LiveWork: The Future Of Living Where You Work And Working Where You Live

America is changing how it works. As more people start their own entrepreneurial businesses out of their bedrooms, is it time to rethink how we divide work and living? This new home design makes space for both.

If entrepreneurship and artisanry are the future of work in America, perhaps this is the future of housing.

Designed by Clemson University architecture students Eric Laine and Suzanne Steelman, this housing concept, called LiveWork, takes sustainability beyond solar panels. "Being ‘green’ is very en vogue," Laine says, "but people primarily focus on the environmental aspect of being sustainable. We wanted to expand on that notion."

So Laine and Steelman developed a single-family housing design for Athens, Georgia, that makes life more economically sustainable for its residents by using the second floor for the living area and the ground floor for commercial space that could serve as a source of income. If you have an Etsy shop, now you have a physical storefront, too. Do you paint? Use the space as an art gallery. Good with bikes? Set up a repair shop.

This idea seems to fit well with our changing economy. The stable, sequential career paths of a few decades ago are less common, unemployment is high, and starting a business is cheaper than ever. "This would give an even greater opportunity to entrepreneurial residents," says Laine.

But you don’t have to be a budding small-businessman for this mixed-use house to pay off. Residents who don’t want to run their own venture can simply lease out the commercial space for some extra money. Who wouldn’t want a cafe, deli, or bike shop downstairs?

The LiveWork concept, which comes in two-, four-, and six-person variations, has all the traditional elements of sustainable design as well. It uses daylight efficiently to minimize energy use, incorporates passive heating and cooling strategies, and has a water collection system. Solar panels on the roof could supply 179% of the house’s energy needs.

Laine and Steelman didn’t estimate the construction cost, so it’s unclear whether these houses would be affordable as well as sustainable, but the LiveWork concept has been garnering attention. It just won the international Dow Solar Design to Zero competition. The pair hope to take the idea into professional practice after they graduate in May.

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  • Kyleisgood4you

    Looks nice... But, i'm wondering, what is the difference between this and every other mixed use facility containing residential space above commercial?   It seems like repackaging an old idea.

  • Ed Callahan

    Shocking small mindedness exhibited by most commenting. What's old is new again. If we don't start somewhere, no progress is made.

  • Designlemur

    I think the issue is that this is project is not framed properly. It is nice project, beautifully and capably rendered but is not being presented in the right light. The general impression is that this is some new ground-breaking approach to living and working - while in reality it is describing a new take on an old idea. For hundreds of years been and even in many cases today, people are living and working under one roof...all over the world. Even in the USA, with the 20 or so year old developer trend in creating "Live-Work" spaces inspired by artists living in actual warehouses and working there because it was cheap beginning in the late 40's in NYC for example. Taking the time to state that this project is a new and relevant, or more efficient way of looking at an historical mode of living and working would have been a better approach and the title or author of the article could have taken the time to convey this.

  • James P

    Competitions should always be platforms for cutting edge designs, unfortunately, this entry played it safe, nothing interesting about it at all. 

  • Djcpoland

    Kind of like the Academic Village Thomas Jefferson designed for the University of Virginia. An oblong lawn, lined with student rooms, interspersed with "Pavillions". In each Pavillion lived a Professor, on the second floor, who taught his classes on the first floor.

  • Will

    Hey Andrew,
    Odds have it they is probably some one in Venice, California. Living in a Live Work right now. Why don't you actually go talk to them? This is silly. Maybe next time your editor should assign this to someone with actual knowledge of architecture.

  • Jordan J. Lloyd

    Despite the unoriginality of the concept, I think where this project shines is in the servicing strategy and details - I particularly liked the double glazed vent detail and the external servicing structure. The video was well made and the calculation for determining number of PV's was concise.

  • designlemur

    OK - Just have to add to the mix and state that this is in no way a new concept. It looks nice and I'm sure it was an exciting rendering exercise, but again...not new. Maybe it is not being framed in the right light.

    What would be new is a design project focusing stuff like working from bed! This is, I believe, the ultimate Live/Work scenario - and think of the sustainability angle; you'd never even need to build that second floor! Plus you could re-imagine the bed-as-live-work-space (dang, been done already to a degree: see Rothschild, but could be updated, sans servants)! I think this future living scenario would offer myriad challenges from ergonomics to health to design, comfort to any designer or student - I mean, how do you feed yourself in this scenario? Do you have a built in espresso machines?

  • craig

    1.  As others have noted, this was common urban living for centuries.  It's not a new idea.

    2.  While what's old could be new again, the problems with doing this today are several.

    First, few people want to live in an office park.  If it isn't 'homey' (and by that I don't mean urban hipster loft), it will be seen as temporary living space -- rentals, in other words.  Kind of voids the point of the whole exercise.

    Second, building codes and local ordinances often preclude this.  Once commercial use is let in, what comes along are the parking requirements, ADA construction, fire codes, etc., that raise the cost and turn the design into an office park.  Also, residents will get hit up with the 'business' rates for power, water, phone, internet, and so forth.

    Third, not every downstairs business is a good neighbor.  Much of the attraction of suburbs is that single-family home neighborhoods don't have to worry about nightclubs, machine shops, or fishmongers opening up on the street and disturbing the peace.  So a viable mixed-use community would need to find a way to limit the potential downstairs uses to non-nuisance businesses only.

  • SeoDamian

    While the idea of working above your shop is not new (Ben Franklin, and artisans/craftsmen for the last few centuries), it is a shift in our 'suburbia is for living and city is for working' world that zoning seems to create these days. In days gone by to yesterday, trying to get delivery of large items (by semi-truck) into suburban locations for home businesses was more then a challenge (I remember hauling more then a few baskets from the curb to the basement). Our streets were specifically designed not to be truck friendly in much of the country. If it does not fit in a FedEx or UPS truck you are more then a pariah in your community. And of course if you are attracting strangers to our safe community where our children play with abandon, well you and the local registered sexual predator have more then a few concepts in common. Of course just as suburbs did not become what they are today in one year, but evolved over decades of NIMBY zoning, so can we 'progress' to a more communal sense of community (over time). It should be interesting to see what evolves.

  • DB

    this is great, however, we are treating this as some amazing new concept.  the mixed use/live-work concept has been around since the roman empire.  poor planning, single-use zoning, and suburbia got us away from this sustainable concept.

  • Susanr613

    What's old is new again. Both of my grandfathers owned stores in Philadelphia, and both my parents grew up in the living space on the second floor. I remember visiting my paternal grandfather's five and dime and climbing up a long set of steep stairs to spend time with my (very old and scary) great grandmother.

    Oh and Jacob, none of my grandparents were fat or bored ;-)

  • Jacob

    Good to know :D But they also ran stores, so they were probably active throughout the day. Desk jobs and most things that can be done from home are sedentary. Walking to work/train and taking the stairs in a large office building are sometimes the only exercise a lot of people get during the day since the bulk is spent sitting in a chair.

    It's great to have shops below where you live, those are the most active and lively communities, but they already exist in that form. If people want to be cooped up in the same space all day long that's fine but it's better to get around more often

  • Purnima Trivedi

    And this is a standard way of living in India for traders, say since at least 100 years! 

  • Marysplace2000

    I love the video.  Very informative and artistically appealing.  It does remind me of days gone by when the shops of small towns usually included a living space.  Thank you for changing the way I see the future of living and working.


  • Jacob Halton

    So I only have to go downstairs to go to work? Wow, I'm gonna get SO FAT. This sounds fucking boring. Who would want to live at work?  The "work" are will just get used as storage space and people will go to a cafe.

  • Susanr613

    How is this a constructive comment, and why the potty mouth? Why did you even bother posting?

  • GaryCT

    This ISN'T a new idea. I used to live in an apartment over a shop. This has been going on for decades. BUT, the resident typically didn't work in the shop or store- making them a tenant. This arrangement would be great if the building as a whole, were affordable and you had an established business. To say this sounds boring lacks ambition and imagination. Wake up 2 hours before work- get an hour cardio, shower, eat and work until lunch. Do 30 minutes of yoga, light lunch and finish work. IF YOU STILL feel lazy, go run 5 miles. 

  • Marysplace2000

    Thank you so much for such a positive uplifting comment.  I think you perhaps mean work "area" not "are"...