While hotel penthouses and villas hold a certain allure, savvy travelers can find even more of an exclusive experience in lofts. These sleek, expansive spaces are blank canvases for the imagination, with fluid cooking, living and dining areas and tasteful exposed elements. Each is as memorable as the vacation destination itself.
"People are drawn to lofts because they represent the cross section of luxury and artistic expression," says Emily Joffrion, director of communications for Airbnb.com, which hosts approximately 2,100 loft rentals around the world. "Lofts are usually highly personal, individualized spaces that often seem like an installation in and of themselves."
Lofts had their beginnings in mid-19th century Paris, where artists worked in large-windowed, sun-drenched studios. However, it was 1940s SoHo, New York, that birthed residential lofts. Painters flocked to abandoned factories, lured by inexpensive rent and seemingly limitless workspace. Because of zoning laws at the time, the spaces were illegal and not equipped for living. Artists devised creative solutions, such as pull-up beds (that could be hidden quickly) and unique layouts.
That same pioneering spirit is present in today's lofts. The Rock Reach House near Joshua Tree National Park in Yucca Valley, California, for example, is a prototype for technology that floats the home over natural, unleveled terrain. Tall sliding glass doors give guests direct access to the Mojave Desert. A home in Maitencillo, Chile, affords 270-degree views of Chile's coastal mountains, while suspended windows open to a 2,000-square-foot pool deck.
For a more urban feel, a designer loft in Milan is filled with paintings, ceramics, glass and furniture from around the world. And those who want to experience a bit of history in SoHo--albeit a far cry from la vie bohème--can spread out in a five-story townhouse on Lafayette Street, complete with a futuristic indoor pool, soaring ceilings and a roster of celebrity clients, including Beyoncé and John Mayer.
Urbanites can reap the best of both worlds at this modern yet secluded retreat. Two and a half hours north of New York City, this 2,000-square-foot house sits on two private acres enclosed by 200 acres of woodland. Chefs will feel at home with a restaurant-grade stove, stainless-steel appliances, Wüsthof knives and an outdoor grill. Entertainment junkies can geek out with the Apple TV/Netflix connection, high-resolution flat-screen TV, Xbox and DVD collection. Enjoy the outdoors with complimentary croquet and badminton gear; swimming holes are a five-minute walk from the house. The living space includes two bedrooms, a deep soaking tub, an upstairs den and a rooftop deck with a fireplace. From $400 a night (three-night minimum); <a href="http://homeaway.com" target="_hplink">HomeAway.com</a>.
<a href="http://www.departures.com/slideshows/stunning-loft-rentals/3" target="_hplink">See More Stunning Loft Rentals</a><br><br> It’s no surprise that book publisher Taschen chose this residence as one of the 100 best contemporary homes in the world. Juxtaposing elements from traditional New York lofts and underwater cabins, this 1,900-square-foot house has a 270-degree view of Chile’s coastal mountains, and suspended windows open up to a 2,000-square-foot pool deck. Mist covers the valley in the morning, while the moon peeks over the mountains at night. Maitencillo’s peaceful beach is a five-minute drive away. With arguably the best weather in the world (temperatures range from the mid 40s to the low 70s, with little rain), this area is a private paradise throughout the year. From $1,750 a week (one-week minimum); <a href="http://homeaway.com" target="_hplink">homeaway.com</a>.
<a href="http://www.departures.com/slideshows/stunning-loft-rentals/4" target="_hplink">See More Stunning Loft Rentals</a><br><br> This sleek loft has done away with the front door, relying instead on an elevator that opens directly into the space. Design mavens will appreciate its origins as a famed Richard Ginori porcelain factory. Today it resembles a live-in gallery with paintings, ceramics, glass and furniture from Scandinavia, Brazil and Italy. (The owner, fittingly, has a company called Be Modern.) Two bedrooms, an open kitchen and a rain shower are a few highlights found within the 2,153-square-foot space. From $404 a night (three-night minimum); Via Morimondo; <a href="http://airbnb.com" target="_hplink">airbnb.com</a>.
<a href="http://www.departures.com/slideshows/stunning-loft-rentals/5" target="_hplink">See More Stunning Loft Rentals</a><br><br> While traditional lofts were converted from factories, this one reclaimed space from a 200-year-old wine cellar. Guests can help themselves to any vintage in the basement (the price is on the bottle) and sip it in the bucolic fields overlooking the Alps. Wineries, spas and outdoor sports (such as fishing, horseback riding and lake swimming) are nearby. Or the loft can be a stopover on a trip through Central Europe. The space is a cozy 538 square feet but includes comfortable details like a rain showerhead and a Tempur-Pedic mattress that can be layered on top of the pullout sofa. A gift basket filled with marmalade on the premises, bread, seasonal fruit, farm-fresh eggs and (of course) wine greets guests. From $131 a night (two-night minimum); <a href="http://airbnb.com" target="_hplink">airbnb.com</a>.
<a href="http://www.departures.com/slideshows/stunning-loft-rentals/6" target="_hplink">See More Stunning Loft Rentals</a><br><br> This revolutionary home lies near Joshua Tree National Park, but one doesn’t need to leave the property to experience something akin to a private nature preserve. A seasonal creek flows directly under the house, the result of the Blue Sky Frame system that floats the property over an untouched landscape. Each room has sliding glass doors that open to a vista dotted with piñons, junipers and desert oaks. After hiking and biking in the Mojave Desert, relax in the cowboy soak tub nestled amid boulders. Solar electricity and heating, bamboo cabinets and a greywater recycling system reduce environmental impact, while high-speed Internet, a home theater and modern appliances allow guests to enjoy nature without roughing it. From $295 a night; <a href="http://homeaway.com" target="_hplink">homeaway.com</a>.
<a href="http://www.departures.com/slideshows/stunning-loft-rentals/7" target="_hplink">See More Stunning Loft Rentals</a><br><br> aredevils can literally live on the edge at this 6,500-square-foot house owned by avid skiers and skydivers. The property overlooks Lake Tahoe’s Squaw Valley, host of the 1960 winter Olympics and a mecca for extreme skiing (don’t miss the famed KT-22 chairlift, nicknamed “The Mothership”). Guests can gear up in the lounge, slip out a floor-to-ceiling window and ski directly to the lifts. After a long day, warm up in front of the six-foot-long fireplace, saltwater hot tub, ten-person sauna or bar area. This geometric wonder easily accommodates 17 guests over three floors and includes five and a half bathrooms, plus a gym, elevator and rooftop barbecue fire pit. From $5,000 a night (one-week minimum); Granite Chief Rd.; <a href="http://airbnb.com" target="_hplink">airbnb.com</a>.
<a href="http://www.departures.com/slideshows/stunning-loft-rentals/1" target="_hplink">See More Stunning Loft Rentals</a><br><br> In a city where shoebox-sized apartments are the norm, this five-story, 12,775-square-foot mansion is the ultimate in luxury (and one of the city’s most expensive rentals). Highlights include a 40-foot-long indoor pool with viewing holes; a lofty main room with a fireplace, retractable movie screen and island kitchen; a 925-square-foot rooftop garden patio; and a master bedroom with a balcony. Original details, such as exposed pipes from the building’s power-station days, provide character. Owned by film director Marcus Nispel (of the Conan and Friday the 13th remakes) and his wife, it’s fitting that the music video for a Beyoncé song (“Halo”), Esquire’s 2009 Sexiest Woman Alive spread with Kate Beckinsale and the TV show Damages were all shot here. $100,000 a month; 214 Lafayette St.; <a href="http://citi-habitats.com" target="_hplink">citi-habitats.com</a>.
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