What Is the Difference Between a Flat & a Loft?

In the logical and in the architectural sense of the words "flat" and "loft," some lofts are flats, but not all flats are lofts.

Contextual Definition of the Word "Flat"

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The word "flat" describes a domicile in a multiunit building, whether leased or owned. The word "loft" can also describe a domicile, whether leased or owned, but not exclusively. While there might by some remote chance be architectural similarities between the two, in general the fact that a loft may be used as a flat is where the similitude ends.

The word "flat" is a generic term that is European in its contemporary roots. It is an umbrella term that can include any story in a multifamily dwelling, including the loft. In the context of a residence, someone in Europe or someone with European origins might open the entry door of the apartment to a guest and remark, "Welcome to my flat."

Contextual Definition of the Word "Loft"

The term "loft" specifically designates the space of the top story of a building that is directly under the eaves of the roof. As it is defined, a loft may be in use as a place to live, a place to store contents or a place to carry out business, and it is still a loft. While the term "flat" is not specifically an architectural term, the word "loft" is a technical architectural term.

Ceilings In Flats Below a Loft

The ceilings in any flat below the top story of a residential building that is considered habitable are finished in some way. This might include anything from simple ceiling tiles for a dropped effect, to a decorative tin ceiling to a standard Sheetrock and plaster-finished ceiling.

The Ceiling In a Loft

More than likely, unless an owner decides to use the loft as a rental space, the ceiling in a loft is not finished. In such a case, exposed wooden joists, electrical wiring and other unfinished architectural accoutrements will be in full view. However, some owners now see the wisdom in finishing a loft ceiling due to the high costs of energy.

Walls In a Flat

With the rare exception of special architectural features, the walls in a flat underneath a loft are all perpendicular to the floor and ceiling. The walls may be finished with Sheetrock and plaster, wainscot, wallpaper or a chair rail.

Walls In a Loft

With the exception of huge buildings that were originally designed for industrial purposes and with flat roofs, most lofts have no or only waist-high walls perpendicular to the floor. Depending upon the roof design, the interior walls of the loft slope upward into the actual interior construction of the roof itself. The interior of a loft is generally dependent upon the steepness of the pitch of the roof.

About the Author

Aviva Lee writes political commentary, poetry and children stories. She uses her more than 10 years of professional experience as an interior design consultant in Manhattan to provide expert advice for her readers. Her design column appeared regularly in "Quest Newspaper" prior to the publication closing.