St. James

Habitats: Adelaide East & Church

Our city is losing the traditional division of living versus working spaces; alongside the increasingly anxious real estate ads for "live/work" spaces, there are all of our actual live/work spaces--some zoned for strictly for industry, where people live illegally alongside their studios and small businesses, but most zoned for residential use, where we squeeze work into spaces designed for living rooms and bedrooms and kitchens.

"I don't really need to separate my work and my life," says Abigail, a fashion and music photographer has managed to fit her working life into an ordinary apartment building on Adelaide East.

Accessories wall

What: 2-bedroom at Adelaide East and Church
Who: Abigail, photographer
How much: $1300. /month incl. utilities
Layout: living room, kitchenette, bedroom, office, balcony.

"I've been pleased with how it's worked out," she says of her 650 square foot space. The combination of living and working comes naturally to her: "My parents are artists, so I grew up this way! It's harder in an urban environment, because you can't always have separate spaces, a special room of your own for work." She does most of her shoots in the living room (a roll of background paper takes up most of the main wall); the smaller bedroom serves as an office.

Abigail's desk

"I fantasize about a huge high-ceiling studio space...because groups can be a challenge. Though recently I was shooting a friend's band, William the Conqueror; there were six people. It was a squeeze but we got what they needed." Abigail needed to find an inexpensive home that fit with her working life and personality. A year ago, looking for a place of her own, she had a practical list: "I knew what I needed: to be downtown, south-facing, to have a big main space for the photo shoots. Oh, I had a long list!"

Initially, Abigail was unconvinced by the neighbourhood, but she now loves her view of St. James. "A while ago, I came back from a trip and the church clock was dark--I was so upset, I suddenly realized how often I look out at it! They were doing work on the clock; one day, I got up and the arms were even gone, it was just terrible. Finally, the clock came back...I love my church, my view. You can see the light change, the sky kind of glows just before the snow starts. And then the whole intersection there whites out, it just disappears and, because of the park, it feels like a little village."

The illusion of living in a village helps Abigail feel comfortable working at home. "I love this apartment, it's the first apartment in Toronto where I feel at home, where I am at home."

St. James Park

6 Home Questions:

What do you love most about your home? The light: if I'm working, it's a good place to be.

What drives you crazy? The schizophrenic bell of the church. On weekdays, it's nice and predictable. But this past Saturday, there was just insanity, it went on and on... But I do like the Church, having this odd medieval-feeling influence outside my window.

What's your favourite place in your home? Whichever is the biggest table! I've been trying to train myself to use my desk, but it's kind of small. Soon I'm going to be installing a really big former sewing table, which will be perfect for my drawings and for all the paper detritus that accumulates.

What do you like best about the neighbourhood? I love the different styles of buildings, the different ages, around the park. Being steps from the Financial District is strange: it's not really a community I would normally want to live beside. But I can walk everywhere!

What's most surprising about this home? I guess I'm not an easily surprised person.

If your home were a kind of fruit, what would it be? Could I choose an eggplant, just for the colour? If it has to be a fruit, it would be a starfruit, translucent, light, with compartments.

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