Posted by: Liz Massey | November 16, 2012

Build Your Studio II: How

Photo courtesy of Simon Gurney via SXC.

Today, we continue our series on creating personal creative workspaces by covering a few tips on actually constructing or arranging the space.

Clearly, the kind of studio you create will reflect in large part the creative disciplines you practice. But when we examine how active artists have built their studios, we find several common themes. Good studios generally are …

Suited to the type of art being made. The Art Studio photo group on Flickr is a great place to review an enormous range of workspaces. Most of them have some common features (which jive with some of the themes below), but a printmaker’s studio doesn’t look like a sculptor’s, and neither of those look much like a studio created by a painter who works without an easel.

Your workspace should reflect the sort of art that you do. A musician will consider auditory factors before visual ones (most of the time), and visual artists who work with “messy” materials will want to consider the clean up potential of their space more than artists who create with their bodies, or with digital materials. Writers, with their need to organize and access research material, have an entirely different set of studio needs; this photo essay by contributors to the site The Millions demonstrates that figuring out where to place the computer, and where to scatter the research materials around it, often influence studio construction more than any other factor.

Well lit and well ventilated. Safety and comfort are paramount in carving out studio workspace. If you feel dizzy, hot, cold, or depressed in your studio, you’re not going to be drawn there to work. Alina McKee, who composed this handy little checklist for making a room into an art studio, says this about proper ventilation.

 All good studios need plenty of ventilation to disperse paint fumes or pastel dust. You can either install a ventilation fan in the ceiling, or set up a box fan in an open window, depending on your needs.

McKee and many other visual artists stress the primacy of good light for painters in their studios. Sarah Baker, writing on, has this advice related to lighting:

Lighting is the most important consideration for any artist. Ideally, your studio will have plenty of natural, northern exposure lighting. If this is simply unavailable, you’ll need to look into purchasing full-spectrum lighting for your workspace. Full-spectrum lighting is artificial but mimics natural light, allowing you to see colors and textures accurately and easing potential eye strain. Full-spectrum lighting is available in most home-improvement warehouse stores.

Easy to keep clean and organized. As alluded to earlier, a great space won’t stay great if it quickly gets burdened with paint that won’t come off the floor, papers and files that can’t be stored conveniently, or if finished work begins to compete with work-in-progress for space. Baker, writing in the article mentioned above, says,

You will … need an organizational system for your tools and supplies. Again, depending on your chosen medium, you might need lots of shelving, storage boxes, cabinets, or drawer space. Having an organizational system in place will help you keep your area clean and tidy. It will also help you keep tabs on your supplies, so you won’t waste valuable time searching for things, or money reordering stock you already have.

The ideal art studio is (also) easy to clean. Depending on your medium, you may have to have a clean-up sink close by. …You will also want to choose durable surfaces that are not easily damaged, and are easy to clean up with soap and water.

A place where creative cross-pollination can occur. Once a studio is clean, organized, safe, well-lit, and configured so you can practice your specific creative discipline, you will want to make sure it’s a place where you can genuinely experience inspiration! For many artists, that means a space that allows them to freely play with their materials.

In a 2010 review that I wrote of Lynne Perrella’s book Art-Making and Studio Spaces, I noted that, “Some artists have vast collections of craft materials, fabrics, books or found objects to spark ideas for new projects. Most studios make ample room to store and work with these treasures, and their necessity in terms of an artist’s finished work is obvious.” Perrella’s book is one of many places to look for inspiration to figure out how to store your play materials so that they promote, not impede, your creative work.

More inspiration and advice on studio building

Make an Art Studio | DIY Network
Need some specific step-by-step help constructing or renovating your studio (which I clearly am not equipped to give!)?  This project primer takes the reader through the process of painting the ceilings and walls of a would-be studio, building an art table from scratch, and creating an “ideal board” on one of your walls by using oriented strandboard and foam panels.

Design Sponge

Design Sponge is sort of the tasty cream-puff of design sites – lots of photos, hip color schemes and forward-thinking ideas for reconfiguring a space. It’s focus is mostly on home design, but it covers a lot of other ground as well. The “office + organization” tab of their Sneak Peeks section covers a lot of makeovers that can be useful to artists designing their home studios.


If your potential studio contains more muddle than delight, Unclutterer is the place to get detailed information on how to store, organize, or rid yourself of whatever is ailing the space. The site’s Workspace of the Week post frequently features creative workspaces. The minimalism or fastidious cleanliness may be a little intimidating for those who are starting with a lot to plow through, but this is the site where you’ll find practical ideas for making the de-cluttering happen.

Photo courtesy SXC.

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