Closet Turned Studio

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In the back of my mind, when I made pros and cons lists of moving from Oakland to Minneapolis, there was a metaphorical neon sign blinking: ROOM !

As in, craft room. Perhaps not an entirely dedicated room, but room to organize my knitting supplies, keep a small stash of fabrics, and even have a little sewing surface.

The Bay Area has so many great attributes, but affordability is not one of them. The cost of living in San Francisco ranks one of the highest in the nation, and it’s quickly spreading to surrounding cities, which felt palpable even for the brief time I lived there (I have a lot of thoughts on this, but that’s for another conversation – this is about making!). In Oakland, we shared a bedroom in a 2-bedroom apartment with a roommate and a small living/dining space, where I kept my supplies on a small cart and stored my stash in part of the built-in china cabinet. We quickly realized that for the same (or potentially less) in rent, we could afford a full 2 bedroom with separate living AND dining rooms in Minneapolis. Whoa, baby.

Our apartment is on the second floor, with lots of South-facing, sunny windows and even a peek at the city skyline. Not without its quirks — the kitchen is all-pink-everything, the ceilings are painted pastel colors in most rooms (why?) — we have lived here for about 9 months and still bask in being able to live alone and have a bit more space to spread out. When we toured the apartment, the owner stopped at the top of the stairs and gestured to a small room off the landing: “this is just a hall closet, you know, for coats and storage”

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With a window facing the street and a closet rail on one side, the room seemed a bit like a dumping ground for the previous tenants, but Jenn and I laughed that we had probably each paid quite a bit to rent a bedroom this size in Berkeley or Brooklyn. I knew immediately it would be the perfect space for my creative projects.

When we moved in, I worked part time and spent many days fixing up the apartment: fresh white paint in the bedroom, removing scuff marks from the trim, relocating unwanted items left from the previous tenants, and scouring Craigslist for furniture. The hall closet was my favorite transformation. Adjacent to the main door to the apartment, it was painted a dark lilac on the walls and ceiling to match the hallway, and full of dusty, random household objects — a TV monitor, an air conditioner, a giant tri-fold mirror on wheels, a dresser, a lamp, a door, and other odds and ends.

At first, I was so elated to just to have a little space of my own, with a door to keep out trouble-making cats, a few drawers dedicated to supplies, and ample wallspace for inspiration. I still get excited when thinking about my “studio,” as I call it, but I quickly realized that my messy maker tendencies need a bit more structure. Here’s a rundown of the transformation & organizational efforts I’ve made so far:

  • Clean & assess: paint walls and ceiling white, remove extraneous objects, and move the dresser to the back wall. Half of the closet space is outerwear storage and off-season clothes. (below: a studio is born! If only I were naturally tidy enough to keep it so sparse and neat…)

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  • Utilize existing storage: built-in closet drawers and shelves hold fabric, books, and tools.
  • Re-think pattern storage: un-crumple pattern pieces from bursting 3-ring binder, and hang on DIY pattern hooks (copying this design, thanks to some bent wire and a 3-hole punch).
  • Re-think pattern storage, part 2: roll large/uncut patterns into tubes and stand in a corner basket. (below: before, a paper waterfall; after, functional storage).

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  • Surface design: craft a workspace using an old door and saw horses, then swap it for a desk that fits the space better.
  • Separate the stash: group fabric together on separate shelves as uncut yardage, scraps, and muslin or upcycle-able goods, and collect all yarn in a basket.

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  • Go vertical: install a panel of pegboard and hang the most-reached-for tools within reach (instead of accidentally hiding them under piles of fabric and paper on the ironing board).

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  • Spread the storage: hunt for the perfect cabinet to fit next to your workspace, to extend and declutter your surface area, and store growing collections that crowd existing shelves.

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It has been really fun to adapt this space slowly, responding to my frustrations and needs as they arise. For instance, I loved the large surface that the door-as-table provided, but it was too long, so I swapped it with a desk I had bought for my home office, which fits the space much better. I also really like to spread out on the floor when cutting out pattern pieces or fabric, but until I made room in the dresser for all my muslin and upcycle-able fabric, the floor ended up covered in piles of scraps and linens.

Do you ever feel like you’re constantly re-learning the same things about yourself? For me, it’s finally sinking in that I need to have very specific spots for things, or they have a strong tendency to spread out, disperse, and pile up around the house. Getting my tools out of too-full drawers and into designated spots on peg board is super exciting for this reason. No more digging around for thread and scissors! This is also how I realized that while I love the look of open storage shelving, a cabinet would be a better match to hold my dye supplies, and WIPs. After lots of fruitless Craigslist searches, I brought home a wicker storage unit last week that seems to be the perfect compromise.

My “studio” is still a work in progress, but it’s so much easier for me to organize and clean as I go, which means I can make the most out of the time I get to spend in there. Next up, I need to finally get a curtain rod for the window, and I’m looking forward to reorganizing my fabric while working through the Stash Less challenge #1.

In the meantime, I do enjoy a good before and after transformation:

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Published by

Jess

making things & asking questions

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