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.