Hard Lofts versus Soft Lofts (Part II)


4 minute read

September 4, 2007

Do you see any differences between this loft at 42 Camden Street and the one yesterday at 90 Sumach Street?

Don’t get me wrong, this is a beautiful living room in a brand-new $700,000 condo, but does it look authentic?

If it doesn’t, it’s because it’s not.

This is a soft loft, while yesterday’s photo from 90 Sumach Street is of a hard loft—from an authentic loft-conversion.

Here are the differences…



A soft loft, simply put, is a newly-constructed condominium with high ceilings, floor-to-ceiling glass windows, and polished concrete floors. It could contain all those features and many more, or perhaps just the high ceilings. Now I’m not knocking soft lofts at all, I’m just pointing out the differences, and the fact that a soft loft is created and is essentially made to look like a hard loft.

Soft lofts do not have the original character and charm of hard lofts, and often the quality of finishes and the construction is rather disappointing. Developers often promise one thing, and deliver another. There is no history associated with soft lofts, but some people really don’t care. Compare The Merchandise Lofts to Rezen, for example. One might ask, “Why is it called Merchandise Lofts?” You could then explain that the Merchandise Building was the warehouse for all the products which Simpsons department store (eventually Sears Canada) sold from as early as 1910. Asked “How did Rezen get its name,” you can respond that six marketing gurus drank Cafe Latte’s in a room while sitting on bean-bag chairs and throwing darts at random letters of the alphabet until they came up with “Rezen.” It sounds sooooooooo cool!


(Rezen is currently under construction at Adelaide/Sherbourne)

Many soft lofts are built to mimic the hard lofts, by incorporating the exposed duct-work on the ceilings, but often it’s just cheaper for them to do so. Think about it: they don’t need to hide the vents and ducts by using drywall and other building materials, so their cost is lower! While this isn’t always the case, the idea in a soft loft is to come as close as you can to a hard loft without getting the real thing. Mozo Lofts has concrete walls and ceilings, for example, but I personally think that concrete is a total cop-out for the exposed red brick walls that you’d find at 90 Sherbourne. Who ever said concrete walls and ceilings were pretty, anyways?


(Mozo Lofts? Or jail cell….)

A growing trend in soft-lofts is the 2-storey condominium units also known as “mezzanines” that feature the living, dining, kitchen on the main level and a side staircase leading up to either one bedroom, two bedrooms, or a bedroom with an open den. The idea here is that some of the 2nd floor living space overlooks the living space below, giving it 18-foot ceilings, in theory. I have a huge problem with these units, although in SOME cases they have been known to work. Usually the 1-bedroom upstairs has zero privacy from the living space below, since they aren’t completely separate.


(2-storey “Mezzanine” loft, looking down at the living room from the upper level)

Soft lofts do have some advantages over hard lofts when it comes to the amenities. Obviously, when designing a building from scratch, you can plan for your pool, exercise room, party room, guest suites, and rooftop terrace. Hard lofts rarely have superior amenities, except in the case of Merchandise Lofts which features in indoor basketball court, among many other things.

Soft lofts also have better locations, since they can be planned in advance and built anywhere a developer so desires. Many of the historical Toronto buildings that have since been converted to lofts are off the beaten track. Both the Candy Factory Lofts and the Chocolate Lofts are on Queen Street almost as far west as Ossington Ave, while Massey Harris Lofts and Gotham Lofts are on King Street just as far west. Most of the soft lofts in the city are at major intersections, or right on the transit line. Zen Lofts is at Spadina Ave and thus right on the TTC Streetcar—an exceptional selling feature! Remember, quite often with real estate you sell the location rather than the product, and soft lofts can be sold quite easily when they are in a great location.

The list of soft lofts in Toronto is extensive, but here are a few examples:

  • Electra Lofts @ 1029 King Street W
  • Zed Lofts @ 38 Niagara Street
  • Quad Lofts @ 19 & 23 Brant Street
  • DNA @ 1 Shaw Street & 1005 King Street W
  • Zen Lofts @ 42 Camden Street
  • Mozo Lofts @ 333 Adelaide Street E
  • Space @ 225 Richmond Street E
  • District Lofts @ 388 Richmond Street W

Notice how the hard lofts have names that are steeped in Toronto’s history, and soft lofts all have names that are one-word, jazzy, cool, “in,” and clearly thought up by crack marketing teams? (yes, my assessment is steeped in cynicism, but perhaps it’s warranted…)

How do you choose between Zen lofts and Zed lofts?

And why the heck did they pick “zed” after a building already used “zen”?

I can’t think of anything more ridiculous….or can I?

How about when the group from Saskatchewan, who wanted to start a football club, chose the name “Roughriders” even though the Ottawa Roughriders already existed…

Well, in the end, only 25% of the CFL had teams which were named Roughriders, so using that arithmetic, perhaps Zeb Lofts, Zem Lofts, and Zep Lofts are right around the corner…

ottawa.gif saskatchewan.png

Written By David Fleming

David Fleming is the author of Toronto Realty Blog, founded in 2007. He combined his passion for writing and real estate to create a space for honest information and two-way communication in a complex and dynamic market. David is a licensed Broker and the Broker of Record for Bosley – Toronto Realty Group

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1 Comment

  1. rileydog

    at 6:51 am

    Glad to see that you are exposing some myths & stating the obvious… you remind me of the outspoken boy in the fairy tale “The Emperor’s New Clothes” — he dared to point out that the emperor had no clothes on, when everyone else was admiring the invisible clothes…. Isn’t it amazing that people will go along with concrete walls and an open bedroom loft for the sake of being cool — even tho’ the charm wears off fast enough…

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