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Opening Times (GMT): Mon to Thur - 8:30 - 5:00 Fri - 8:30 - 4:00
In early 1950s New York, struggling artists looking for inexpensive studio space flocked to the former manufacturing district of SoHo. Its abundance of former industrial spaces offered stripped back spaces with masses of natural light, perfect for creating large format artworks popularised by artists like Jackson Pollock and Willem De Kooning. Andy Warhol's 'The Factory' studio was the hip bohemian hangout for ‘artistic types’, hipsters, the Warhol superstars, and was notably famous for its outrageous parties.
The large footprint and high ceilings created perfect social spaces that ultimately became blank canvases for creating imaginative open plan living spaces. Loft living was born.
Original features such as bare red brick walls, steel black framed windows, exposed joists, columns, pipework and timber floors are all signature features of most modern loft apartments. A mix of industrial materials from steel to concrete were then combined to create a versatile industrial themed space. Kitchens utilised eclectic freestanding furniture and well designed functional pieces like a Shaws Belfast sink. Large open plan layouts meant bathrooms didn't need to be confined to enclosed corners, but rather provided a fabulous opportunity to have them on show and as part of the overall interior design statement. It wasn’t unusual to also see a Belfast sink being used as a bathroom sink, in keeping with the true Luxe-Loft principles of ‘anything goes’ practicality. The all-important mezzanine floors were added to create a larger split-level footprint. Loft living was, and still is, about celebrating the grit and heritage of its industrial roots whilst creating an open, airy and utilitarian home.
Fast-forward to current day and sadly, loft living is no longer a viable option for struggling New York artists. It’s not unusual for the original low-rent SoHo studios (or 'Luxe Lofts' as they are now more commonly known) to sell for anywhere between $10 and $50 million. To this day, Shaws sinks still featuring heavily in the increasingly more expensive interior design schemes that surround them.
Wherever you might reside in the world, you probably wouldn't have to travel too far to experience genuine loft living. Converted former industrial spaces of all shapes and sizes are popular in many of the world's largest cities. AirBnB provides a stunning selection of lofts available to suit any budget and pretty much, in any place you like. But if you want the original experience then a visit to 'The Big Apple' is a must, where über-trendy conversions now dominate other hip neighbourhoods like the East and West Village, Chelsea, Union Square, the funkier Downtown Flatiron as well as original SoHo.
If your aspirations are 'loftier' (sorry, couldn’t resist...) and luxury hotels are more your thing, experience the loft living feel at The Archer Hotel in Midtown Manhattan, where uber cool interiors mix avant-garde style, fused with industrial chic.
You can also dine on an artist’s budget at Serendipity 3 at 255 East 60th Street. Pre-fame it was one of Andy Warhol’s favourite haunts, and he would often pay his bill in drawings instead of cash. Opened in 1954 Serendipity 3 is known as New York’s first coffee boutique. Today, more than 60 years later it continues to be a great place to spot icons of pop culture getting their “cap 'n' a crunch”. To complete the Pop Art experience, take in some of Andy Warhol's original Factory painted artworks at The Museum of Modern Art. They have 5 works of the late pop artist in their permanent collection, along with paintings from other pop artists such as Roy Lichtenstein.
If America blows the budget, don't worry. Simply make yourself a cup of joe, put your feet up, pop on some Velvet Underground and read all about Andy Warhol in this comprehensive giant format book on his life and works by Phaidon instead.
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