Written By: Sandra Hutton, @artimmersionstudio, May 1, 2022

For years, I’ve been the type of creative individual who has never carved out a home studio space. Instead, I have had a tendency to spread my creative joy about the house, from room to room leaving piles of glitter trailing in my midst. Well, maybe it wasn’t that bad–usually there was no glitter involved.

Not having a dedicated space created two problems: 1) The creative mess was left behind in various places around the house and 2) I began to lose track of what I had and I would often purchase items again, creating an excess of art supplies. An excess of art supplies may sound like a dream, but trust me when I say it was becoming a disorganized mess.

When the pandemic hit, like everyone else I was faced with a lot more time at home. This led to a lot more dreaming about what could be and how I could carve out a little slice of happiness in a very challenging time. This also coincided with me teaching from home and I found myself missing the comfort of my classroom–a beautiful studio space. I began to research art studios and think about what I wanted and needed. In my wildest dreams, I wanted some sort of little cottage in my backyard–a she-cave I could retreat to. Alas, this was not possible so I settled for a spare room which I began to transform into a workable space that could serve as a home office as well as a studio. Here are six steps I followed to transform a small space into something workable for me.

Step #1: I had to consider a flooring transformation because the area I was looking at was carpeted. Carpeting and art materials do not mix. The carpeting in this spare bedroom was replaced with a high quality laminate in a soothing dark blue tone. I wanted something fairly neutral that would be easy to clean.

Step #2: I began to research some options for storage of art materials and books. I am not only an avid collector of art materials but also have a huge personal book collection of non-fiction books and children’s books related to art. I decided upon two Kallax units from Ikea with inserts for doors.

Step #3: I have a number of items that are regular-use items and I don’t want them to end up in a drawer. I wanted to have easy access so I decided to buy IKEA pegboards to store items like scissors, tape, pencils, pens, and rulers.

Step #4: In addition to the shelving units, I also have two white IKEA carts that I use for paper storage and miscellaneous items.

Step #5: Prior to beginning this process, I had already decided upon a desk that I thought would be ideal for a home office/studio. I purchased the Tresanti desk. This desk is amazing! It is motorized so it can be a standing desk. It also has USB chargers– another bonus. The surface could be used as a whiteboard although I haven’t used it this way yet. I have found this desk to be the perfect size for working on artwork that is a little wider than average. Since this desk is not porous it is easy to wipe up as well. When I am not using it for art, it is the perfect desk for computer work too! I love the versatility of this model.

Step #6: I have talked about functional components of the room but I wanted to take a detour from this and talk about the importance of decor and artwork and considering what you surround yourself with. In addition to creating my own art, I am an art collector. I strongly believe that it’s not just important to create, but it’s important to be inspired. In my home I have quite an extensive collection of paintings by other artists. In my studio space, I decided to include two paintings: Five Brilliant Colours by Mary Ann Slater and Girl Painting Sun Mural by Marcello Febbo. It wasn’t until recently that I reflected more deeply on these two particular choices for this space. The paintings both reflect similar colour schemes focusing on bright colours. I also feel that they symbolize a return to childhood creativity. As Picasso famously once said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” How very true. These two works help me to return to that state of childlike creativity where anything goes. In the case of Slater’s work–giant crayons rendered with an incredibly realistic quality, I feel that I can smell the wax coming from that crayon box. It’s truly a marvel to behold and to take in. It is the largest painting in my collection. Febbo’s piece is one of the first paintings I hung in my first home. I see myself in this painting as a child and it also serves as a reminder of the importance of surrounding young people with opportunities for creativity and self-expression. 

Five Brilliant Colours by Mary Ann Slater

Girl Painting Sun Mural by Marcello Febbo

In addition to these two art pieces, I also have some other family photos and mementos. Anyone who knows me knows that I am very sentimental. Artwork by my daughter is displayed in my space and always reminds me of our shared love of creativity. My dear Auntie Ev, who passed away many years ago, was also an artist and I have one of her art pieces in my studio, as well as a beautiful pen and ink set that she gave me.

I also try to display my own works in varying stages of progress. This allows me to look at them regularly so I can reflect on changes or next steps. It also fills me with creative energy. And this creative energy helps to keep me moving towards continued artistic explorations.

Carving out space for developing an artistic habit or goal is important but I think it’s also key to recognize that space evolves, just like we do as individuals. Although this is my set-up right now, I look forward to the changes in my studio that will occur over time. I have no doubt that they will help to provide a record of my artistic journey.