Work Life Balance: How to Design a Home Fit for an Artist
This article was originally published on Christie’s International Real Estate’s lifestyle blog, Luxury Defined.
All artists need somewhere to make their art, where creative urges can be explored and energies expended — these inspiring spaces reside happily within domestic interiors, proving that it is possible to combine home with work successfully.
Many of us work from home, often in a dedicated study or home office. But what do you do if your work involves paints and canvases, or cameras, tripods, and lighting? When it comes to residential workspaces, artists and creatives have quite specific requirements. Architects working in this sphere find themselves juggling the needs for functional spaces with a highly developed aesthetic. And, of course, they also need to blend these areas seamlessly into a home.
Over the past 20 years, UK-based architect Mike Rundell has designed properties for many world-renowned artists, including Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, Sam Taylor-Johnson, and Keith Tyson. He says that, from his experience, an artist’s combined home and studio needs spaces that fulfill many different roles: “Most people like to keep the various parts of their lives separate, so home and work are often very different. Bright studios dominate, while even the most minimal contemporary artist requires warmth in their home environment.”
This echoes the experience of Australian architect Adam Kane. The rural Victoria studio and exhibition space he designed for artist Lawrence Walsh has “a sense of separation from the existing house, but without isolation—a space free of distraction,” Kane explains. “Window placement within the studio was critical, and the incorporation of a large south-facing window provided an indirect light source, suited to painting.” This light is enhanced with an integrated LED strip light at the ceiling’s ridge, “designed to mimic a thin slice of sunlight, while providing a wide spread of functional diffused light.”
At an artists’ retreat on the Mexican coast, meanwhile, Japanese architect Tadao Ando articulated the need for separation succinctly: with a concrete wall measuring 1,023 feet long by 12 feet high (312 m by 3.6 m). The barrier divides the private and public elements of the Casa Wabi Foundation, established by artist Bosco Sodi and directed by Patricia Martín, founding curator of Latin America’s Colección Jumex.
And, in Brazil, as in Victoria, natural light may require an artificial boost. In a double-height studio space in São Paulo designed by local firm AR Arquitetos, a wall of glazing is supplemented by pendant lamps suspended from the ceiling.
High ceilings are not just good for letting the natural light flood in. For artists working at scale, height is paramount for access. “Most [professional] artists aspire to create large and important works suitable for exhibiting in leading museums and galleries,” explains Rundell. “This means that studios have to be large enough to replicate the viewing conditions of those galleries.” And, of course, to get finished works of art out of the studios in one piece.
On the Essex coast in the UK, Lisa Shell transformed a derelict holiday home into a house-cum-studio on stilts for artist Marcus Taylor. The salt marsh it sits on floods every high tide, leading Shell to have a little fun with materials. “The idea of using cork, due to its buoyancy, started as a joke,” she says. “But the more we explored its characteristics, the more appropriate it became.”
In an even more remote spot, Olson Kundig architects created Outpost, a live/work studio and sculpture garden in the high desert of Idaho in the United States, shielded from the wild landscape by thick masonry walls. The structure is designed around one open, multifunctional room overlooked by a mezzanine bedroom, both with 360-degree views of the surroundings.
Back in Victoria, Kane played with the local vernacular, referencing the gable roofs and construction methods of barns and sheds built locally by past generations. “With unnecessary ornamentation stripped from the façades, the building’s contemporary exterior is clad in a compressed cement sheet cladding and corrugated metal,” he says.
“Most people like to keep the various parts of their lives separate, so home and work are often very different.” Mike Rundell
When embarking on a project in Beijing, China, German firm Knowspace’s choice of materials were in part driven by local legislation and labor issues, in the form of unskilled, seasonal construction workers. The compound they designed for two painters in the artists’ colony of Songzhuang is constructed from brick. “Even though the limitations were constraining, they turned out to be very generative and inspiring for the final design,” says Knowspace architect Erhard An-He Kinzelbach.R
Like the Songzhuang project, a brief in The Hamptons also had to accommodate two artistic minds. Architect Josh Weiselberg of TBD Design Studio in New York used disparate materials as a way of distinguishing the disciplines of his married clients Jeffrey and Lynn Leff. The studio comprises two intersecting volumes: one is a steel frame with a translucent polycarbonate curtain wall, and the other is a wood frame with cedar siding and punched windows. The first volume houses Jeffrey’s collage studio; the second is a ceramic studio run by Lynn.
“The two uses of the space were somewhat at odds with each other,” admits Weiselberg. “One involves a relatively sterile environment of paper and glue, while the other was likely to be filled with moisture and dust. The collage studio was conceived as a very still environment with lots of diffused natural light, hence the polycarbonate cladding. The ceramic studio, meanwhile, was conceived as a more open-air environment with lots of operable windows.”
The common thread running through all these projects? They demonstrate the imaginative solutions required to fulfill the requirements of artist clients. According to the architects, they’re often knowledgeable, keen to be involved, and happy to push boundaries. “Artists are generally visually very well-informed and enjoy the overall creative process,” observes Rundell.
Shell’s experience backs this up. Taylor “brought skills to the table that are rare in most clients. He is a maker and doer, rather than a talker and worrier.” Likewise, Knowspace’s painters “were open-minded in terms of how they could imagine living, helping to create unconventional spaces and spatial connections.”
Shell, meanwhile, thinks that this approach could inform other residences: “Homes always have spaces with the potential to stimulate or accommodate creativity, and this consideration should always be part of residential design.”R
On the market
This six-bedroom residence, complete with art studio, spans 2.3 acres (0.9 ha) and is inspired by Moroccan opulence and minimalist design. A dramatic open-air foyer leads to soothing sight lines and seamless indoor–outdoor living, while pivoting iron and glass doors link the great room with lush gardens and hidden courtyards.
A bright loft art studio is just one highlight of this four-bedroom, three-bath home located in a peaceful cul-de-sac. Views of the Lake of Two Mountains meet top-quality design over 7,500 sq ft (697 sq m) of interiors, which include polished travertine floors. There is also a spectacular gourmet kitchen and main-floor master suite with walk-in closet.
Just Listed on Lake Simcoe: 968 Degrassi Cove Pl W, Innisfil
This custom home direct waterfront home was built in 2000 by the current owner and has served as a sanctuary for family and friends. Over their 22 years of ownership, they have enjoyed the property during every season.
Degrassi Cove is a small and exclusive waterfront community and share the private road. The forested lands on the opposite side of the street provide great privacy. There is no vehicle traffic other than the neighbours, so it is very safe for kids.
Built as a 4-season home and located on the west-side of Lake Simcoe. You will enjoy north-west facing views of the lake and sunsets. There are no stairs to the water’s edge. The water table is level to the lot, which offers a beautiful beach area along the shoreline. There is great swimming and boating. The portable dock is 65 ft long with a 12’ x 12’ patio area. Boating enthusiasts can store their boat in the dry boathouse. Entertaining on the lake is so easy!
The home offers 2,700 sf on the main and upper level. The principal rooms offer generous space including a large private family room, formal dining room, large great room combined with the eat-in kitchen. In addition, there is 1,535 sf of finished space on the walk-out level. There are four generous size bedrooms. The primary bedroom is situated on the main level and overlooks the lake, and includes a five-piece ensuite, a walk-in closet and a garden door to the lakeside patio area. The three other bedrooms are located on the second floor.
The lower level includes a large recreation room with wood-burning fireplace and a walk-out to the lake. A large office with a built-in desk and bookcases can serve as a large 5th bedroom. The 3-piece bathroom is also equipped with a partially finished cedar-lined sauna. There is plenty of storage space on this level too.
Photography by @ishutterphoto
Staging by @chateau_designandstaging
This professionally designed custom-built home embodies a comfortable, vintage cottage feel built with energy efficient maintenance-free materials. This home offers a private park-like setting, with in- town conveniences. It’s a nature lover’s lot…a sanctuary for birds and wildlife. This one in in a million home was showcased in a 16-page spread in Cottages & Bungalows Magazine.
Shiplap walls and wood slat ceilings throughout impart a cabin-like coziness. The primary bedroom is secluded on the main floor overlooking a wooded area that surrounds the property. The front office duals as an additional main floor bedroom adjacent to a 3-piece bathroom. The upper level includes two additional bedrooms that provide enhanced privacy for guests. One of the bedrooms functions as a seating area with a Murphy bed and small kitchenette. It has been designed as a secure space for future rental opportunity.
Located in the charming lakeside village of Bayfield, this property is a stone-throw away from Lake Huron, a short walk to town, the fishing pier and marina, Pioneer Park and the Community playground. This spectacular property backs on to a designated environmental area and surrounded by trees makes it an ideal retreat for entertaining family and friends.
It’s no secret that green has been trending in a major way lately. Not only does the leafy shade conjure the sensation of being outdoors after two years cooped up at home, it also is a versatile (and welcome) alternative to traditional colors like white and gray.
Sweet 3 bedroom home that has a light and airy feel to the interior. Vaulted ceiling with open concept design creates a welcoming feel with plenty of natural sunlight all afternoon. Hardwood floors in bedrooms. Updated interior ready to be moved in to. It is a special place to call home or cottage.
Large wrap-around deck features West-facing views of 2-acre park of which you would be a 1/10th owner. Private dock for all park owners. Deeded Lake Simcoe access is rare to find. Very private setting with mature trees.
Message us today for more information or to book private showing.
staging by @chateau_designandstaging
photography by @ishutterphoto
20 Quiet Heights Lane, Georgina provides views of the lake from all spaces on the west side of them home, including the great room, kitchen, dining area, and primary bedroom.
You will enjoy the morning sunrise from the front covered porch and of course, sunset views from the lakeside. The natural sunlight fills the home with warmth and light all day long. It’s tranquil, serene, and welcoming.
In the design stages, the current owner had some important “must-have’s” including a Muskoka like feel, spaciousness, sun-filled rooms, and an “understated elegance“ carried throughout the home.
Some of the interior features include:
– 3 bedrooms on main level and 2 additional bedrooms on the lower level
– 3 full bathrooms plus powder room
– 10.9 ft ceiling height on the main level and 9 ft ceiling height on the lower level
– Great room includes custom millwork and 13 ft vaulted coffered ceiling
– Gourmet kitchen with upgraded appliances
– Spectacular light fixtures including ceiling fans in each bedroom
– Custom drapery and blinds
– Radiant heated floors in kitchen, primary ensuite and the entire lower level
– Surround sound system both indoors and outdoors
A full list of room features, additional images, virtual tour, and more can be found on our website (link in bio).
This listing is also available on realtor.ca (MLS# N5657656)
When you combine the attention to detail of a quality builder with the owner’s vision to create a sanctuary home, the result is spectacular.
This home offers a “Zen” feel immediately upon your arrival.
The landscaping is wonderfully appointed with a collection of perennial gardens, shrubs, mature trees and privacy hedges on both sides, which is home to many birds. There are several seating areas promote great conversation with family and friends or a place to enjoy some quiet time when you want to be alone and enjoy nature all around you.
This is a wonderful home to entertain in both indoors and outdoors. The raised balcony includes a covered area where you can enjoy a summer rain shower. The open area provides lots of space for your chaise loungers to get some sun and watch an array of boats on the lake.
The lower deck is covered and a perfect location for the 7-seater plus lounger hot tub along with another separate seating area to enjoy the lake views.
Listing Price: $1,935,000
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The full listing can be found on our site & on realtor.ca (MLS# N5657656)