It's no secret that rents for artist studios in New York City have been skyrocketing over the last decade. I remember a few years ago I was searching for an affordable studio space and the nearest I could find one open and available was in Gowanus (nearly an hour from my apartment). I've been living in a three-bedroom for the past six years (though some creative liberties were taken in calling it such), and when our roommate moved out right before our wedding (a New York love story isn't complete without still having roommates while saving for your wedding), I immediately commandeered the bedroom off the kitchen as my future office/studio. Ironically enough, it was my bedroom when I first moved in six years ago and I still wonder how I fit a full-sized bed, a yoga mat, and dresser in the space. All in all, I've been calling it my office/studio/she-cave since. It's been great to have a space to call my own and even selected it as the space for my photoshoot with my high school friend Erika Nizborksi's 30 At Thirty project.
It's been a year since I moved into the space and four paintings later, the space just wasn't conducive to the scale of work I want to do now. The setup also led me to make it more difficult for myself to stay organized. My desk also became a dumping ground for my work bag, mail, clothing donation piles, and half-finished craft projects. My she-cave became unbearable to work with, so instead of throwing in the towel I decided to declutter, rearrange, and reorganize. Over the course of one weekend (really, about seven hours across two days), my disastrous and dark she-cave became the studio space of my dreams.
Before (Very dark, very cluttered, very sad):
After (Clean, bright, and organized):
Here is what I did to maximize the time and space I had:
Grouped and decluttered materials as I went.
As I grabbed stuff off my desk and out of my closet, I would group similar materials and tools with each other, and opened up boxes to see what was inside. If something seemed out of place (like the box my old Fitbit came in), I set it aside in a different pile. If it was something I immediately didn't want or need, I put it in the donation pile.
Getting rid of dead wall and air space.
I knew that I wanted to work on larger canvases moving forward, and the best way to do so in this small space was to hang canvases directly on the wall. My current set up had my desk pushed against the only full-sized wall I had in the room (the other three walls had a closet, doorway, or window in the way.) I moved things around so I had access to a full wall and moved the desk in front of the window so I wasn't creating "dead space" again. My view from the window is thankfully half brick wall, half actual sky, so it is actually lovely to look outside.
The design of the rooms in my apartment include a closet that juts out into the room, making random nook and crannies. Originally, I had this random cabinet from a past roommate sitting in the nook, again not utilizing the space fully. I also had a full closet where I laid down drawings on the shelf, but then had dead air space above them. I purchased a new industrial shelf that fit perfectly into the nook and then adjusted the shelf heights based on the materials that would be stored on top. For instance, I'm storing drawings on a shelf with a height of three inches, whereas directly below I have almost two feet of space so I can use the scanner.
Allow for easy access.
I wanted to make sure everything was easily accessible and not a pain. For instance, I made sure not to put any furniture in front of outlets and the shelf with the scanner at the same level as my desk, which I also adjusted to increase the height so it was more comfortable to both stand and sit. When I started putting stuff back into the room, I made sure that things I needed on hand more frequently were at my desk or a lower shelf, which items that required long-term storage were placed on higher shelves.
Group items used together in same places.
I do a variety of creativity activities (writing, drawing, painting, sewing, and photography), but have issues of focusing on just one project I have on hand, so I decided to organize all materials based on the activity. All my sewing related items go into the white cabinet, all painting materials are in the industrial shelves, books and notebooks into the closet, and drawings supplies on the lower shelves of my desk legs.
Organize things out of sight, out of mind.
Before I kept all my drawing materials and supplies on my desk thinking it would lead to easy access. It got to be overwhelming, messy, and would severely limit the desk space I needed. I decided to organize the room so that items had a home that was out of sight so I could keep the desk clear. The desk I used as a painting palette (it's a glass top), writing, checking emails, cutting fabric, etc.
Do you have a home studio space that needs organizing? Are there any tips you might try?