How do You Organize a Small Studio?

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How do you organize a small studio for multiple mediums?  If you’ve every harbored fantasies of living in a ‘tiny house’, try working in a tiny studio!  Finding a place to work, store materials, frame, ship, run a website and business is a little tricky.

Over the last three years, I’ve continually tripped over myself. I wasn’t able to find what I needed And, I was beginning to feel a little crazy.  So, this year I decided to get organized!

How do you organize a small studio?

Well, let me give you the tour and I’ll show you how I organized my small studio.  I have about 200 square feet of a former bedroom with attached bath.


Small studio space
My studio space of about 180 square feet.

As you can see, I have two tables (both with drawers).  They provide working space to paint, ship, frame, plan and work.  In the black desk, I have framing supplies (tape gun, stapler, etc.).  Above the table, I hung pegboard for pastel brushes, tools, rulers, tape, and mahl stick.

The storage unit against the wall holds egg tempera pigment & supplies on the left.  The center section holds pastel sticks on one shelf and flat storage below for finished pastel paintings.  I lay the paintings flat with glassine sheets between the paintings for protection.  On the right side of the unit, I store packing tape, office supplies, and more framing supplies (wire, hangers, extra screws, etc.)

The rolling cart holds paper towels and brushes along the edges.  A glass palette sits on top and two shelves below hold extra brushes and supplies for egg tempera and oil painting.  If I need extra space, I can roll this out of the way.

The second table has a larger drawer for storing paint.

You can see that my backpack is next to the door and is always filled with plein air supplies, ready to go!

Making use of Vertical Space

Organizing a small studio required re-thinking traditional rooms.  The attached bath provides needed storage space.  Since, we don’t use the room for guests, I converted the bath/shower to storage of larger panels, paper, and packing material.  There’s enough room for this shelving unit to hold canvas, pastel paper, more supplies, plein air kit for pastel, more palettes, paper, etc.

Storage shelves have been cleaned out to make room for new paintings.
Storage shelves cleaned out to make room for new paintings.

Each shelf it devoted to a different medium.  Canvas and panels for oil painting (plus holder for drying).  Second shelf for egg tempera panels, plus open space for new paintings.  The third shelf down holds pastel paper, panels, greeting cards, business cards, & envelopes.  The black is for travel and is very lightweight.  It can easily be moved to a new place (or folded) if I need the space.

The bottom shelf holds my pastel plein air kit, a few office supplies (envelopes, notepads), a bin of yarn and a variety of travel palettes and a tool box.

To keep everything on the shelf, I placed a board inside the supports.

Bubble wrap on a shower rod.
Bubble wrap on a shower rod.

The shower curtain rod is perfect for holding bubble wrap and soon it will be joined by a roll of canvas.

I also use the space under the sink for towels, rags, solvent and cleaning supplies.  This larger drawer is perfect for holding linseed oil, varnish, rubbing alcohol and all the potions I’ve tried and still use.  On top of the counter (not shown) is a kitchen mat for drying brushes.

Drawer for liquids
Drawer for liquids
Rethink the Closet

One of the main challenges of the room, was an office desk.  So, I converted the closet into storage and office space.  I keep mementos, journals, books, (more) office supplies, shipping labels, and file boxes in the closet.  The desk space is at a perfect height for typing.  I had an outlet installed for electricity and adjustable shelves (on the right) hold paper, labels, and miscellaneous ‘stuff’.

Closet converted into an office
Closet converted into an office

One file box is devoted to the office & personal records (sales, art shows, receipts, invoices, and what-not).  The second bin holds reference photos, and workshops notes (removed from their notebooks).

What you don’t see…

But, wait a second…where are all the paintings?  Well, they don’t quite fit in this room.  Instead, they are stacked (in bubble wrap and labeled) under the basement stairs.  I also have a small box of extra frames and another shelving unit for prints and supplies for shows (print holders, table clothes, table, etc.) in the basement.

Obviously I don’t have much extra space.  Most paper is kept digitally.  I let magazine subscriptions go or converted them to digital.  And, I’m always cleaning out, paring down, and making room for new ideas and paintings.

I know that this time next year, I will go through the same process.  Clean out the old, make room for the new.

How do you organize your space?

I’m curious to know, do you have a small studio?  If so, how do you organize a small studio?  Any tips or tricks that work for you?  Feel free to leave a comment.  I’m always looking for ideas

What do you think?