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What is a Live-Work Space?

Michael Pollick
Updated May 16, 2024
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While the concept of working at home or telecommuting seems perfectly feasible, the actual practice has proven to be problematic at times. Either the worker must designate part of his traditional home as a functional office, or a rudimentary living area must be created in what is essentially a warehouse. Many rental agreements specifically forbid tenants from using their personal units for any type of professional endeavor. One solution for this growing problem is the development of the live-work space.

A live-work space combines personal living space and professional workspace in such a way that neither is compromised. The most common way of creating a live-work space is to renovate commercial lofts or warehouses, although some live-works spaces are designed from scratch. An area of the loft or warehouse is usually retrofitted with all of the necessary plumbing, heating and electrical utilities needed for a private living space. Conventional room designs may be used, or a more open floor plan may prove more feasible. Areas of a large room may be designated for different functions, and curtains or partitions may provide privacy.

The work side of a live-work space may also be retrofitted for the needs of the worker or business. Instead of simply installing a computer in the corner of a bedroom, an entire working office can be installed in the work space of a loft or warehouse. Specialized tools and other equipment can also be brought in to provide the worker with everything he or she might need. Most live-work spaces are not used for major production work or retail sales, so they shouldn't inconvenience neighbors with excess noise, dirt or customer traffic.

One of the most common uses for a live-work space is an artist's studio. In fact, many live-work spaces in major cities are marketed specifically towards professional artists. The reasoning is pretty straightforward -- artistic endeavors such as sculpture and installation art require large workspaces, but the artist may want to live close to the project. A properly designed live-work space provides the artist with the amenities of a home and the open studio space necessary to create and store finished works securely. While commercial loft space has always been a hot commodity amongst the artistic community, the advent of live-work space has made the concept of living close to the project even more appealing.

There are still some issues surrounding the live-work space phenomenon that need to be worked out. Some city planning boards and licensing departments are reluctant to approve the creation of living spaces in commercial zones, or the commercial use of a residential home. There is also the question of taxation, since a live-work space puts nearly equal weight on each purpose. Is it considered a commercial business with an especially nice office or a residential building with an owner who telecommutes? Tenants of live-work spaces may have to prove their qualifications in order to occupy this type of hybrid office/residential dwelling.

HomeQuestionsAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Michael Pollick
By Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to HomeQuestionsAnswered, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range of topics. His curiosity drives him to study subjects in-depth, resulting in informative and engaging articles. Prior to becoming a professional writer, Michael honed his skills as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.
Discussion Comments
By Crispety — On Apr 15, 2011

@Sneakers41 -I agree with you, but many of these live work buildings cost a lot less than having a mortgage and leasing office space.

I guess another alternative if you wanted to continue to work from your home and did not want to have customers come to your home is to rent an office space as you need it.

There are companies that will rent you an office for a few hours and they will also answer your calls for you and provide you with an offsite address.

This way you do not have to give any of your personal information to the customer and they have a way of contacting you through the service. It is really a great idea and gives legitimacy to your home based business. I have had several friends do this without a problem.

By sneakers41 — On Apr 14, 2011

@Donna61 - I have seen live work buildings like that. I think it could be a cost effective way to develop your business and when you need a break you can just go to your personal residence.

I know some people will create a live work space within their own house. When my daughter was younger I used to take her to a speech therapist that worked out of her home.

She had a room designated for this purpose but I still had to walk through her home to get there. I understand how this could be convenient for her but I personally would feel a little uneasy having customers come into my personal residence.

That is just me. I would rather have a traditional work space in a building and pay a little more in exchange for more privacy.

By donna61 — On Mar 07, 2011

I wondered what this was. We have one building in my small town that is marketed as a live work space.

I think they have done this nicely as the living area is upstairs and the office or work space is downstairs.

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to HomeQuestionsAnswered, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a...
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