Thursday, September 26, 2013

Planning for Live/Work Space

Square Feet Seattle is a great resource for artists and others looking for commercial space to buy or lease. It is also a great primer for anyone considering a real estate transaction. This blog comes from the Square Feet Seattle curriculum:

The most important aspect of moving to a new space, whether it is leased or purchased is to:
Think about why you need a new space. Do you need more storage? A bigger work or living space? Better access for your clients, colleagues or students? More parking options? Lots of windows or more open space or better ventilation? Your answers will help you define and direct your search.

While brainstorming, try to answer these five fundamental questions:
  1. What size of space do you need?
  2. What type of space do you need?
  3. What can you afford?
  4. Which neighborhoods can provide you with the space you want and need at a price you can afford?
  5. Which neighborhoods offer the professional and artistic support systems you need to thrive as an artist, business or organization?
Many other questions will arise that will be unique to your situation and needs: Do you have particular space layout requirement? Do you need a space that can accommodate several art production methods? Do you rehearsal, performance and office space? You might end up with a very long list! 

Once you've articulated your needs, prioritize them. Try to spend at least an hour or more devoted to this step. Round up all major stakeholders -- including those who will work and/or live in the new space -- to participate in this exercise, so that the final list of priorities, wants and needs will reflect each person's concerns.

Tip: If you are leasing space make sure to keep in contact with you landlord periodically especially as the end of your lease nears - try and get a sense of the landlord's intention regarding renewing the lease. Even if you feel secure in your space it is never a bad idea to have a preemptive plan should something unexpected occur.
Assessing Your Needs
To determine the size and type of space you need, begin by reviewing your current workspace layout. Do you have enough wall space, storage space, etc.? Is the location right? Is it too big, or too small? What do you need more or less of in your new space? Do you wish to combine your living and working spaces?

To help you document and clarify your needs, complete the
Space Layout Requirement Worksheets and the Space Analysis Worksheets (even if you are currently lacking a space).These are located on the Square Feet Seattle website.
Space Layout
The Space Layout Requirement Worksheets help you to compare the layout and total square footage of your current space with a potential new space. As you complete the worksheets, disregard categories that do not apply to your situation, while keeping two things in mind:
  1. What type of activities will occur in the room?
  2. What type of furniture and/or equipment will the space need to accommodate?
In determining the total square footage requirements for your new work or live/work space, don't forget to include features such as the hallways between enclosed rooms, or the amount of space around a work station -- typically, an additional 15-30% added to your total square footage. For spaces of 1,500 square feet and up, it might be wise to use the services of an interior designer or space planner in order to create a layout that optimizes efficiency and accuracy in measurement.
Space Analysis
Will your new space need a loading dock? An Auditorium? More parking? Room for residential quarters? The Space Analysis Worksheets will help you answer these questions by getting you to analyze your current space. Ignore questions irrelevant to your particular situation.

It might also be helpful to design a potential layout and compare it to your current space. Both
Bob Vila and offers on-line space layout and planning programs to assist you.

TIP: Arts organizations and businesses should enlist more than one person in searches for space, so that individuals' preferences do not outweigh the needs of the entire group.
Further Questions
As you fine-tune your space needs, also consider the following questions:
  • Can you be productive in a residential space?
  • Do you need commercial/industrial space?
  • Do you want to lease or buy?
  • Have you considered buying space -- either alone or with colleagues?
  • How many occupants share your current space? How many will share your next space?
  • Which locations do you prefer?
  • When can you move?
  • What is your budget?
  • What special features must a space offer in order to accommodate your art practice?
  • If leasing, how long must the lease last?
  • Will you have to store or dispose of toxic materials?
  • Are there any other requirements you need to address?
  • Might your long-term plans, or those of your organization, affect the use or need of the space?
  • Do you need to frequently accommodate gatherings of people? If so, how many?
  • What, if any, are the deficiencies of your current space?
Next Steps:
If you've completed the worksheets, you might be wondering, "What does all this mean?" At the very least, these exercises have gotten you to focus on your space needs and, hopefully, identify more of them.
In addition, the worksheets form a handy, written summary that can serve as your guide when evaluating potential spaces. As you refine your needs, revisit these worksheets. Invite others who will share or use the space to also complete them. 

ArtHaven is a division of my Home Land Seattle brokerage, devoted to working with artists, arts organizations, and cultural institutions. If you need help finding the perfect living or work space, please contact Wendy Ceccherelli at

More information on Square Feet Seattle may be found at

Happy Investing

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