09/05/2013 12:18 EDT | Updated 11/05/2013 05:12 EST

Designers maximize efficiency in homes that combine living and work space

VICTORIA - The digital age has created various new career opportunities including an increased demand for those who can integrate live-work spaces.

"I think live-work spaces are becoming more common because technology allows for that," said Peter Schiønning, architectural designer and owner of SOS Design.

Schiønning's design firm specializes in practical spaces that often maximize a small footprint of as little as 186 square metres (2,000 square feet).

Designing live-work spaces like the one he uses in his home or another he created for a Victoria graphic designer means maximizing the efficiency of the space.

"When you have to live and work in the same place it has to be practical; it has to be very functional," he said. "Another thing is if you work from home, for us, for example, it means we have no transportation to go to work. We don't have to worry about that."

Schiønning, like many other entrepreneurs who have chosen to combine their living and work spaces, did so because his work schedule didn't fit the traditional 9-to-5 office hours. He often found himself working at odd hours and it was more practical to walk downstairs than commute to an office.

"I often work late into the night and work when I need to work," he said. "Except for brief moments in my life, I've mostly worked from home."

While practicality is an important part of creating live-work spaces, Jason Halter, architect and owner of Toronto's Wonder Inc., said creating distinctions between private and work areas is also necessary.

"You always need to step away from where you are immediately working, but it also doesn't really make sense to put a bed in the middle of your studio, whether you're an artist or a welder," said Halter.

According to Halter an advantage for artists who choose to inhabit live-work spaces is having immediate access to projects being worked on.

Halter designed a live-work space for Winnipeg artist Kent Monkman. In what was a former industrial garage, Halter used his background in sustainable design to create an efficient space that functioned as a home and an artist studio.

In addition to installing a green roof, beautiful concrete floors and a Douglas fir staircase to a loft bedroom and private space, Halter said maximizing the light was essential in Monkman's home.

"Part of the challenge was that (Monkman) at the beginning didn't know if it was going to be part studio or all studio," said Halter. "It quickly became clear that he needed more light and we added more skylights to create lighting in an interesting way.

"Lighting plays a considerable role in a space like this for a visual artist like Kent."

Even though interest in live-work spaces has increased, Halter said he's had a passion for them ever since living in one himself while living and working in Vancouver.

"I think certainly working from home in the Internet age is one of the best outcomes that we could kind of conceive of," he said.