“You design for your own life because that’s what you know,” says Stephanie Forsythe. The large live-work loft that she and partner Todd MacAllen call home is also the headquarters for molo, a design studio where they focus on the creation of innovative products and the exploration of space making. It’s no surprise that many of molo’s award-winning creations were inspired by the couple’s thoughts and first-hand experiences with live-work apartments and making the most of a small living space in the city.
Stephanie recalls that when they first started out, they worked from a very small apartment where it was necessary to have a bedroom that could be folded away to create private spaces for meetings. “We couldn’t have afforded two separate places, even if we had wanted to,” she recalls. As their product line grew and the awards started piling up, the couple and molo moved to their current bigger digs. “It feels really natural having the live-work environment,” she says, admitting that while they could afford it now, they didn’t really consider working from somewhere other than their home.
You design for your own life because that’s what you know
Monday through Friday anywhere from eight to 20 employees show up at the East Van loft where the couple lives. Never overwhelming, their live-work environment is about light and space. “We don’t have a lot of stuff,” she says. “That’s not because people work here but more because that’s our style. Very minimalist.” Indeed, molo’s products are made of minimalist-meets-organic materials like delicate and ethereal lightweight tissue paper, a heavy kraft paper with a warm earthy presence and sculptural pieces of 100% pure wool felt.
The heart of the loft is the open kitchen and dining room table where the entire molo team meets first thing every morning. At quitting time, though, this becomes the place where the couple does most of the entertaining. Stephanie says that it’s just a question of reinventing the space. Instead of bulky furniture, the couple redefines the dwelling by putting up softwalls, blocks and seating to create the right environment, such as for an intimate dinner alone or a cocktail party with friends. “If we’re having a lot of people, we might throw a BBQ on the roof. For that we might set up the soft blocks, which are great for a long buffet. If it’s a small group of people, we might put up a softwall around the dining room table.” When coworkers are not around, the computer room with its huge Mac monitor transforms into the movie room. “We just bring in the big loungers and hang out there watching movies,” says Stephanie. Even though there are molo-related files, ideas and designs throughout, the couple has no problems switching off work mode and actually living in the loft. “We don’t really interact with the space any differently when people are not here than when they are. Well,” Stephanie says after a long pause, “I might walk around in my pajamas when no one else is around.”
She sees very few cons to life in a live-work space. “When people leave it really changes the feel in here. It just gets quiet,” says Stephanie. But of course, there are certain things you no longer have the luxury of doing when you live where you work. “Sleeping in is not an option,” she laughs. And neither is calling in sick. “I think the situation partly keeps you from getting sick because you just don’t have time,” she says. “The live-work space boosts your immune system!”
MAKING IT WORK: TIPS ON BALANCING LIFE IN THE LIVE/WORK CONDO
- Size doesn’t matter. “It’s really as simple as having a one room live-work space and being able to invite people over without having your bed on display. When we first started we had a futon that we could roll up and put up a soft wall to hide it.”
- Beware disorder. “We don’t like a lot of clutter—it kind of gets in your headspace. So we’ve been pretty selective with the things that we surround ourselves with.” Stephanie and Todd simplified the loft by taking down the blinds and painting everything white.
- Hire wisely. “You really have to like the people you work with,” says Stephanie. “We wouldn’t want people in here who thought about coming in and just punching the clock.”
- Decorating the space to match your personality is key, as you’ll be living there after your work colleagues go home. “Our work is our style,” says Stephanie. The couple’s minimalist and organic designs are reflected on their unfussy décor style, and vice versa.
- Create, and stick to, a work schedule. “The weekend is important to us,” says Stephanie. “This is the time when we’re not constantly being pulled off in different directions. We might work some hours during the weekends, but we really like having that time to ourselves.”
- Go outside. “We realized that for our health we needed to go somewhere. So we leave the space a lot. We go for walks, get fresh air, go hiking or something like that.” Stephanie and Todd, who like to throw get-togethers at their place, also make a point of going out regularly: to the movies, dinner at a restaurant or a friend’s house.
- Get a pet—or have another good reason to leave your condo on a daily basis (yoga, anybody?). “We have a dog and that’s very helpful. If we didn’t have a dog, we might wake up in the morning with no reason to leave,” says Stephanie with a laugh. “But we have to walk the dog!”