Art Studio Confessions: Making it work in less than 600 square feet

Art Studio Confessions: Making it work in less than 600 square feet

One of the biggest challenges I've encountered over the years of growing my business is space.

Not the lack of sleep. Not the lack of time. Not the lack of help either...but a lack of actual physical space to make my products, store them and ship them. An added challenge over the last two years is doing this while cohabitating with a very patient (albeit messy) boyfriend.

Prior to moving to Pasadena in the late summer of 2018, I was living at home. As much as I hate to admit that (but still, thank you mom) I didn't lack for space there. I had enough room for a painting desk, an area for packing orders and cutting, shelves to store inventory and a corner of the shop to keep my market supplies. It was heaven.

So when my boyfriend and I decided to move in together in Pasadena, I had to face the new challenge of how to run my business in a shared 1 bedroom apartment that was about 800 square feet.

Now that we've moved to Berkeley, we've downsized even further to around 600 square feet. In a word...yikes. I'll admit, I definitely cried a little out of fear when we first moved in that I wouldn't be able to make it all fit and be able to work....let alone be able to see the floor. But over 7 months in I can happily say the floor is (mostly) clear and the boyfriend doesn't notice most days that there's a stationery business running in the living room, the kitchen and in the loft space above our bed!

How do I do this in ~600 square feet? 

Keep it organized...

Bins and boxes are my best friend. My shipping supplies have their own bins, and all my cards are in organized clear bins as well (currently stored under the bed). One day I'd LOVE to have a full wall of shelves with all my cards in their own cardboard bins but right now that's not an option. So clear plastic bins are my best friend.

Part of the reason why we picked this apartment was for the loft space. The Bay Area isn't exactly know for palatial apartments so this added storage space was a plus. Most of my shipping supplies, ink, paper, envelopes and even my main Canon printer are stored up there in a relatively organized chaos. My inventory is kept in their own bins tucked underneath the bed for easy access. I'm also very lucky that my boyfriend travels light and doesn't question that I've bogarted every spare inch of the apartment but it's organized and I can see the floor so we're both happy. 

Work with what you have...
When I lived at home, I constructed a big L-shaped desk from Ikea table tops, legs and cubbies. It was almost megadesk status. Once I moved to Pasadena, this had to be reconfigured and downsized so as not to take over the living room. Now that we're in an even smaller space, my lovely white desk is in storage and my studio space is now....*drumroll*...the tall kitchen table that the previous renters left behind...and it's still in the kitchen.

Yes, I have GORGEOUS light and a little nook all to myself when the door is closed. But when I look to my right, there's our cookbooks and likely a stack of dishes needing to be put away.  At one time there was a microwave there too.

No, it's not ideal. But we've made it work. And I really do love this space. I was disappointed when we first moved because I loved sprawling everything out. Realistically though I can't sprawl in 600 square feet without tripping over my own mess. But I've readjusted how I work and am working with what we have without focusing on what I'm missing. The tiny bar table in the kitchen turned studio table was also very lucky since it was already perfectly sized for the space!

Clean up as you go...
Even in my busiest seasons, I try to clean up while I work or at the very least tidy up before I head to bed. In smaller spaces, little messes feel BIGGER and can build into GIANT messes very quickly. This is another thing my (very sweet and loving) boyfriend seems to be oblivious too, which is great when I'm just too damn tired to break down my shipping boxes.

Having everything organized from the get go helps with this because I know everything has a specific home to go once I'm done with it.

Be realistic... 
To run my business and keep things cost effective, I have to order in bulk...yet ordering in bulk doesn't seem conducive to living in a tiny apartment. As I mentioned earlier, I'd love to have a giant wall of card bins to easily fulfill orders from. But with the space I currently have, using the extra loft to store bulk orders of paper, envelopes and shipping supplies (that saves $$$) is a better use of that space that configuring it for shelves of cards.

Some of you are probably wondering why I'm not looking into a separate studio space. Of course I'd love one. But I can't afford one in the Bay Area AND still pay our expensive Bay Area rent. Plus my inner introvert really does enjoy being able to stay in my pajamas and drink my coffee while the printer is humming away as I check emails. We were very lucky in finding an adorable apartment with epic lighting walking distance from campus. So I will put aside my ego of not having a dream studio for the time being and focus on the more important, running my business.

Find the silver linings...
Full disclosure... I cried in my car after we fully unloaded all our belongings from the Uhaul after moving from Pasadena. EVERYTHING took over the living room and it was overwhelming trying to imagine how we would make it all fit and how I could organize it to make it a functional work space and still a cozy home.

Now that we're 7 months (Edit: 1+ year!) in, I LOVE our apartment! So much that when my bf brought up moving somewhere larger in the fall I freaked out. More so over the thought of having to pack up a studio and move for the 3rd year in a row, but also because I've really grown to love the light and small little nooks and details this apartment has.

This kitchen studio will be temporary and will be a fun story one day when we're hopefully living in a space larger than 600 square feet.

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