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The Warsaw Voice » Other » April 2, 2008
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Lofts in Vogue
April 2, 2008 By Elżbieta Wrzecionkowska   
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The global fashion for loft apartments has reached Poland. Some of the country's first lofts have been developed within the premises of Biały Orzeł Mining and Metallurgy Complex in the southern city of Bytom. Developers are looking for old factories in Warsaw, ŁódĽ and the southern Silesia region to turn into such apartments.

Generally, a loft features a large open space and old walls that hark back to the site's industrial heritage. While designing lofts, architects preserve many of the original fixtures, giving such homes avant-garde interiors that are especially fashionable among artists and young urban professionals. Loft apartments require a special interior design. Manufacturers have embraced this new urban trend.

Club colors
The inspiration behind the latest collection of furniture and interior design from Danish company BoConcept is life in the big city, with its dark and crowded club scene. "The new collection is dominated by colors like purple, gold and silver, which are especially prominent in items such as lamps, cushions and rugs," says Marcin Jaworski, marketing manager at BoConcept. "We are also returning to black and white furniture. Baroque decorations, crystal chandeliers and gilded candlesticks will define an interior's style. Lighting is also changing, becoming darker and dimmer in a reference to the typical club atmosphere. Forms are still simple though rounded corners have appeared in items such as beds and coffee tables. Glass in its purest form is making a comeback. The new collection includes glass coffee tables and side tables. Then there are the fabrics-soft, with gold and silver thread, of course."

All these are perfect for the austere interior of a factory loft. Soft gold cushions and crystal chandeliers provide an excellent contrast for rough walls, metal stairs and supporting pillars.

Old walls as artwork
Diversity is the motto and key concept in collections from Britain's Habitat, which has been on the Polish market for over a year. The company's furniture and interior decoration items are a mixture of inspiration from various cultures. At first, the aim was to provide relief from the dull and boring English interiors of the 1950s. As economic and cultural borders opened, variety became a necessity if different tastes were to be catered for. Customers were traveling further afield to increasingly exotic places, and then wanted to preserve the memories of their vacations in their homes. Habitat's range gradually grew to include Mexican and Moroccan patterns, Thai inspirations and Japanese details. All this can be found in Habitat's products, in the colors, fabric textures, lamp shapes and decorative figurines and vases. The latest collections combine the old and the modern. Habitat offers a comprehensive range of interior decoration products, and has long been defining the latest trends in applied art.

Habitat furniture works especially well in the stark interiors of old factories, renovated palaces and tenement houses. One kitchen design proposed by the company features a simple white kitchenware shelf set against the backdrop of a plain wall with plaster falling off and holes from screws that are no longer there. Architects try to show the history of an interior, with nothing concealed, combining it with the whiteness and simplicity of furniture and kitchenware. These old buildings, with imperfect reed-filled walls and holes left by pipes are treated like a work of art. Next to the peeling plaster hangs a Japanese etching and a black-and-white photo. For these high interiors, which often get a lot of light thanks to tall windows, spotlights may be sufficient. Some fittings may well be worth bringing out with special lights skillfully placed at different heights. Industrial lighting is seldom used in lofts, being replaced with warm-colored lampshades and crystal chandeliers to increase the contrast.

Bathrooms are another challenge. The age of ubiquitous ceramic tiles is long gone. Smooth plasterwork and wood may dominate in modern apartments, but in a loft you can try something more extravagant, like combining an English-style bathtub on decorative legs with a bare brick wall. At first sight, you think the bathroom is still being renovated, but the carefully chosen and opulent details show that the contrast between the ornate and the austere is intentional.

Sitting comfortably
One of the basic furnishings of any interior is a sofa-or a set of sofas, couches, chaise longues and recliners. In a loft, these have to be bigger than usual and free-standing. A lot of the seating furniture made today are large and modular sofas that enable buyers to furnish a living room or fill a huge space that was once a factory.

Poland is one of Europe's largest manufacturers of upholstered furniture, but it is only since recently that some designs have deserved to be called original collections. One manufacturer of this kind of furniture is Com40, established in 2000 from scratch in Nowe Skalmierzyce near Kalisz, central-western Poland. Today the Com40 collection comprises 30 different sets of upholstered furniture with over 250 different fabric and top-quality Italian leather coverings. Through its chain of stores, the company also offers a selection of tables and other accessories from renowned companies such as Asa, Leonardo and Millefiori.

"New designs are launched every year in response to customer expectations in both Poland and abroad," says Com40 marketing manager Magdalena Kaczmarek. "We are keeping abreast of the market changes and changing customer needs. We are very happy about the fashion for lofts in Poland. Our latest sofa with a leg rest, called Napo, is perfect for such interiors, though admirers of soft English sofas will find such products at our stores too." A large selection of sofas is also available from companies including Kler, Iker, Noti and Domo Faber.

As the loft fashion continues-good news for furniture manufacturers and architects-the prices of these apartments are growing. They can no longer be purchased at half price. For example, lofts developed on a site vacated by Polskie Zakłady Optyczne company in Warsaw are being offered at zl.13,400-zl.14,000 per square meter, which is 60 percent over the average market price per meter. Meanwhile, the supply of former industrial buildings fit for conversion into housing is limited.
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