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.