How to Organize an Art Studio for Two

30 Jan 2013

Here's a twist I wasn't expecting:  As I set about turning my older (college age) daughter's room into a sewing and craft studio, my younger daughter has informed me she not only wants to share it, she wants to have a say in how we arrange it.

donna downey art studio
Donna Downey balances mixed-media with fabric in
her art studio. From Studios Spring 2013

Photo by Donna Downey.
This should probably not come as a surprise. Meredith not only sews, she is used to the well-organized and relatively spacious studio of The Stitchers' Academy, where she takes lessons. Meri also inherited my passion for home design.

The trouble is, we have different art studio needs. Meredith sews garments, so she wants a wide cutting table, a wall full of threads, and room for a mannequin.

I consider myself a craft sewer. I just need a counter for a small cutting mat and rotary cutter, a table for working on designs, and a system for keeping bins of color-coordinated fat quarters and fabric scraps from taking over the room.

Also, if Meredith had her way, we'd hit IKEA and haul home enough furniture and shelving to outfit the whole room afresh. I'm more into re-purposing. It doesn't matter if it all matches.

Annabel Wrigley & Alessandra Gutierrez’s Confetti art Studio
Annabel Wrigley & Alessandra Gutierrez’s
Confetti Studio. Featured in Studios Spring 2013
Photo by Kristen Gardner.
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So, we have been spending a lot of time with old and new issues of Studios magazine (plus Inside the Creative Studio, of course!) to see if we can find common ground that fits the budget and the room dimensions.

I think Meredith would be very happy in the Annabel Wrigley & Alessandra Gutierrez's Confetti Studio. She'd love the open spaces and uniform cubby storage.

Annabel and Alessandra teach classes and workshops out of their studio, so they teamed up to be able to spread out and expand their creative ventures. However, their studio is a commercial enterprise. We don't have that kind of space.

Donna Downey's mixed-media approach to her art studio appeals to me. Donna doesn't have to share, but she makes the most of her home studio space anyway, with an L-shaped countertop that hugs two walls. By keeping the storage cabinets and counter along those two walls, she has plenty of room for a large center table/island. I think that might work for me and Meredith.

I have to say, there is no way I could keep my fabrics lined up on clips like Donna doesbut it looks really cool. I tend to prefer a more casual approach, like Pauline Boyd's open shelving full of folded fabric. It's not fancy, but it's functional and still allows you to see what you have.

pauline boyd art studio
Pauline Boyd's piles of folded fabric on open-shelving aligns with my home studio approach.
Photo by Christopher Heynen.

I think once Meredith sees the Spring 2013 issue of Studios, she'll find lots of ideas we can agree on for our art studio design. If not, well, she leaves for college herself in two years.

P.S. What are your thoughts on sharing a studio with my daughter? Any suggestions for making our space efficient for both of us? Share them below.

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LindaB@117 wrote
on 30 Jan 2013 6:07 AM

Sharing studio space with my daughter - and letting her take the lead in the organizing of it - was one of the MOST important things I ever did. She really "owned" the space and was so very happy to work there whenever possible. She has been forever encouraged by it and now that she is married (and soon to graduate with a degree in architecture!) one of the things she is enjoying the most is being very creative with her own space such that she will ALWAYS continue to have a special "studio" space - no matter where they live! Now I have my own studio here, but I have successfully passed the torch on to the next generation!

lisashep wrote
on 30 Jan 2013 1:18 PM

Great timing - I'm planning to relocate my office/studio to the den, from the smaller bedroom where it is now.  And I will NOT be sharing the space  ; )  Everything is sketched out, and I'm meeting with my contractor next week to review the plans & schedule the work  ; )  I will use a combination of new countertops and existing desks & cutting tables, along with some re-painted built-ins along one wall.  I also have 6 huge windows to re-dress!

on 30 Jan 2013 1:19 PM

I appreciate this post. We are planning to overhaul a large garage that is connected to a personal studio to make a public studio for art retreats.  Keeping the need for multiple artists with multiple mediums in mind is important, especially for grouping the supply/work areas.

Kwiltabeest wrote
on 30 Jan 2013 1:43 PM

I share a studio space with my husband. We are both fiber artists. We have found our biggest challenge is keeping our fabric for current projects organized.

We solved that by using one empty bin to keep all the fabric in until the project(s) is complete. Then all fabric goes back into the bin where it belongs. This has helped because in the past we were putting away each others fabrics.

marye wrote
on 30 Jan 2013 1:57 PM

LOL!  Are you SURE you want to do this?  Don't you have a basement?

But you are right, it might only be for 2 years.

It sounds like you are moving your space too, but this bedroom can't be all that large?  What were you using for your art space before this?

kub wrote
on 30 Jan 2013 2:02 PM

turn around,  and they are babies,

turn around and they are grown

time, where did the time go

treasure this time to share. i hope you make many many good memories with one another during the sharing of four walls and a door. In our part of the world, sometimes people can have 'a room of one's own.' But, in many parts of the world in the tallers and tiny studios, it's definitely 'a room of OUR own. And amongst those who create across the world, it's often no room of any kind, just enough of a roof or tree shade to sleep under. And yet, the people create and create and create so deeply, all manner of things.

mayoearnest wrote
on 30 Jan 2013 3:30 PM

I used to share a space with my granddaughter. What made it work was having two separate sewing stations, each with its own machine, plus a big enough surface to pile all the pieces to whatever she was making. I also bought her her own cutting mat and tools with a caddy to keep them in. We never got in each other's way or wondered where the scissors went. Alas, they do grow up.

on 30 Jan 2013 3:54 PM

The last post that Kub wrote says it well, we only have our children for a short while in the grand scheme of things.  I want to have the days back when my daughter and I worked on crafts in my work room when the guys were  up stairs watching tv.  She is married now and we still get together to work on some craft or other that we are interested in together.  It is definitely worth working it out to work in the same space and incorporating both of your storage into the one room.  I prefer to craft with friends and I consider my daughter a special one.  The suggestion about having bins that you keep your work in sounds like a good one.  The hardest part is putting everything back in it's place but with two of everything and a space for everything it should work.  Make memories while you can....

on 30 Jan 2013 4:15 PM

When we moved my studio from a small bedroom to my garage, I designed it to have a place for both of my daughters to work while I am working. I used only repurposed or vintage furniture for my space. The space is oriented in an L-shape with all of the large shelving and drawer units on these walls. On one part of the L-shape is a large 6.5 foot tall bookshelf (where I have bins with my supplies sorted on each shelf by what it is used for, ie all stamping on one shelf, all paper crafting together and so on) , an 8 cubby unit with a vintage wall cabinet on top for my buttons and 3D embellishments, a vintage 3 drawer dresser (painted my favorite teal color) The top of this is used for various things as well as a perfect space for my product photography and an Ikea wire drawer unit. On the other wall is my drafting table ( a gift from my aunt from years ago) a 7 drawer plastic unit, a movable typewriter desk, and my large ceramic kiln. In the center of the space is my large work surface that I can open a whole paper sewing pattern out on. It is counter height and under is is 6 drawers of each side these are large drawers that I use for storing like items together (like fabric, paper, collage papers, paint, and packaging supplies for my online shop). For my daughters I have an 6' x 2.5' wooden table than I have a fabric skirt around with storage underneath. This table allows both of them to work in the space at the same time as me with out too much bumping into each other.

on 30 Jan 2013 4:24 PM

I don't share a studio space with anyone (except my cat). It is usually a shambles because several things are "in progress" and I'm self-conscious about the mess.

I was making a costume for a mascot during the holidays and needed the person that wore the costume to bring it for a "fitting". I was a little uncertain what she would think, but it had to be done. (she works with small children) She walked in, took one look around and announced, "What a fun place!" I was stunned. She has been welcomed back again.

But, even though I have a large space to work in, it seems to shrink to the size of an old fashioned phone booth when there is another person there, even if they share the same passions. Perhaps it would be different with a sister or child. I do think you would have to agree on the method of organization and what constitutes "clean/orderly" before collaborating.

Stifled wrote
on 30 Jan 2013 5:01 PM

My daughter is only 5, but the art classes I have done with her have been my favorite! I can't wait to move (2yrs) to our "forever home" to set up a craft room for all of us! I don't care what it looks like (I may dream) as long as my kids are crafting instead of computering!

on 30 Jan 2013 8:06 PM

My studio is a renovated detached garage.  I share space in it with my two grandchildren, "The Adorables." I work primarily in fiber, stitch and paper, but first-grade and pre-K want to do everything, including playing dress-up and having racetracks on the floor.  The space is only about 25'x 22', so I have given them cardboard Banker's boxes to store their things, as well as a small children's desk that has served three generations of my family.  Whatever I am doing at the moment I offer to share with them, even when it is inconvenient and a huge mess, because there is never enough emphasis on art in school today (in my humble opinion) and everyone needs to experience some creative play.  If children see parents and grandparents making time and space for creative efforts, they will think it is perfectly natural for them to do the same.  This also gives them something to do rather than plop in front of the TV after school.  And their little weavings, paintings, and greeting cards are treasures they can share with others.  Lots of mess, but still a win-win when they learn to clean up after themselves!  Who could ask for more?

on 2 Feb 2013 9:47 AM

Let your daughter plan and enjoy the space - she won't live with you forever and the fact that she wants to create with you in the same space is just amazing!  Enjoy it while you can and watch her grow!  Great job Mom!  It's so cool that she wants to even be with you!!

jeckabee wrote
on 2 Feb 2013 12:02 PM

Wow, how old is the younger daughter? I would say great! Share the space but, from my experience, I had to work pretty hard to get a studio. I would say, it's your house and your space, this daughter may leave for college too and would you be happy in the space just the same? If it's spacious enough to share, since you do the same craft, I say compromise and go for it! But your daughter can work hard and get her OWN space someday too. I've always dreamed of having mine and although my daughter (who was 7 at the time) was putting in her two sense, it was always going to be my space. I did plan on a space for her though as I feel it's important to create together. I wanted her to have her own set of supplies accessible at any time and a space to work at. I dedicated the loft of my 200 sq ft space to her and it also accommodates some storage as well. She's not as big of a crafter as me but we get to spend time together, listening to music and chatting and she uses the space more and more as she gets older.

My studio is away from the house and I wanted a place where we could hang out together. In that loft space my daughter created an entire world for her dolls at one point, deep into a fantasy world while still hanging out with mom, she made impromptu crafts for the dolls at those times and the space also became a great tree house style reading nook up there too.

Now 10, her sewing machine is set up next to mine and together we make gifts for her friends and grandparents and I can still do my own thing as well.  In the summer, she plays outside of the studio but we're still way more interactive. This way when I escape to my space to create I never feel like I'm shutting out my family completely although the option is there. But it's a great way to spend time.

on 2 Feb 2013 5:45 PM

I share a studio with my 7 year old granddaughter.  We quilt and craft.  Lindy can operate the sewing machine independently.  We have lots of labeled drawer units and shoebox sized bins that fit under our old dining room table and now serves us well as a cutting and assembly station.  She has free reign of most of the fabric, but I still do all the rotary cutting.

All our supplies are visible and easily accessible .  Even at her age, Lindy has very strong design ideas.  I love seeing her creativity blossom.  It is a blessing to be able to share a special time creating with a young person.

Have fun with Meredith.


AnnCP wrote
on 4 Feb 2013 5:35 PM

When I had all my 6 children (5 daughters) at home, they didn't mind coming in to my joint sewing/laundry room. But it wasn't to learn, unfortunately. Now that they have all left and I have created my workspace - that is the best place to gather, visit and create. They all have learned on their own now how to sew, etc., and it is a treat to have them come to me for advice and understanding of a technique. My workspace is an extension of my mother's drapery workroom where many wonderful memories were made with my extended family.

on 26 Jul 2013 6:48 PM

So, it's official: our eldest has moved out of the house to her own apartment. Now, in this day and age, I won't be surprised if she moves back after college. But in the meantime, her sister and I are turning her room into an art studio .