How to Set Up Your Home Studio


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by Claire Wu

Regardless of the type of artist you are, having a dedicated space to work is essential. While some may choose a separate area outside their home, it might not be feasible due to budget constraints or lifestyle factors. Creating a studio within your home can be a practical solution, allowing you to curate an ideal workspace that is easily accessible and cost-effective. In this article, we’ll explore various factors that contribute to building your perfect home studio.

WHAT TO CONSIDER WHEN SETTING UP YOUR HOME STUDIO:

What kind of artwork do you make? 

Different mediums require very different studio arrangements. If you’re painting, maybe all you need is an easel and a shelf to store your paints. If you’re a sculptor you might require machinery to create your pieces. If you’re an outdoor photographer, a laptop may be sufficient for you to work.

Howard Harris
Agora Artist Howard Harris at his studio

Even within the same medium, different artists have different processes, and yours may require more or less configuration than a peer working with the same materials. Ask yourself, how much space you will need when creating your work. If you’re painting on ten-foot-tall canvases, for example, a shoebox-sized apartment will not be ideal. 

Are you renting your home?

Can you make permanent changes to your space? How much do you need to preserve the original condition of your home to get your security deposit back, or to avoid violating your lease?

The best way to find that out is to discuss it with your landlord. Every landlord is different when it comes to what they allow their tenants to alter in their units, and some are more flexible than others. The most important thing to remember is to get all approval documented in writing–that way, when the time comes to move out and collect your deposit, they can’t claim that any alterations you’ve made were conducted without their consent.

If you’re unable to make changes, look into renter-friendly options like command strips, peel-and-stick vinyls, and free-standing equipment that can all be removed without damaging the space.

Can you use your materials in a safe way?

If you’re installing a personal woodshop or metal shop in your garage, or bringing a ceramic kiln into your home, make sure that the space can be fitted with whatever safety precautions come with that kind of equipment, whether that’s a proper ventilation system, temperature regulation, or personal protective equipment like safety goggles, gloves, and ventilator masks. 

Used art materials

Even painting can be hazardous without taking proper safety measures. Oil painting, in particular, has been known to cause fires if paints and rags aren’t stored or disposed of properly, and many painters have developed allergies to the solvents in the paints they use after extended exposure to those chemicals.

Beyond your personal safety, every artist should take into account the proper way to dispose of waste materials. Regulations on the proper disposal of hazardous waste may vary based on the area. Artists should be aware of the repercussions of carelessly dumping out paint-contaminated water, and do what they can to handle their materials as safely and sustainably as possible.

If you cannot ensure that your home studio is a safe place to create your artwork, it may not be worth the risk. Your health and the health of those who enter the space should always come first.

What’s your budget?

How much are you willing to spend on your home studio? In all likelihood, getting a nice workspace in your home will probably be an investment, though it’s probably a worthwhile one. 

Still, there are ways to cut down on costs–keep an eye out for sales at whatever retail outlets you’re looking to purchase from and try shopping secondhand. You never know what other people might be looking to let go of, and if the stars align in your favor, you might be able to snag exactly what you’re looking for at a fraction of the market price, just because it wasn’t the right fit for someone else. 

Check out your local thrift stores and online marketplaces like Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist, or your local buy-nothing Facebook groups to see what treasures you might find–even beyond your immediate neighborhood. Perhaps it’s an extra hour or two out of your way, but could still save you hundreds of dollars.

Facebook Marketplace on a mobile device

CHOOSING YOUR SPACE

With all of that in mind, start with this question: What part of your home are you transforming into your studio? 

Many choose to set up their studio in their garage, an extra room, or an external shed outside. This is a great option to keep the studio away from the rest of the house and to separate it as a place to work rather than a place to relax or spend time with family. If space is limited, you may have to either convert an existing room into a studio or work with only a portion of the room. Even a small corner, with a desk or an easel, can be sufficient for some.

Maybe your home studio isn’t even indoors–maybe it’s your deck or driveway, or even a van, like Agora Artist Christiane Palpant, who takes her studio with her on the road. The most important thing is that you choose a space that is easily accessible and makes you feel comfortable and inspired. 

What is the lighting like?

Lighting can make or break a studio space, as it hugely affects the way your artwork looks, as well as how it photographs. Many artists prefer natural light, while others may prefer light fixtures that they can customize and angle to their needs. 

There are a variety of types of lighting fixtures that can be installed in a studio space–clamp spotlights, mounted track lights, free-standing lamps, fluorescent ceiling lights, and more–all of which have their unique pros and cons. Moveable fixtures offer flexibility depending on where you need your light to come from, while hard-wired light fixtures might give off more light overall and be more consistent day-to-day. 

Different bulbs may also affect the light levels as well as the color of the light in your studio, ranging from very warm, yellow light that for a room in your house may feel more inviting but could affect the colors in your artwork, to much the much cooler-toned light that many people dislike about fluorescent lights. That said, being able to change out the bulbs in your lighting fixtures can make this a very easy fix. 

STORING YOUR MATERIALS & ARTWORK

In addition to the space where you create your work, you need to be able to store your materials–preferably in an organized way where you can find the things you need, whenever you need them. For some, that may mean open shelving where everything is visible at a glance. For others, that might mean separate cubbies and containers that can be easily put away and switched out.

artwork storage

And aside from your workspace itself, how much space do you have in your home that you can allocate to storing your artwork? Are you creating your work at a rate with which your space can keep up? A major problem that artists face is not having enough room to store their artwork, and even if you’re working exclusively on a small scale, your home could fill up quickly.

If you’re working with limited space, see if you can find storage solutions that fit within your parameters. Works on paper can go inside flat-file cabinets that could be tucked underneath a desk. 

Large-scale paintings can be made on canvas instead of hard boards, then un-stretched, rolled up, and stored in much tighter spaces. There may be hidden areas in your home that are suitable for storing work out of the way–such as the tops of shelves or underneath your bed–though make sure to do so safely to avoid damage from dirt, pests, or mold.

Renting a storage unit to coincide with your home studio may be more cost-effective than renting an external studio space. There are plenty of options to explore as you figure out what works best for you, as long as you know where to look.

TAKE IT ONE STEP AT A TIME

As with any type of space in your home, there’s no need to rush to get things set up. Start with the essentials, and give yourself time to accumulate the rest. It can be a tedious process, but well worth the effort, and your patience will pay off!

 


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