Help us build our studio
June 30, 2012 9:01 AM   Subscribe

Artists: What are your must-have features for an art studio?

We are in the planning stages of building a house/painting studio. The ground floor will consist of a very open plan with a small sitting/socializing area, a kitchen and a bathroom. The bulk of the square footage will be devoted to the studio. The plan includes: bullet proof floors (we're thinking concrete, but are open to suggestions), utility sink, several skylights (the upstairs is a loft), track lighting, a safety cabinet for volatile materials and plenty of storage (suggestions appreciated). Have you built a studio, planned it in your head, or worked in one you love(d)? What do you like the most, what have you missed the most, what was a pain in the butt? Give us your ideas please.
posted by txmon to Media & Arts (14 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
vertical drying rack for your paintings
posted by Bohemia Mountain at 9:37 AM on June 30, 2012

Do you do most of your art on your feet? If so, I would recommend rubber flooring for softness and the ease of cleaning. I stand on concrete all day and I REALLY notice how much my overall health has deterioated in the past couple of years. What about HVAC? Does your enviroment need to be dry (so ruling out radiators but maybe in-floor radiant heat - not sure if that is doable with rubber). Skylights are nice but can be overwhelmingly hot and bright depending on your location, double-check the placement.
posted by saucysault at 9:38 AM on June 30, 2012

Don't do concrete floors!!!

I've renovated a whole building for my art school. The first floor is a slab, and the second floor is old, crappy hardwood covered over with new subfloor. It is springy and comfortable on the second floor, and the first floor is very fatiguing.
posted by amcm at 9:39 AM on June 30, 2012

Don't forget to have adequate disposal areas for old oil etc
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 9:44 AM on June 30, 2012

Best answer: If you are building from scratch, you might also put in a factory-style skylight - these face north, and the window part is vertical (as in, not parallel to the roof surface). You will never get direct sun, but you will get nice, cool sky fill light all year long. We have a 20' wide bank of these at my studio and they are soooooooooo gooooooooood.

High ceilings also help. You can light your work and subjects from farther away, dramatically reducing the effect of the inverse square law.

Don't overlook heating and cooling, obviously. Hot air isn't as warm feeling as other heating methods, like a wood burning stove (we burn coal, and love it!). Radiant sources like radiators, wood and coal stoves actually shoot heat into your body and into the bones of the structure. Hot air, especially in a high ceilinged studio, usually sucks, esp. if it is a detached structure.

Back to the floors - what do you mean by bulletproof? Our plywood floors are slathered in polyurethane, and that's pretty easy to clean.

Also, seconding a correct disposal area for oily rags, etc. That shit will catch fire! Use one of those approved red metal can things.
posted by amcm at 9:58 AM on June 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you use sprays, a separate dust-free nook for spraying and drying.

If you work large, a window/door that opens to accommodate transporting those pieces. May include a pulley or similar for lowering heavy things to the ground.
posted by xo at 10:03 AM on June 30, 2012

Lighting. Lighting. Lighting.

Comfortable chair. Comfortable workspace. Comfortable floor.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 10:13 AM on June 30, 2012

A big wall for inspiration. Maybe made of cork board or large enough to hang a huge cork board or wire with clips. When I find something I like or that inspires me, I like to take a picture or a sample of it and post it over my work area so I can see it and be inspired.
posted by TooFewShoes at 10:33 AM on June 30, 2012

If you use sprays, a separate dust-free nook for spraying and drying.

All the overspray, dust, and offgassing is going to go straight into the house, and your lungs.

Maybe a downdraft table for spraying varnish, etc? That vents to the exterior.
The book "Artists Beware" or similar should have a writeup.
posted by sebastienbailard at 11:35 AM on June 30, 2012

Best answer: A bank of shelves no deeper than six inches to hold all of those cans, jars and supplies that end up in pyramids on horizontal work surfaces. My inspiration used to get crushed having to move stuff off my horizontal work table to be able to work. The shelves are too shallow to accumulate a lot of stuff, but they hold an awful lot of individual items that would otherwise be in my way. There is also a narrow shelf unit dividing my big work table (4' x 8') in half to hold current project items while in progress.

Vertical racks to hold canvases separate and upright when dry.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 4:55 PM on June 30, 2012

A full layer of plywood behind the drywall so that you can screw into the wall anywhere you please. No matter what medium I use I'm always having to hang things on the wall and it keeps changing. Be it shelves for storage or paintings or a video monitor, being able to drive a screw in anywhere I please and have it be solid would be amazing. A friend of mine has a gallery where this was done and I'm jealous...
posted by garethspor at 6:53 PM on June 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you do concrete floors, include tension mats that can be moved around. Concrete is very hard on the feet/joints. Consider concrete under those rubber tiles that restaurants use in kitchens that work like non-skid tension mats.

A fire extinguisher.

Lots of electrical outlets accessible from all or most walls. I usually need to keep music going, charge my phone, and have ready a drill, hot plate, and hair dryer. I also like to have an electric kettle or microwave nearby.

Track lighting. I have always wanted a square of tracks that can be lowered with a pulley, so I don't have to defy death up a ladder to change the directions.

One wall made of built-in shelving, three walls that can be easily drilled/patched/painted for display.

Sturdy table/s and no-nonsense chairs. I prefer to sit or stand at a table and work flat, but some people like an easel. If you choose an easel, choose one that is sturdy and has a minimum of features. Tons of screws and bolts and clamps are a pain in the ass.

That said...a big chest of drawers with C-clamps and spring clamps and so forth. I always find I need to hold things down and am constantly searching for that kind of thing...

Ventilation like whoa, an industrial-strength dehumidifier, a canvas stretch table (check them out-- if you work large or stretch a lot of canvases, it saves hella time) a utility sink, a garbage chute, and a dedicated receptacle and removal service for heavy metals/hazardous waste.

A comfy couch with a slipcover.

And while we're dreaming, soundproofing! Ooh! And pneumatic air for powered tools...everyone is a talented framer when they have air to blow out the dust! If you use a nail gun, the air power is gentle on your hands.
posted by blnkfrnk at 8:35 PM on June 30, 2012

Slop sink, flat files, good lighting, a comfy couch, a big table, a light table, a drafting table, and an ergonomic chair.'s really hard to answer this question without knowing what kind of work you do. Are you a printmaker? An oil painter? A potter? A watercolorist?

I guess I'm maybe a little skeptical, too. I make my living in the graphic arts, and though I've never had the resources to build myself a studio from scratch, I know exactly what I want and need in a workspace, which is something I've only come to understand through years of experimentation. But I've also dickered enough with my process that I can adapt it to a variety of situations if need be. I've sold work that I made at someone else's dining room table.

So I'm thinking that if you don't at least partially know the answer to this question already, it might not really matter what you build, because (except for safety equipment) most things are dispensible, workspaces are personal, and you'll probably have to fiddle with it anyway.
posted by the_blizz at 11:13 AM on July 1, 2012

Oh, whoops, my eye skipped over the word "painting." Well...scratch my first paragraph, but my point remains.
posted by the_blizz at 11:14 AM on July 1, 2012

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