How to convert a garage into an art studio
I’ve been tossing around the idea of creating a serious studio space for a long time. The days of cramming my supplies and worktable in a corner of a room were coming to an end. I desired real space to work on big encaustic paintings, teach classes and take my art career to the next level. To give me added motivation, I signed up to participate in the Loudoun County Artisan Trail. The one requirement to be included in this artisan program is a physical studio space.
First, the idea of an Amish shed was appealing because of its customization. However, when the quote came in with all my “must haves”, it became clear that this idea was out of reach. The best price in my area was around $18,000 for a 24’x 14′ shed with all the whistles. And that was even before I factored in hooking up electricity and installing heating and cooling!
Discouraged about spending that kind of money, a light bulb went off. Literally. I walked into our double bay garage, turned on the light, and saw the vision! Sure it needed work, but only cosmetic. The previous owner installed a sink, cabinets, five windows and ample lighting. He even added a cathedral ceiling to install a lift to work on his custom cars. (Thank goodness he didn’t get around to it before selling the property!) It was everything I needed, and more. Yes, it took some time to sell the idea to my husband. And, yes, it will be MY car that is stuck out in the snow. No problem.
I’m sharing my story to inspire you to make a creative space — maybe even your garage. Nothing wrong with using a corner of a room — I did this for many years. But if your garage is an option, here are the steps to convert it into a dream studio. I’m also adding the problems I encountered to help you avoid the same setbacks.
- Painting contractor visited and submitted his proposal — approximately $3,800 to lay an epoxy floor, patch, paint and add molding for the entire 4-bay garage.
- Move out all the stuff (TIP: Plan this huge task when the weather is dry. Virginia decided to have a wet spring and our stuff still got soaked under tarps!)
- Power wash garages
- Epoxy applied on top of the concrete flooring (You won’t be able to use this space for several days to allow the layers to dry.)
- Patching, painting, adding floorboards (to help fill in the gap between the wall and concrete floor)
- Receive my awesome work table built by a good friend of mine.
- Purchase and install shelving (I used Rubbermaid FastTrack system in white. See link below.)
- Purchase and install gallery hanging system (I used STAS Gallery Hanging System. See link below.)
- Purchase and install air conditioner (TIP: check ahead of time to make sure a dedicated circuit is located close to a window. To add a new circuit can cost up to $500! Using an extension cord is not recommended. I bought the large LG unit to adequately cool the 425 sq. foot space.)
- Installed a DIY wall easel.
- Opening Event!! ( This event was scheduled several days before a big local art tour to give patrons a chance to preview and purchase my work before the show.)
Even with the rain and some contractor delays, the process went smoothly and I couldn’t be more pleased with the finished product. Next weekend will be the first time I’m teaching in the space. Can’t wait! And neither should you! Converting a garage can be as simple or as extravagant as you wish with a little planning and patience. Good luck! I hope this article inspires you to get started.
Please leave a comment of your experience building a creative space. I’d love to see it!
If you’d like to see the work I’m creating in the studio, go to my WEBSITE HERE.
(update 1/21/21) I’ve made a few additions since I first posted this article. . .
HEAT IS AN ISSUE
First, be aware that heat is a major issue when working in a garage. I don’t have a perfect solution yet, other than using a portable radiator heater and a portable infrared heater. Most of the heaters on the market have an exposed flame and having solvents of any kind near the heater could be dangerous. Since I use solvents all the time in my work, I feel safer using radiator and infared heat.
LIGHTING IS CRUCIAL
If you are using the studio as a space to create artwork, the right lighting is crucial. My garage came with five florescent lights that seemed adequate at first. After further research, I learned that it is very important to have your lighting as close to daylight as possible. I saw a huge difference in color representation once I switched the florescent lightbulbs to 5000 lumens (daylight). There are abundant articles online about the details of lighting which I recommend you take the time to research before investing in an expensive lighting system. I installed Sunco lighting 5000K daylight fixtures.
GARAGE DOORS FIASCO
This might sound strange, but I experienced a weird wind vortex one evening during a violent rain storm in the studio. The gale of wind that had come through a partially open window created such force that it blew the garage door in and bent the railings! Papers were flying everywhere as I rushed to close the window to stop the mini tornado! Unfortunately, the door was beyond repair and I had it replaced. The new door is highly insulated and hopefully will weather our Virginian storms.
As I mentioned earlier, I use many solvent type materials in creating my encaustic wax paintings. To stay on the safe side, I had an exhaust fan installed on the front facing wall that is adjustable and includes an automatic shutter.
HERE ARE SOME ADDITIONAL LINKS TO HELP YOU PLAN YOUR RENOVATION (Affiliate links)