting itself.

Loft design: a technical guide with DWG examples

In order to make the most of the spaces and optimize the internal height, a mezzanine, consisting of a metal structure, was designed and connected to the existing columns. The mezzanine is accessed by a staircase located near the entrance and, through a panoramic walkway that allows a suggestive view over the entire interior space, you can enter the two bedrooms.

The sleeping area, while keeping some privacy, is open toward the living area below. The heterogeneity of the environment, in fact, is a constant feature in a loft design, that imposes a way of living that is not very traditional but adequate to the easy and fast style of contemporary life.

The project remains, therefore, faithful to the arrangement of the existing environment, changing it as little as possible, but it is characterized by the choice of colours (strong and contrasting ones), finishes (glossy and reflecting) and especially furniture.

The objects selected are essential but carefully designed, such as, for example the armchairs by Le Corbusier and Eames, the vintage barber’s chair, or some sport details, such as the basketball hoop and the scoreboard or even a “building site” typical elements, such as signage and road signs. Finally, the exposed copper pipes and plant installation systems that complete the loft industrial image.

7 things to remember in a loft design

  1. Check the environment living conditions
  2. Respect and enhance the features of the existing building
  3. Optimize space with amezzanine
  4. Reduce the internal walls and prefer open spaces
  5. Leave systems and structural elements at sight
  6. Take special care in choosing furnishings
  7.  Evaluate the most appropriate heating system

DWG CAD drawings (floor plans, prospects and sections) and 3D BIM models of a loft project ready for you to download

Loft design: a technical guide with DWG examples


Download the 3D BIM model (.edf file format) of a loft project

Download here the DWG CAD drawings of a loft project