The live-work home revolution

With 40 per cent of businesses now operating from home, architects and planners are creating cutting-edge designs for the new live-work community
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From £249,995: live-work units at OneSE8 in Deptford. Call 020 8469 0077
Forty per cent of UK businesses are being run from home as a generation of innovative and creative people, empowered by the technological revolution, reposition themselves in a world rocked by the recession and redundancies.

Big companies are following suit and increasingly encouraging their staff to work from home - British Telecom has 11,000 who do so, saving on commuting costs, using time more efficiently and cutting down on emissions.

As homeworkers evaluate their needs, developers are responding to the demand by creating new-build schemes appropriate to the task. Architects are assessing space and finding solutions with dedicated work zones, offering 30 per cent of the space to work and 70 to domestic use.

And they are designing dedicated areas geared up to cope with fast broadband technology and fitted out with space-saving, innovative foldaway furniture, storage systems and sliding walls. For those who prefer to put a border between their domestic and work life, there are also new-style garden offices.

Planners are sympathetic to the new thinking and beginning to promote live-work homes as a community-based "green" answer to global warming. The theory is that live-work clusters can help to reverse neighbourhood decline and reduce reliance on polluting transport.

Certainly there are money advantages for self-employed live-workers; apart from ever-rising train fares, home workers save on office rent, council tax and many more overheads. But while staying away from city-centre offices saves money, being at home has grey areas that are unresolved, such as mortgage restrictions, council tax liabilities and capital gains tax.

Matchmakers Wharf, E9
£210,000: artist's studio, Matchmakers Wharf, close to the Olympic Park in Stratford, E9. Call Telford Homes on 01992 809800
Basically, live-work homes split into two categories. First, there are apartments and houses which councils have officially designated as live-work. Many of these are factory and warehouse lofts. Second, there are conventional new-build homes with no special planning status but which have design features and room layouts that lend themselves to home working.

Nothing is new, of course. Home working was away of life with the Hugenot silk weavers in 17th-century Spitalfields, and the cottage industries of the Victorian era were known as such precisely because they were run from workers' cottages. The modern revival has been on a slow burn since the Sixties, first in New York, where artists moved into vacant light-industrial premises. Then other creatives and management consultants spotted the lifestyle benefits - and the extensions to the main home or attic conversions began to appear.

The dotcom boom of the late Nineties was a huge accelerator, which saw visible communites coming together in prime central strongholds such as Shoreditch, Clerkenwell and Southwark.

Live-work clusters were becoming the answer to neighbourhood decline and providing exciting regeneration opportunities. Where live-work homes are specifically zoned by planners - say, 30 per cent of the space is work and 70 per cent is living space - owners pay business rates and council tax on a proportionate basis. Where live-work homes are not "pre-designated", councils say it is up to the owner to negotiate with the local authority.

"Government research shows that more than 40 per cent of UK businesses are being run from home, and it's plausible to suggest that in 10 years time the majority of UK businesses will be based at home," says Tim Dwelly, director of the Live Work Network, citing British Telecom as a prime example.

Dwelly sees live-work communities as already part of the urban fabric in city neigbourhoods and a feature of rural towns and villages. "Of course, broadband makes it much easier to run a business from home. High property prices, commuter stress, work-life balance and, above all, global warming are pressing issues that live-work can address."

Local planning rules, still often based on separate zoning for employment and residential land - a hangover from the industrial revolution when work was noisy, smelly and dangerous - need to be reassessed.

All this chimes with architect Dr Francis Holliss at London Metropolitan University, who has set up the Workhome research project.It calls for a review of planning and tax policy and a variety of building types and interiors that dovetail with the needs of homeworkers.

The Jam Factory, Bermondsey
£650,000: a live-work unit at the Jam Factory in Bermondsey is for sale, with 2,174sq ft of space, separate work entrance and parking. Call 020 7940 3862
Her team has produced a design guide, which takes inspiration from notable examples from the past, such as the artists' houses in Talgarth Road, Hammersmith, designed to provide maximum light, as well as the best contemporary spaces. Visit

She advocates more flexible architecture that allows the layout of a property to be adapted during its lifetime. This, at least, is something developers are addressing (driven by new demographics such as multi-generational living — children, parents and grandparents living under one roof).

Forward-thinking examples include new homes for sale in Canterbury with a 377sq ft garden room detached from the main home. The annexe incorporates potentially a double garage, work or storage space versatile enough for use as a self-contained office, a guest suite or live-in nanny/au-pair accommodation (home-working mothers need home help).

Together, the two buildings have a generous 2,700sq ft of space. Called Kingsbrook Park, the scheme of 264 homes with Kentish-style weatherboard sits by the River Stour. Prices from £550,000. Call Berkeley Homes on 01227 477100.

Ten brand new live-work homes have been launched at Deptford, which has a long-standing community of artists and is now attracting white-collar business consultants and media-industry freelances. These properties are part of the popular OneSE8 apartment complex. Part of each 1,000 sq ft unit is fitted out for apartment living with the main working area left for owners to create their own bespoke space. Prices start at £249,995. Call St James on 020 8469 0077.

Some new mixed developments incorporate workspaces. Matchmakers Wharf, close to the Olympic Park in Stratford, has 49 purpose-built artists' studios next to canalside apartments priced from £210,000. Call Telford Homes on 01992 809800.

Arthaus, London Fields
From £280,000: live-work units at factory redevelopment Arthaus, near London Fields. Call 0800 043 2523
Arthaus (left), a factory redevelopment next to London Fields, has 20 onsite work studios that can be rented by people living in the flats above. Rents range from £6,500 to £70,000 a year (for 246sq ft studios to 3,638sq ft spaces).

Behind the original brick façade is a dashing new interior with atrium and a hotel-style lobby with gallery and café. Flats from £280,000. Call 0800 043 2523.

Authentic factory lofts are the most sought-after live-work homes, says Nick Davies of estate agent Stirling Ackroyd. "Normally they have high ceilings, big windows and cutting-edge interior design."

One is for sale at the Jam Factory, Bermondsey with 2,174sq ft of space, separate work entrance and parking and is priced at £650,000. Call 020 7940 3862.

Live-work homes are priced about 15 per cent less than equivalent-size flats but may eventually come to attract a premium because of the flexibility they offer.

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