Scott & Scott Architects Live Above the Shop, and What a Shop It Is

House and tall tree on a city street

Scott & Scott

Years ago, it was very common for people to live above their shop. It was very sensible too, as the family could work together and raise their kids, all in one place. It seems to work particularly well for architects, many of which are husband and wife teams; TreeHugger has shown a few, such as Toronto's hot Superkul and Workshop Architecture. Now Scott & Scott, a young Vancouver firm, have built their own offices in a former butcher shop below their home. We're using our slideshow mode that shows the photos at full height and apologize for the scrolling, but the images are so beautiful, it would be a shame to constrain them.

credit: Scott & Scott

The practice of architecture has changed so much in the computer age, making this possible; when I opened my architectural practice in Toronto I had big drafting tables, filing cabinets and storage; I needed staff, a book-keeper and receptionist. There were zoning laws prohibiting me from working out of my house and clients thought it was unprofessional. Now David Scott tells me:

Our decision to embrace being small and the mobile nature of our discipline ( the use of laptops and smartphones) has allowed us to spend more time in our home eliminating a commute to another building which would be used for only 8-10 hrs.[per day] . Much of our work is either out of the city or within a bike ride of our house so it has worked out really well for us.
credit: Scott & Scott

It really is such a difference. My wife ran my practice and my son came to the office with her and slept under the stairs; more than one client complained about it. But today David can write:

We have two young daughters who we are very happy to be able to spend more time with, in our vegetable garden in a refurbished dwelling which had been purpose built for a family business and which was used in that manner for over 80yrs.
credit: Scott & Scott

And what a lovely and green office it is. The architects write:

A year after the launch of their practice architects Susan and David Scott have completed the refurbishment of the historic commercial space in their 1911 East Vancouver residence. Once a butcher shop and a long running grocery store, the space has been stripped back to a simple volume lined with Douglas fir boards and completed with black stained fir plywood millwork.
credit: Scott & Scott
Using familiar materials from their region the architects built the space themselves with a couple of carpenters. The fir was supplied from a sawyer on Vancouver Island with whom they have worked for several years. Three fir logs were selected, milled and cut to suit the width and height of the space. The work was completed in a manner rooted in traditional methodology while utilizing the availability of modern tooling. The unsalvageable south facing storefront had been infilled by a previous owner and was restored to an area of glass consistent with the original size using a single high performance unit.
credit: Scott & Scott
Informed by a desire to create work which is fundamental in its architecture and supportive of a variety of uses over time the priorities were to maximize the use of natural light, enhance the connection to the neighbourhood, use regional materials which have a known providence, and acknowledge the lumber based building culture of the Pacific Northwest.
credit: Scott & Scott

My favorite part:

The architects favour materials and approaches that wear in and appreciate over time, taking on warmth with maintenance. The interior fir boards are finished with a variant of a warm applied 19th century bee’s wax floor finish with the solvent replaced with Canadian Whiskey.
credit: Scott & Scott
The tables (a first of their self produced furniture designs) are hand stitched finished leather tops on blackened galvanized steel bases.
credit: Scott & Scott

Living above the shop is going to become increasingly common as our work continues dematerialize. It bodes well for the life of our main streets; while it perhaps isn't as good as having vibrant retail uses, it at least ensures that they are inhabited. Scott & Scott have shown how it can be beautiful and green.