At Home Art Studio/Workspace
I’ve had A LOT of BIG changes over the past couple months (and year in general), both personally and professionally. To say I’ve been busy and hustling would be a huge understatement… but when I think about the life I want and goals I have for myself it makes it feel exciting rather than strenuous.
One of the biggest changes recently was moving out of the apartment we have lived in for the past three years (our first home in Philadelphia and together) and into a much larger house. We LOVED our first apartment together, it was a penthouse with a rooftop deck and gorgeous natural light that came through all the big windows - perfect for my creative energy, but it was not as fancy as it sounds. It was tiny and “studio” or “loft” style, completely open with no walls or doors other than the bathroom. This made working at home a nightmare (for both Chuck and I). I would usually sprawl out and end up taking over the whole house while making new art or prepping for shows.
One of the major deciding factors for our new place was space for an at home studio. This was essential, both for our sanity and for my organization and productivity as an artist and business owner. Working with the larger of the two extra bedrooms, I finally have my own art studio!
I’ve complied a list of things that I find essential (or at least really great to have) for an at home workspace, for both artists and non-artists. I’ve included links on the italicized words to items I recommend. Additionally, I’ve listed some pros and cons to having an at home space compared to an outside studio/office.
I hope this is helpful to others who are working from home, or considering it!
Desk. A solid desk is important for any good workspace. Make sure to pick a desk that fits your needs and style. Maybe you need a bunch of drawers or one that adjusts heights and angles. Whatever it is, make sure you have a good desk!
Storage. Plenty of storage helps keep your space organized, which allows for more productive work time. I have a file cabinet for all my important business documents, keeping them safely away. I use hanging wall organization for my every day notes and papers, drawers for smaller things and shelves for larger things. I also use mason jars, little boxes an containers to keep my pencils, brushes and other little items together.
Printer/scanner. Having an at home printer/scanner san save a lot of hassle and time having to go to a public place to print (not to mention they up-charge for supplies). I have both inkjet and laser printers for different purposes. For general use inkjet is perfect, they’re small and usually inexpensive both for printer and ink. They seem to last forever, I’ve had mine since 2010 and it still works like a charm.
Comfy chair. If you’re working for long periods of time, it’s important you have a comfortable and supportive chair, for your body and productivity. I recommend something with a back and cushioning - not a stool, plastic or metal. Mine is a midcentury resale that I draped in faux fur and a little pillow, for additional comfort and style.
Plants. Not only do plants clean the air, they literally bring life into the space. There are plenty of easy to care for indoor plants. I have a ton of plants in my house, but in my studio I have a Pathos hanging from the ceiling, which keeps it out of the way and growing gorgeously.
Scrap paper/notebooks. Make sure you never run out of paper to jot things down and make lists. Having something physical to write on is convenient for thinking things out, quick information, and anything that you want to remember or work through.
Surge protector plugs. You’ll be plugging in a lot of important electronics in your workspace (phone, computer, printer, cameras, etc.) so you want to make sure they are protected from electrical surges. Especially if you live in an old house like me, make sure to get extension cords or plug splitters that are surge safe.
Inspiration. Artwork, photographs, trinkets, books, crystals, bones, inspirational quotes, whatever gets you excited to hustle. Make sure your workspace is inspiring and enjoyable to spend time in.
Aroma therapy. Candles or essential oils in a diffuser, they’re great mood boosters and can help keep you relaxed and enjoying your space while you work. I use both in my studio, depending on what mood I’m in and the season.
Specific trade supplies. Whatever your trade may be, you’re going to need specific supplies (software, tools, cameras, external hard drives, instruments, speakers, etc.). You know what you need to get your job done, make a list of every little thing you can think of so that you never go without something important.
Good lighting. This is something I’m adamant about because the lighting in the room not only affects the atmosphere, but it literally affects colors. You don’t want to create something with the wrong color or hues because of bad lighting. Natural light is ideal, so if you can, pick a room/space to work that has good natural light. You may not have access to it and that’s okay, because you can get “daylight” light bulbs that are perfect for working even at night or on cloudy days. They’re a little more expensive than the average bulbs, but they are worth the investment.
Easels. I recommend having a couple easels (or spaces to create). If you’re anything like me, you probably have many projects going on at any given time, so having multiple easels gives multiple places to work. It also gives a place to leave your works in progress to dry and be out of harms way, and you’re not constantly switching between pieces to work in one spot. If you work on paper, you can prop up a large drawing board (or smooth wood) and use artist tape to work vertically instead of on a table, which is better for your neck and back. I have two easels and a space on the wall to hang paintings.
Soft standing mat. If you work standing, a soft foam standing mat is essential for taking care of your feet, joints and back. I have one under my wall workspace.
Sink/running water. If you work with any sort of physical media, it’s likely you’ll need running water at the very least wash your hands, and possibly clean brushes or other tools. Having a sink/running water near by saves a lot of hassle and mess, try to have your workspace as close to running water as possible.
Brush cleaner. There are many kinds of brush cleaners, so you’ll have to find the one that works best for your needs, but I recommend “The Masters” Brush Cleaner & Preserver. It’s a quality product at a really reasonable price, and a little goes a long way. I use it on my acrylic brushes after rinsing them with water, and on my oil brushes after cleaning them the best I can with natural terpenoid. Sometimes I’m a bad painter and let paint dry on my brushes, but I don’t like throwing them away because I try to be eco-friendly. Plus it’s a waste of money to constantly buy new brushes. This stuff helps restore them to useable condition!
Air purifier. This will help keep the air clean, especially if you use liquid varnish or resin. Turn on the air purifier 48 hours before you varnish or resin and it’ll save you a lot of time digging out dust and hairs while it dries. I also use picnic nets to cover the art while it dries, and this also helps prevent junk from getting in it.
Drop cloth. If you rent your home like I do, you won’t want to destroy or stain the space. I personally use a clear plastic drop cloth to cover a portion of the wall that I work on and the floor. You could also use old bedsheets or a blanket, but I prefer plastic because it’s easier to clean, non-porous, doesn’t leave fuzzies around and is easier to tape.
Tripod. If you’re a modern artist you’ll likely need to take photos and videos of yourself and your work, and you might not always have someone there to help. A tripod and self timer will be your best friend. If you have a camera you could use a standard tripod, but if you just use your cellphone you could get a little tripod (that’s even easy to bring with you everywhere).
Sketchbooks. It’s never a bad idea to have a ton of sketchbooks, to take note and quick sketch ideas when inspiration strikes. I have many sizes and paper colors; like white, tan and gray. I usually take a sketchbook with me when I travel too, so stay practiced and sharp.
Camera. Now, I know our phones can take pretty decent quality photos now, and that’s great for social media, but if you want to take the photos of your work to the next level you should eventually invest in a decent camera. They have the ability to take way higher resolution photos and ultimately you’re going to present yourself and your work more professionally. I have a small and easy to use Samsung NX Mini, it’s nothing fancy, but it does a great job at photographing my work and didn’t break the bank. It has interchangeable lenses for different uses, but you’ll have to get those separately. Eventually I’ll upgrade, so if you have the funds I say go all out and get a really nice camera.
Save Money. You don’t pay additional rent or fees to rent a studio/office, and you can write off the space from your rent/mortgage in your taxes.
Save time. You don’t spend time driving to and from your workspace, which gives you time to focus on actual work.
Forgetting things. You’ll never find yourself saying “damn…I left ____ at home…”, everything will be in one place where you work and live.
Access to food and drink. You’ll never have to run out or order food delivery (unless you want to) because your kitchen will be right there.
Work any time. You wont be limited by open and closed hours, you run the place so you can work any time you like. I’m a night owl, so this especially pleases me.
Distractions. I know in the past I’ve had to deal with loud noises, traffic and events going on in past studio buildings. It can be a huge distraction, and working from home means you’ll only be dealing with whatever you have going on in your house. If anything at home is distracting me I make it stop when I’m trying to work, which I couldn’t always do at shares studio buildings.
Temperature. Usually you can control the temperature much easier in a home than in a studio, and it doesn’t result in an additional bill.
Community. Unfortunately when you work from home you won’t have people working in the same space or next door. Some people thrive better with other like-minded people working near them.
Bringing work home. Some people prefer to keep work and life separate, so having two different places designated for each may be preferred.
Resources. Sometimes being in a communal space you have access to physical or other resources not available at home. This depends on the office/studio space.
Space. Depending on your home, you may not have an extra room, basement, etc. for a workspace. Outside studio spaces usually have higher ceilings as well.
Events. Some studio/offices will host events or share information about other local events with tenants.
For me, the pros outweigh the cons, and now that I have a separate space for creating and keeping all my art relating things, I’m loving it. Consider what’s essential and important to you and your business to determine what you need.
Would love to know what YOU find essential for your at home (or not at home) workspace? What have I not thought of that would add value to my (or others) studio or make my life easier?