It’s partially a combination of the experience economy (below) and the Not So Big House movements.
People are realizing that there’s more to ‘experience’ than what’s in the confines on one’s home and TV set, and that involves rich, interesting and diverse layers of life and activity in the immediate neighborhood. Maybe that explains the popularity of reality TV? Anyway, that intensity of life can’t exist without a critical mass of concentrated residences, and a loft is one of the most space efficient home designs that allows that.
However, Americans still have that frontier mentality and demand space, which is where Not So Big House author Sarah Susanka’s principles come in handy. What the loft gives up in square footage, it more than makes up in ceiling height AND perceived space – that is, the large wall-sized windows literally extend the visual horizon of the room by miles (I can see the US Capitol a few miles away from my window). The main point of her book can arguably be the loft’s greatest asset – the home as medium for self expression. It’s open floor plan and extensive vertical volume is a virtual blank slate for interior masterpieces.
I’d post a link to some loft books, but the only ones I’ve seen so far are upscale versions designed for executives, and that’s not what fits here.