Live-Work Units / by stephanie calvet

(this is an article I wrote for UrbanToronto) From a historical perspective, there is nothing groundbreaking about the live-work model. People have been living and working under one roof for centuries; think shopkeepers with their dwellings upstairs. Artists have built on that paradigm, transforming warehouses to accommodate the amenities of a home as well as open studio space to create and store finished artwork securely.

While commercial loft space – retrofitted with the necessary utilities – has always been a hot commodity amongst the creative community, the advent of live-work space has made the concept of living close to one’s work even more appealing, and – as developers realize – marketable.

This trend seems to fit well with our changing economy. With the recession many have shifted to self-employment, but more than that, the norms have changed. The stable, sequential career paths of a few decades ago are far less common, and a growing number of people work from home, facilitated by technology and online connectivity. Although many live-work spaces are marketed specifically towards retaining local, professional artists, the set-up gives greater opportunity to entrepreneurial residents. It describes a new take on an old idea.

Interior Rendering

There are a number of facilities designed and built especially with a live-work purpose in Toronto’s building stock. One of the newest is DUKE, a mid-rise residential development by Quadrangle Architects for TAS in the retro Junction neighbourhood. The seven-storey structure will add 109 condos to the area, including five live-work units aimed at creative entrepreneurs.

Street view of live-work units at DUKE Condos. Rendering courtesy of TAS.









Southeast corner of DUKE Condo, designed by Quadrangle Architects for TAS.








While the building will turn its most animated face to Dundas Street West, featuring a mix of high-ceilinged retail shops at grade, located along the quiet laneway to the rear of the building, with south facing frontage, will be the 2-storey live-work units.

These suites are well suited to artists, designers, small business and anyone who needs a distinctive work address, with living quarters above.

With direct access from the street, their lower level is designed such that the front can serve as a showroom or work area with a back section that has storage and a washroom.

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It is a reinvention of creative urban living where owners can conduct business during the day and return to their private quarters off-hours. The units are decently sized, averaging 1150sf with one model at 1548sf.  Each has a small patio at the front to provide a bit of privacy from the sidewalk.
















Also on offer are 2-storey townhomes nestled among the houses along Indian Grove – a more conventional living space for urban families.

Stephanie Calvet is an architect and a writer specializing in architecture and design. She can be found at