Organizing an Artist's Studio

Furniture arrangement can make a world of difference in the way you feel about a room. Does the room welcome you in and feel inviting? Is this a place where you’d like to stay for a while? If it’s a room that is a passing-through point with lots of traffic (e.g. entry, hallway, etc.), does the furniture help facilitate the flow? Simple adjustments (and sometimes complete flips of a room) can be an easy trick to make your space more functional, hospitable and harmonious.

I’ve had the opportunity to help several clients virtually on planning and organizing their work and creative spaces. One bonus of working virtually is that I’m only given hard facts: room dimensions, door/window placement, furniture measurements, the purpose of the room and the activities that go on there. With this neutral approach – I’m not married to the idea that the chair must go here, or the desk must go there – I’ve been able to create new room layouts that have been successful transformations of the space.

One such case was the studio of artist Debra Riley. Debra is a prolific painter and did not have a space fully dedicated for her craft. She was able to carve out a place to paint in her upstairs workout room, a long space with angled ceilings.

start with a clean slate

Looking into the space, Debra had her painting supplies, desk and easel set up in the middle of the room with the workout equipment (treadmill and gym machine) and TV at the far end of the room. There was no clear function or flow to Debra’s work area and she was frustrated by the lack of organization in her studio. Her paints, paintbrushes, cleaning supplies, shipping supplies, blank canvases, finished canvases, framed art and empty frames were spread around the room. There was so much going on in this space, and she was ready to purchase more furniture to contain it all!

Debra's studio before

Before purchasing anything, I advised Debra to take another look and see how she could better use the storage in this space: there are 6 half-doors which hide storage under the eaves, a cabinet in the front of the room and a full wall closet in the back of the room. Debra diligently decluttered, reorganized and discovered that she already had a lot of space for storage and didn’t need to purchase more furniture. Her cleaning supplies went into the cabinet at the front of the room and her frames, blank canvases and finished canvases now have a home in the closet at the back of the room.

Closet (Before)

before organizing the closet

Closet (After)

organized closet

Next, I suggested that she flip the room: move exercise equipment to the front, and her art studio to the back. This created more space for her studio and she was able to add two newly upholstered chairs for guests. This arrangement was also a much more pleasing way to see the room from the entrance – the artist studio, easel, chairs and framed artwork beckon you to come in.

Front of the room (After)

Front of the room (after)

Back of the room (After)

We then tackled the smaller items: paint and paintbrushes. Before, Debra had her paint laid out on a table:


Paints (Before)

how to organize paint and paint brushes

I suggested she try storing the paint tubes in a drawer, either horizontally in stacked trays or vertically standing up in containers. Debra was most creative in this aspect of the project – to be expected from an artist! – and found paper Solo soup bowls which fit the drawers perfectly and allow her to sort her paints by color. The other plus here is that if a bowl gets paint on it, it’s an easy switch to replace it with a clean one.

Paints (After)

12_After_Paint02 13_After_Paint03

Finally, we had to come up with the best way to store her paintbrushes. Could they also go in a drawer, or is it best for them to be standing up? Again, Debra came up with a perfect, resourceful solution: she repurposed various decorative pitchers to hold the paintbrushes, and was able to sort the brushes by length and size. Brilliant!

How to organize paintbrushes

This project was so much fun for me to help organize from 1,500 miles away – and I was able to walk in the space myself a few months later. It all felt so creatively . . . picture-perfect!

how to organize an art studio

Shortly afterwards, Debra wrote me a note:

“I am loving my new space!  Thanks for all your suggestions and for making me ‘think’ before I assumed I needed more storage. Reorganizing that big closet and the attic space was genius.”

Debra Riley's artist studio

Well, kudos back to Debra for being an exceptional client and doing her part in executing this room transformation. May her creativity continue to soar!

Debra Riley’s artwork is shown and sold at the Conroe Art League’s Gallery At The Madeley Building (127 Simonton, Conroe, TX 77301) and can be viewed online here and on her Facebook page.

Debra Riley Artwork

Debra Riley Artwork

Debra Riley Artwork

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