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Lofts and conservatories: two hot trends in the design world

The loft movement - the new urban esthetic - has become international. New York, Paris, London, and Los Angeles are only a few of the cities that reflect the dramatic change in living styles that has swept America and Europe in the last 25 years. The International Book of Lofts, by Suzanne Slesin, Stafford Cliff, and Daniel Rozensztroch (Clarkson N. Potter Inc., $30), explores this trend and the numerous old factories, warehouses, and offices in industrial neighborhoods have been converted into living places. ``Loft living represents one of the major trends in urban redevelopment in the last 30 years,'' write the authors. ``It indicates a revival of city centers, the migration from the suburbs back into the city, a recyling of commercial spaces into viable residences, and a boost of interest in preserving a city's unique architectural heritage.''

Until the 1970s, loft living was considered neither chic nor comfortable. Now it is an accepted and acceptable life style, an exciting alternative to city apartments. The raw space involved is often awesome and free-flowing. The tenant must cope with 12-foot ceilings, exposed pipes and radiators, huge structural columns, and ``acres of floor and miles of windows.'' Untamed, it can appear pretty rugged and rough. Yet numerous imaginative solutions to decoration are shown here, ranging from sparse and minimal to cluttered and overdone. Some of the lofts shown are spectacular. Only a few appear to be cozy or very neatly contained.

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Living Under Glass, by Jane Tresidder and Stafford Cliff (Clarkson N. Potter Inc., $22.50), celebrates the revival of the conservatory in all its striking and innovative forms. It explores a wide range of glass extensions from Victorian to modern, and includes a directory of sources. In 19th-century England, the conservatory became a fashionable addition to the house and a favorite spot to pass many hours with tea and conversation. But by the early 1900s, the heyday of these glass-enclosed structures was over, and it was not until the 1960s that they began to appear again.

From the beginning, conservatories seem to have freed the imagination of architects and designers in an unusual way. They were designed to let in light, to show off plants and flowers, and to enhance people in their leisure moments. They were both graceful and ornamental. Nostalgia has played a significant part in their revival.

Today's versions are, however, more a living space for people than an exhibition space for plants. They are being used for add-on living rooms, kitchens, breakfast rooms, pool houses, and rooftop eyries. Called ``sun spaces,'' ``greenhouses,'' or ``solariums,'' their styles range from Victorian curves to ultra-modern pyramids, domes, and cubes. Some of these glass extensions are prefabricated and available in kits. This volume deals not only with their appropriate decoration, but with such practicalities as solar heating, ventilation, flooring, and window blinds. And it does reveal the sense of theater and beauty that can come from a glassed-in space.

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