Most of the folks checking this out (at least initially) already know the basics as to what I’m doing, so feel free to skip ahead a few paragraphs.
For the folks who don’t, however, here’s the background info:
A few months ago, my boyfriend and I bought a house that has a giant 16×24 outbuilding/shed, that I staked out as my own as soon as I saw it.
Visions of a beautiful, light filled studio started running through my head, with massive skylights, and walls of windows, and gorgeous hardwood floors. Basically, something like this:
One big problem though: my budget for this project? Practically zilch (I’m a freelancer, after all). And did you know windows are f***ing expensive? And skylights are even more ridiculous? And never mind windows and skylights, freaking INSULATION is just holy crap.
So, I very, very quickly made the decision that this build will basically be “stage one” of the process. The goal is currently to make it comfortably workable (I don’t need to live in it), until if and when finances allow me to iterate on it some more, and get it closer to the “dream” studio.
That being said, this building does have some major pluses going for it. First, not counting the fact that it’s a pre-existing structure, it’s massive. Sixteen feet by twenty-four feet is nothing to sneeze at, even if I’m sure that I’ll have every square inch of feasible space utilized in about three weeks and be complaining that i need more room after that (I sprawl with art stuff. I need help.) Second, there’s already electricity run to it, with its own circuit main (hah, almost said fuse box there. I’m old), and not some jerry-rigged extension cable run from the house. Third…. um. It’s big?
That hesitation is the invitation to list some of the downsides here. For one, it was a tool storage shed for ages, and that comes with its fair share of all sorts of fun smells courtesy oil/fuel spills. Kilz will be my friend. Second, that whole point I was making about how large it is actually a pitfall as well. Because of the size and lack of budget, I’m going to need to get SUPER freaking creative about how to approach this, because the larger the size, the more materials like, oh, insulation cost. And floor covering. Oh, and hey, walls to cover that insulation would be nice too? Also, this place was, rightfully so, used as a storage shed for years, meaning it was never sealed to the elements before, and that’s lead to some nice bits of stuff grown on and in the walls.
Luckily, I can be crafty as all hell (some good things do come out of being broke as crap growing up), and I have an eye and the patience for spotting truly outrageous (cue Jem for the other old folks here) discounts and deals. To top off that immeasurably helpful skill set, the previous owner left a crap ton of stuff in the shed that I’m sure I’ll find a use for.
I’m a planner, and planning is all important when you’re working within an extremely tight budget, so luckily I have that going for me. I had to think about what I wanted to do in the studio, and what would be absolutely necessary to get me to that point, as opposed to “well, it’d be nice if I could/had -X-“.
Main reason for me wanting an unattached, large studio is because I want to start oil painting, on a larger scale than my current space limitations allow. Oil painting typically has a lot of fumes which requires better ventilation, and the sizes of the canvases I want to work on require more space around them so I don’t bump into them. Or my pets bump into them. Because I have three large dogs, and four VERY curious cats. Oil paint and cat paws and dog tails…. I shudder to think of the possibilities (though I could likely sell that piece for 10x what my art currently sells for, I’m sure.)
Because of the fumes, I’ll likely have the windows/doors open more often than not. Luckily, the shed already has four windows in it, and while they’re tiny (for now), they’re under some monster awnings, so I can leave those suckers open all year round and not have to worry about rain getting into them. But, because those tiny windows are under awnings, not a ton of light comes in, so that’ll be need number two: Get more light in.
I’m going to have to add windows, that’s just unavoidable. Skylights would be perfect, especially since the positioning of the shed would allow for true north light to come in, but they’re expensive. We also have a couple gigantic pine trees that pretty much negate any north light for the time being (SO MANY PINE NEEDLES OMG), and the shed itself has a metal roof over a shingled roof, which means specialty flashing, and it’d just be more of a pain in the ass to put skylights in now than it’s worth, I’m going to hold off on those until stage two. They’re the one thing I REALLY really want in the studio, but they’re just not necessary right now.
Number three: climate control. We live in Georgia, and it’s perfectly comfortable for about nine months of the year… but there are three months where it’s pure hell for this northeastern transplant: Summer. We moved into the house at the end of August last year, but we were here quite a bit beforehand, so I’ve had a chance to see how the shed reacts to pretty much all temperatures, and honestly, it stays surprisingly cool even during the most intense days. The main reason for the insulation is because even though it stays cool, it gets freaking humid as hell, because Georgia, so I’m sure there’ll be quite a stretch of time where I’ll need to compensate for that. Installing a full HVAC system is just financially out of the question now, so I’m going to see what I can do with some insulation, spray foaming all the cracks, and eventually getting a portable upright AC unit to handle some of the humidity. When there’s a budget for doing a proper install, that’ll be first thing on the list, but I think I can do quite a bit with just that there.
Number four: Storage. Because I work traditionally, and because I dip my fingers into just about everything, I have a LOT of supplies. I also get massive anxiety when I’m surrounded by a mess, so I have to keep everything immaculately organized (when possible. I am still an artist after all). That means I need a lot of storage space for all my little goodies. Oh, and books. I have a lot of books 😛
Now to get to the fun stuff:
As anyone who’s ever had to work within a practically non-existent budget knows, you have to keep your options open. You need to have an idea to start with, but you also need to have an alphabet’s worth of other plans, just in case something proves to be out of reach. I knew going into this what my major expenses would be (insulation, windows), and have kept my eyes open for quite some time for some major sales on those things, and as luck would have it, it was worth the wait because a few days ago I managed to snag pretty much the entire amount of insulation I’ll need (barring the ceiling, since I’m leaving that alone for now), for $100 courtesy of a Home Depot clearance special. My guy and I took his truck on a bit of a road trip to get it, but to save over $300? Yeah, that’s worth it.
Next win this last week was a pair of big, brand new windows from a builder’s surplus spot for $250. Way more than I WANTED to spend, but considering these things retail for over $200 each new, it’s still less than I could have spent.
Third and final score was during a Lowe’s trip for spray foam (more on that with the next post), and I decided to scope out their clearance section. Good thing I did, because I found half a kitchen’s worth of upper cabinets for a total of $45, not including tax.
So that means that this past week, I’ve hit 3/3 in regards to my needs for the studio getting handled. I still need to figure out lighting, wall covering, and flooring, but I want to get this stuff in first and see where things are at in regards to what materials are left and whatnot. I also needed to come up with a new drawing for the shed, because my original one is outdated at this point… never mind that I can’t seem to find it at the moment.
Note that I’m not even bothering with colors or anything yet — I have ideas, of course, but that stuff can be decided later, when I see exactly what I have on hand to work with, material wise. I’m hoping to get in there and actually start getting stuff built out this weekend — gotta brush up on how to do some wiring first though, because a few new outlets need to be run too, hahah.
SO MUCH TO DO, but I’m super excited!! Stay tuned!