Apartments Live to Live-Work
Renters ask, "Why pay the overhead when I can work from home?" Good question. Living and working in the same location has been popularized and romanticized since the 1970s by artists in urban studio lofts.
Today, technological and economic trends are pushing for even greater numbers of renters embracing live-work apartment arrangements. (Heck, some even thrive outside an expensive city district.)
Here are a few examples...
Connectivity is key. With the Internet comes the ability to pursue work opportunities that span the globe. Ben Thompson is owner of Hollywood-based Studiofluid, located in the 750-square-foot apartment he shares with his wife.
"Recently, Studiofluid completed a packaging project for Coop Italia, one of the largest supermarkets in Italy," he says. "I was able to manage my team of three local, but remotely located designers, communicate efficiently with the client located on another continent, and deliver a product that we're extremely proud of."
Thompson's live-work situation helped make this popular. "With the shaky economy, I've been very intentional about keeping my overhead low... instead of throwing away money into a leased space, I've been reinvesting into my business. I'm thrilled with my decision."
The other major technological trend is the availability of inexpensive or free business tools available online. For example, dedicated phone service might have been a downtown office perk just a few years ago. Now, businesses can choose from an overwhelming proliferation of communication tools that make it possible for apartment-based businesses to be as productive as their office-counterparts.
Some of the frequently cited ones include Basecamp (project management), Skype (video conferencing), Writeboard and Jumpchart (collaboration), Highrise (content relation management), and Google (email, scheduling, and document sharing).
Economic trends also influence the growing numbers of people working from an apartment. Companies continue to shed jobs, forcing more businesses to outsource work to freelancers. Some companies strategically reduce employees to reduce overhead costs, particularly as health care and insurance costs skyrocket.
Of course, there are practical challenges associated with working from an apartment.
"I primarily work alone - there is no 'office environment' where I can positively feed off others' energies or get immediate feedback on an idea or report - you have to be extremely disciplined and interested in your work to work from home," says Amber Gugino, who runs a business consulting practice from her apartment in Austin, Texas.
Chicago resident Lauren Herskovic runs College Candy, a website for college women. "I set up my office far away from my TV so I didn't get tempted," say Herskovic.
Space can be an issue. New Yorker Kelly McMenamin operates Pixies Did It, a service which offers home and organization advice. The challenge? She runs the entire operation from her bedroom. A filing cabinet doubles as her chair. One "pro" to this arrangement, says McMenamin, is "[that] when not serving as my desk chair (and filing cabinets) they serve as a place for me to put on shoes."
Some observers wonder, however, if the live-work trend is also largely about trends in taste and style. For example, The Hudson, a new building constructed specifically for live-work arrangements in Vancouver, is said to have almost no residents who ever had the intention of having a home office. They apparently just wanted to live downtown and liked the abundant amenities. Perhaps this style trend can be traced to the reemergence of interest in downtown living thanks to convergence of New Urbanism planning ideals and environmental considerations.
Whether or not renters do the majority of their professional work from their apartment, there seems to be growing demand for apartments to include dedicated office space. After all: you've gotta pay for that granite countertop and deluxe apartment kitchen amenities somehow!
See the offices of the people profiled below.