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Loft Living

When Medford resident Leena Lee discovered an old theater building for sale in downtown Medford, she could have seen an old worn-out apartment in need of excessive TLC.

Instead, the industrial look inspired her to scrub and polish the loft-style space into a trendy apartment with an open floor plan, 16-foot ceilings and character emanating from the exposed pipes, oversized windows and century-old floors.

"We didn't actually have to do very much to our space. Loft-style usually means very high ceilings and open space we already had 16-foot ceilings, brick walls and 100-year-old wood floors which were underneath filthy carpet," Leena says.

"We did modernize the bathroom and kitchen but we kept all the things about the open loft-style that make lofts so wonderful."

While actual lofts like Leena's are few and far between in the Rogue Valley, fans of loft-style apartments can achieve a similar look in any space. Lofts emit a sophisticated and hip image; the place to be for a movie (projected on a large wall) on Friday night or to paint a giant canvas.

As living space, all rooms meld together and furniture is functional and trendy. Loft-style living, say area designers, is a next logical step in an ever-increasing trend to de-clutter and create large open space.

"Normally, people think of loft living as being wide open, huge spaces," says Medford designer Carol Sharp. "But you can follow the same theories in a normal house by just doing the clutter-free thing and keeping the lines very clean, simple and uncomplicated."

Loft living, Sharp says, brings to mind exposed support beams, brick walls with painted-over pipes, minimal patterns and concrete or wood floors.

In an existing space, creating a loft look can be as basic as swapping patterns for solids, minimize wall hangings and trading busy window dressings for more simple covers.

For an actual remodel, a crowded space can be turned "lofty" by taking down unnecessary walls and widening doorways.

When decorating for a loft-style look, Medford designer Karen Durone encourages getting back to the roots of loft living; historically, lofts were sought after by artists and fitness buffs eager for open space for various activities.

"You can create areas to dance or do projects. If you had an area where you could work out, it would create an interesting lifestyle look," says Karen. "All you truly have to have are the requirements of basic living; a place to sleep, an area to lounge and a place for TV or entertainment."

For small spaces or those with small rooms, consider adding mirrors to open things up, decluttering - big time - and investing in a few key furniture pieces that function for more than one purpose. For example, Karen says a cramped apartment that she created a loft-style décor was without any room for dining.

"No matter which way you looked at it, there was not room. So we did a coffee table a little higher than we would have and put a piece of glass on the surface," she says.

The result? The added glass created usable surface with a "see through" so not to add a cluttered look, while the higher surface allowed for a casual dining area. A rotating base allowed the table to serve as a lazy Susan of sorts.

Another fun element, and a way to pull off an urban lofty existence, is lighting.

Rather than ornate lamps or ceiling fixtures, consider pendant lighting extended from a tall ceiling or flush mount on a wall. Remember, utilitarian and simple, but elegant.

Most importantly, make the space comfortable and unique. Consider a handful of focal points that stand out.

"An ornate piece is great as a focal point," says Carol.

"Like a chest of drawers or a bright painting in a really ornate frame. It becomes its own special thing rather than a whole house full of things that look like that. It really adds interest."

While creating a loft look, much like an actual loft, is up to individual interpretation of what is uncluttered and what is functional - remember to make it yours.

"Just because a loft look is modern in design doesn't mean it needs to be boring, austere or cold-looking," Carol adds. "You can still create a very appealing space that's comfortable and livable, just cleaned up."

Loft Living