written by:
December 20, 2010
In this new, exclusive series for Dwell.com, Linda Taalman of Taalman Koch Architecture will track the hands-on renovation of her and her partner's live-work space in Los Angeles. Week 3 project: Creating a work space, and finding a live-work balance.

Consolidating live and work programs into one space has many advantages. No more wondering if that book is at home or in the office, no more driving to work in the morning and home in the evening, no double tea and coffee sets—one powerhouse espresso machine. We've experienced a couple live-work arrangements before: some were like working in your house, while others were like camping in your work space. We sought to find the balance of having a functional work space between 9 and 5, and a cozy live space off-hours.
taalman renovation post3 1

When we set out to find the ideal office arrangement, the first task was finding a space that was conveniently located for our staff. Luckily this place is in central Hollywood, walking distance to lots of lunch places, and had adequate parking for office visitors. Beyond the location, the most pressing problem we faced was making the space work for both live and work purposes, and finding a way for them to co-exist without over-contaminating each other.

The Courtyard Apartments lend themselves nicely to an ideal live-work situation due to its two-level parti. The downstairs, with its concrete floors, kitchen, and powder room works for chairs on wheels, lunch and coffee breaks, and keeping the personal private. The upstairs space, with the bedrooms and other 2 bathrooms, is relegated to 100% private. The challenge was how to make the office fit comfortably without taking over the entire downstairs, and leave room for dining and lounging.

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We decided early on to utilize the long brick wall on the north side, opposite the fireplaces and kitchen. The connecting hallway between the original two units, created when the units were joined, was almost six feet wide—overly large for a hallway but not big enough for a ‘room’. We built a single 33-foot-long desk along the brick wall, big enough for five workstations and a central hub. The dining table doubles as a conference table and a spillover work space.

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To minimize the office's downtime, we needed a custom desk solution that could be built quickly. Anderson Plywood in Culver City stocks an amazing range of plywood and hardwood materials that they can cut in-house and have ready pretty much overnight. Complete assembly took only two days from the prefab parts. We slimmed the desks to 24 inches wide, not only to maintain a generous walking space from front to back but also to maximize our chosen material: pre-finished phenolic-coated euro ply.

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Each desk is made from a 1.5-inch light brown top, the color of the brick wall, supported by a series of three-quarter-inch dark brown fins. The extra plywood we had left over was used to make cubbies for each workstation. Each desk would have a space for books and files and a small shelf for personal items.

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We also said a sad goodbye to our Aeron chairs. They were simply too bulky and visually obtrusive to work in our living room and kitchen/dining room. Our Project Architect, Rebecca, had brought in her own rolling “Capisco” stool by HAG and we noticed that it tucked nicely under the desk, so during off hours it was basically invisible. Our other employees tried them out for a week and decided that they could work comfortably without the Aerons and so they went out the door via Craigslist.

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Through a simple lighting change the space shifts over at night to living space. At night the row of lights directly above the desk are turned off and the chairs tuck underneath and the long desk disappears into the background.


Read Week 1 here.

Read Week 2 here.

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