Remodeling Your Studio

It’s not finished, not quite. If you’ve ever had remodeling done, this comes as no surprise. I had, and it doesn’t. After many, many home improvement projects over the years, I’m kind of used to the waiting and the delays and the little glitches that, on your first go-round, can drive you over the edge. In fact, I was thinking about that, about how people are always wishing for a studio make-over and dreaming of all they’d like to have done. While some lucky people can have their dream studios custom built from scratch in a perfect location with every amenity they’ve ever dreamed of having, most of us have to make do with what’s possible instead of what’s perfect. I would have loved to have a new sewing studio with huge walk-in closets, for example. I need a place to sort and store all the garments waiting to be altered, and I’m tired of having to shuffle them from one place to another. But adding on additional space is way outside my budget, so I had to prioritize: what’s most important to me? What do I really need, and what cancan I live withoutt? For me, the most important thing was more light. I’m one of those people who need a *lot* of natural light; a long string of cloudy days wreaks havoc on my mood and level of productivity.

So if you’re saving up for a studio make-over, no matter how large or how small, here are some things you might want to keep in mind.

1. Budget. This, of course, is the most important consideration for most of us. What can you afford to do? While you might be able to take a loan, you may, like me, prefer to save the money first and pay cash so that debt isn’t hanging over your head, nagging at you.

2. Figure out what you want. Start with the most important item and list each thing in descending order. This way when you find someone to do the work and meet with them to discuss an estimate, you can work your way down the list until you hit the number where Dream meets Money.

3. Find a contractor. This was the toughest part for me because Midland, Texas, is in the middle of a huge boom, with construction going up everywhere and a big shortage of workers. I had half a dozen estimates before I finally found someone to do the work–it took over a year to find someone willing to take on a small, less-than-a-bunch-of-money job. If you know other local artists who’ve had work done, ask them for recommendations. Check Angie’s List and your local Better Business Bureau. Get a contract before you do anything else–it’s your protection in the event they claim you said “tile” when you actually said “wood.”

4. Timing is everything. Take whatever time frame your contractor gives you and double it. Then work with her/him to find a time that will work for both of you. You don’t want to schedule a major studio overhaul anywhere near a big show, the deadline for your book, or a gallery opening. You want it smack in the middle of some down time. No, it won’t be relaxing to have people in and out of your space, but you don’t want to panic about being able to meet a deadline when the project runs over. And it will.

5. Be explicit about what you want, go over all the details, and then get out of the way. Don’t try to micro-manage the workers. It will irritate them, it will take longer, and you will pay for it in the long run. If you’ve worked out all the details at the beginning, you need to let the contractor do her/his job. If something isn’t done the way you agreed, you have your contract.

6. When you can do it without disrupting the work, sneak in and take photos. I’ve been doing this, and it’s great fun to see how the project has progressed. You’ll be happy to have those ugly “before” photos when you get to the Really Ugly Stage, that stage right in the middle of the renovation when you’re sick unto death of the mess and noise and disruption and wonder why on earth this seemed like a good idea. Look at that ugly, depressing space in the “before” photo and go, “Oh, yeah. That’s why.”

Sure, it’s expensive. It’s a hassle, and it’s a lot of work–especially if you decide to do it (some of it or all of it) by yourself. But if you’ve got a dream and can figure out a way to make it work, it will be worth it. Dream big, think practical and try not to stress too much over the process. Good luck!


Ricë also blogs at The Voodoo Cafe.


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