Turn an Industrial Space into Your Home
In Europe, it’s the norm to convert old office blocks and factories into residential spaces. And this can be done with the means of custom restaurant furniture as an alternative variant.
This tendency is fast gaining popularity locally because a loft apartment in the center of town offers the excitement of big city living with the added advantage of having more space than available in an ordinary flat or, sometimes, even a house or industrial restaurant. Ricci Polack of ‘Lifestyle Lofts’ has spent the past four years converting industrial spaces into residences using the diverse industrial restaurant furniture pieces. He says this type of accommodation is highly popular because of the desire to live in something spacious, exciting and affordable.
Which spaces work best
Ricci feels old packing sheds with high ceilings have more character than multistorey dwellings – but any building can be made to work if you have enough money to spend on it. Parking is often a problem and determines how many units one building can be divided into.
The owner of the unit in this story bought ‘the shell’ for about $560 000 from Lifestyle Lofts. The shell consisted of steps and mezzanine floors as well as electrical distribution, water, and drainage. The owner then designed the interior – and managed the entire project himself. This included installing the kitchen, bathrooms, wall finishes, plumbing, electricity, and windows, which cost a further $400 000. The unit measures about 210m2 with a 50m2 garden, which means he paid less than $4 000m2 – similar properties sell for about $5 000 – $7 000 per m2.
Industrial spaces usually have fixed and movable equipment with interesting detail. Here the owner converted the door of the walk-in safe, which was formerly part of the office and storage room, into a unique front door. The wind-up garage doors between the house and the sunroom were also retained and are rolled down at night as a security measure.
As with any house plans you need the city council’s approval before making structural changes. In Johannesburg it’s fairly easy to obtain permission as the city council has signed a new charter – to speed up innercity renewal – that permits the rezoning of business and industrial properties to residential properties. Financial institutions are now also more keen to provide financing for these ‘shell’ properties than they were in the past.
Conversions such as this demand the same maintenance as other houses. Industrial homes are often sectional title properties, with a body corporate being responsible for the exterior.
Whom does it suit?
The owners of such places vary from young to old; from artists to accountants. Since most of these units have open stairs and communal gardens, they’re not ideal for the elderly or those with young children. But individual units can be adjusted to be more child-friendly.
Low-cost housing is one of South Africa’s greatest challenges. Converting old buildings in affordable suburbs can help meet the demand. The trend is also heavily supported by city councils. One low-cost housing unit is being built at R5 000m2. Lifestyle Lofts’ challenge is to develop one such unit at less than R2 000m2.
Built to last
The bathroom has a huge cement bath. Modern taps add a contemporary touch.
Step right in
The shower floor is done in pebbles in shades of grey, a color that suits the industrial look.
The open plan kitchen has a gas stove. Many old suburbs in Johannesburg have existing gas fixtures.