As the world has become increasingly connected in recent years, live-work spaces have become more and more popular. While the concept of live-work units is not new—consider the movies in which a storekeeper lives above his shop—modern live-work spaces have reached a whole new level of luxury and efficiency.

When you live and work in the same space, striking the perfect balance between functionality and comfort is essential. And who better to plan and design the model live-work space than a renowned architect? Owner of Visbeen Architects, Inc. Wayne Visbeen, AIA, IIDA, and wife Angela Visbeen have created an idyllic property in East Grand Rapids, Michigan’s Gaslight Village that serves as both their family’s home and business’ design studio.

Everything, Plus the Kitchen Sink

The Visbeen’s 6,000-square-foot building encompasses three floors and a lower level. It serves as their private residence on the top floor; a guest apartment /flex space and offices on the second floor; a work space on the main level for Vision Interiors, Inc., the interior design firm also owned by Visbeen; and a fitness center on the lower level. The entire building also serves as a showroom in that everything from light fixtures and cabinets to furniture and more can be purchased through Vision Interiors.

Fireplaces are great for living and working spaces

“Convenience was one of the main considerations for designing our building,” says Wayne. “Not only did we focus on the efficiencies within each space themselves, but also on the efficiencies among our businesses. Now, while I’m designing a home, we can work with Vision Interiors to furnish it—fabrics, tile, fireplaces, lighting—and show clients all this in a single facility. It saves us and our clients both time and money.”

Just the Right Size

According to Visbeen, two of today’s most popular trends in home design are the idea of rightsizing and incorporating flex space.

“Rightsizing means creating a space that is just the right size for each customer’s unique needs; not trying to oversell on extra space or features they don’t really want or need,” says Wayne. “For example, many people are excluding separate dining rooms from their homes and replacing them with a more functional eat-in kitchen, allowing them to maximize square footage of usable space.”

Flex spaces, or rooms that can be used for a number of functions, play into rightsizing as they more efficiently use a space instead of adding unnecessary square footage to accommodate each of the functions separately.

The Visbeen’s Michigan live-work space expertly demonstrates both concepts. The building is a model of efficiency. Every space has its function—or multiple functions—and is perfectly tailored to the family’s and business’ specific needs. One prime example of both of these concepts is the building’s second-floor guest apartment. Not only does is serve as a guest apartment for family, friends or visiting clients, complete with a king-size murphy bed, but it also acts as an entertainment space, conference room/work space, and perhaps most importantly, a space to show people how they can live exquisitely by maximizing the space available to them.

Determining the proper size and functionality of a space is key to laying the groundwork for an efficient living or working environment. After that foundation is established, the next step is to focus on dressing the space and incorporating customized features and amenities to take the design from simply functional to functional, comfortable and enjoyable. Part 2 of this series will detail the unique features the Visbeens incorporated into their live-work space to do just that.

Photography by: Mike Buck, M-Buck Studio