Living Quarters in the Shop

Plenty of people have a shop in their home, but a home in their shop? Believe it or not, people do it and some of them like it. April 24, 2006

I know a lot of people have their shops set up at their place of residence. But does anybody live in their shop, which is in more of an industrial/commercial location? I'm building a new factory, and had the crazy idea of having about a 2-3000sf living quarters/super office built. I know a lot of mini-storage places operate like that. Do any woodworkers?

Forum Responses
(Business and Management Forum)
From contributor J:
My shop is located about fifty yards from my home, so technically I work out of my home. But I can leave the work behind and come back tomorrow. If you live in the same building, it might be hard to feel like you get away from work. Just a mental thing, but very real nonetheless. Ask yourself if this is important.

From contributor D:
I am in the same boat as contributor J, so I would have to agree. Going to the cabin is the only true escape.

From contributor C:
I live with my family in a commercial building which houses my showroom, our apartment, and my workshop (the entire lower level). The shop is separated from the living area by a concrete floor and fire proof staircase enclosure, all approved by the local building inspector. We like this arrangement. When a customer comes in, my wife greets them and buzzes me up from the shop if there are any technical questions. I have a security camera to view the showroom and parking lot from the shop, so she can be free to run errands and whatever else she has to do, and we don't have to worry about missing customers. Houses seem quite small to me now after getting used to 12' ceilings and large, open rooms. We will eventually build a house to move into, but we are in no hurry.

From contributor F:
I know a cabinetmaker that lived in his office, with his fish and all the dust that could migrate in. After 10 years, he saved enough money to buy a nice home on acreage for cash! This guy was cheap and saved every dime. For a stove he used a small barbecue and ate most meals bought from the convenience store in town. Got to hand it to him! Dust and fumes (from drying cabinets) would be the biggest problem. I work from home and my shop is 15 feet away. If I want to get away from work, I've got to go camping.

From contributor B:
You will need to check your local zoning regulations. In our town, you can live in your business building in a commercial zone, but I don't believe that is the case in an industrial zone.

From contributor E:
Last January I moved out of my first shop. I had 1500 sq. ft. and split it in half with a wall and 3 ft. wide door. I used a camping stove for meals and won't even get into some of the other unorthodox living conditions. I got through 7 years like this and was not thrilled, but it was all I could afford at the time. After awhile, you feel like you cannot get away from your work. Especially on bigger jobs when finished carcasses had to be moved into the living area. I now have 2k sq. ft. and live 20 minutes away from my shop. I am much happier in general. The latest I work now is about 8pm, where before some nights would be 1am. If this is a shop for a hobby, I would say go for it, but if you are going to make a living, you may want to at least put it on a separate floor. But I think it's more of a personality thing whether or not it will work for you. Now I like the separation between work and home and won't go back.

Also, insurance and building codes will obviously have to be addressed. I had to leave my last shop due to the landlord not being able to insure his building with a woodshop inside.

From contributor G:
Going on seven years in a 7200 sq ft building. 2000sq ft living space, 1800 sq ft gym, and 3400 sq ft shop. Wife is happy with it and it cost 75% of what a house would have cost to build.

From contributor S:
In 2001 I bought a new shop. I moved into the front office with my wife and two dogs to save money and rented our house out. We stayed there for 2 years while dumping all the money back into the business. Yes, it worked out in the end. Yes, if I had to stay there one more day, I am pretty sure I would have put a bullet in my head. I could handle house and shop on same property. But having to wake up and walk through shop to go to the bathroom or kitchen is enough to make anyone insane.

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor M:
In the late '60s I lived in Manhattan (NY) and really liked the large loft apartments some of the artists had there. In 1977 when I moved my shop to a 10,000 square foot facility in the San Fernando Valley (CA), I built an apartment into an unused corner. For ten years I enjoyed the experience, felt really connected to my reality (enjoyed the 12 ft ceilings) and never felt I'd made a mistake.