• 12.21.16

This Home Separates Your Work And Life For You

The Zen Houses delineate home and office by putting them in separate, but nearly identical, buildings.

There’s a reason why it’s nice to go to an office–it creates an important physical separation of your work life and home life. But for freelancers who work from home, that kind of distance isn’t always possible.


Unless you have a house that splits living and working space down the middle. That’s the idea behind the Zen Houses. Located in the Czech Republic and designed by architects Petr Stolin and Alena Micekova, the Zen Houses are composed of two identical, three-meter-wide rectangular buildings separated by a large tree and garden and connected by a slightly elevated platform.

One house with a primarily white interior is meant as a studio space, while the second, decked out in darker colors, is designed as living space. The color schemes create a simple, visual distinction between the two modes of living. “The philosophy of these houses is based on absolute simplification of the definitions of housing and development,” Stolin and Micekova told Co.Design over email.

The two buildings take the conception of “house” and “office” and distill them down into simple components. Each makes use of a basic palette of materials including chipboard, wooden beams, plywood, raw metal, and rubber, and the exterior is cloaked in translucent acrylic panels that give a sense of the volume of each building. The two structures echo each other deliberately–according to the architects, the repetition of the forms was inspired by contemporary Japanese architecture–and could easily be confused. Which is for work and which is for life? The Zen Houses’ uniformity becomes a metaphor for the blurring between work and life, as technology makes you reachable at all hours and the gig economy upends traditional delineations of the nine-to-five job.

So despite the physical separation between work and life, the question remains: Can you truly flout the ever-present push to work harder for longer hours if the office is right next door?

[Photos: Filip Slapal]

About the author

Katharine Schwab is a contributing writer at Co.Design based in New York who covers technology, design, and culture. Follow her on Twitter @kschwabable.