Credit: Will Hare Photography

If you’re trying to pinpoint the next big “must-have” feature in new homes for the coming decade, think about office space.  More than 34 million U.S. workers now telecommute at least part time, and some analysts predict that the number of teleworkers in the U.S. will reach 63 million by the year 2016 as corporations look for ways to reduce their operating expenses and carbon footprints. 

Add in the fact that more than 14% of all U.S. households already contain a home-based business (and that’s according to Small Business Administration estimates prior to the downturn) and you’ve got yourself a pretty hefty case for flexible plans that can accommodate workstations, inventory storage, meeting space, and maybe even ground floor retail or studio space with exterior signage.

“The U.S. was originally built largely by people who lived near the shop,” said architect Steve Mouzon, a founder of the New Urban Guild, in a recent blog post. Now that trend is coming full circle for some workers, fueled by rising unemployment, commuter burnout, and eco-minded efforts to reduce automobile usage. The number of Americans seeking to “make a living where [they are] living” will likely rise in the coming decade, Mouzon says, as more professionals (many of whom have been laid off) launch sole proprietorships in an age where many business transactions can be conducted online.

There are cultural drivers, too. “The changing work style of the current generation calls for great flexibility because increasing numbers of people are involved in several occupational pursuits as opposed to the one-job, one-employer paradigm of the 60s, 70s and 80s,” architect Karin Likjegren, director of live-work housing for Killefer Flammang Architects, told the audience during a Urban Land Institute (ULI) seminar in Los Angeles last July.

During that same event, N. Richard Lewis, president of the PR firm Lewis & Associates, surmised that the live-work market is driven by three groups: start-up businesses, existing small businesses that have no intentions of growing bigger, and baby boomers who have been laid-off or are coming back out of retirement, seeking to supplement their income through consulting or similar solo work.

It helps that municipal planning boards have grown more supportive of the live-work model. With more and more cities offering fast-track approvals and other incentives for mixed-use infill development, these commercial-residential hybrids are getting easier to build because the zoning is already in place. 

Looking for reference points? Here are a few notable live-work projects from BUILDER’s project archives:

City Place Live Work Lofts

Florence Lofts


Brighton on Park

Noho Lofts

ArtBlock 731

If you have a great live-work project, we'd love to see it. Shoot us an email with photos, plans, and a synopsis.

Jenny Sullivan is a senior editor covering architecture, design, and community planning for BUILDER.