Generations of Americans grew up “living over the store,” but Agelio and Delia Batle encountered some obstacles in pursuing that model for their family. “They looked long and hard for a building that would have the potential for mixed use,” says principal architect Ned White, eventually locating a San Francisco building that seemed perfectly situated. Project architect Antje Paiz notes, “Everything uphill from their house is residential, and downhill everything becomes light commercial.” Remodeled to balance both commercial and domestic concerns, the building houses such a rich and vital family life that it makes us wonder why we don’t all live this way.

The family business, Batle Studio, produces art objects for sale in museum stores around the world. And while the Batles do not cater to a retail trade, “They really wanted to be part of the neighborhood,” Paiz says. Accordingly, the building’s new façade telegraphs its dual character, softening the edge of its corrugated metal siding with red cedar trim. Welded plate-steel planter boxes step downhill along the façade; a cedar-paneled entry with a steel I-beam awning above invites passers-by to the gallery area that occupies the front of the workspace. Inside, a stained topping slab covers the existing concrete floor, stretching through an open volume that contains studio, production, shipping, office, and kitchen areas.

A stair accessible from both the studio and the street leads to the family’s second-floor apartment. At 1,000 square feet, living space is modest for a family of four, but the owners opted not to expand the existing space. “They wanted something that felt humble, not something that looked like a modern loft,” Paiz notes. “Cost was a factor, but it wasn’t the vibe that they wanted.” The plan concentrates space in a kitchen/dining/family room that stretches the width of the building and overlooks the street. The owners’ penchant for found objects shows in the live-edge continuous sill of the room’s three windows and in the collage of antique furniture pieces that fills an adjacent corner. A four-riser difference in floor elevation helps separate the front room from the apartment’s single bath and its two compact bedrooms, sized for sleeping rather than hanging out.

In any case, and according to plan, life routinely overflows into the workspace below. “Delia runs the business side of the operation, and very often the kids are downstairs dong homework or art projects,” White observes. After hours, the studio is available as a home theater, getaway space, or party room. As a result, while the building supports a thriving commercial operation, it is the household upstairs that sets the tone. Even in work areas during work hours, White says, “There’s really a family atmosphere.”