By February 18, 2014 Read More →

Renovating a basement studio

A freezing studio transformed

Studio renovation - Suzanne DeStaffanyI met Suzanne DeStaffany on my Facebook page,

and she said she would send me a photo of her studio when it was looking a bit better.

I had no idea she was planning such major renovations and naturally wanted to hear all about it:

Hi Suzanne, tell us what your studio was like before renovation.
My basement studio was tidy, but the floors and walls were still awaiting the renovations that my husband and I had completed for the main floor of our cozy 1931 home.

When I decided to update my design experience by enrolling in an intensive, two-year Graphic Media Design program back in 2010, I needed space to manage multiple homework projects.

There wasn’t time to make things nice, or even very comfortable. The lack of insulation and carpet meant that it was absolutely freezing during the winter months!

What did you need to include?
Above all else, I needed my studio to be a comfortable temperature year-round; nearly as important was that it would retain the abundance of room for works in progress.

Though I mainly work remotely with online clients who are around the world, I still need room to print and assemble mock-ups, and that sort of thing. Printing my designs on fabrics for apparel is a new side project, and I wanted to have some dedicated space for a simple sewing machine as well.

Another issue with the existing studio layout was that I sat at my desk facing the wall, with my back turned from the entry area. Any time when I was deep in concentration and not noticing someone approaching, I would be startled nearly out of my chair! This scenario wasn’t conducive to good design work, I can assure you.

I’m fortunate to have a husband who has construction skills and the willingness to dedicate dozens of hours to the work that was needed.

Most evenings, he typically provides all of the coding and website building for my business; his day job is as a production supervisor for a window manufacturer.

He replaced the drafty old one with a beautiful new energy-efficient studio window – complete with a deep sill that will be a perfect spot for house plants.

Has any part of the transformation been tricky?
The biggest challenge has been working within a relatively small space; my studio’s footprint is just nine feet wide and fourteen feet long.

The carpet installers probably had the most trouble with this when they had to maneuver the rolls of underlay and carpet around two tight corners, just to get into the studio.

After studio renovation - Suzanne DeStaffanyWhat’s your favourite part of your new studio and why?
The renovations are complete and I’ve had a few weeks to settle in. I’d say that in addition to being much warmer when I’m working, it’s wonderful to have my desk situated along the back wall of the studio, facing outward.

I can enjoy the view outside, and visitors no longer sneak up on me! There’s ample work space. The clean, white walls and soft carpet really create a professional work space.

How will you keep work and life apart?
I don’t worry about separating work and other parts of my life, as they seem to blend together almost seamlessly these days. Having a spouse that shares the same business vision is a large part of that.

And it’s wonderful having a home base where I can take a tea break out in the garden, or have a pot of soup simmering on the stove while I work, with a commute that is roughly 30 seconds long.

My goal is to continue growing my design business so that it eventually supports us both, full-time. We could then devote a few months each year to visiting other parts of the world on working holidays.

We have family in England and Denmark, and it would be fantastic to spend more time with them. I’d also like to visit Scotland and Australia again, and explore Wales, too.

Any tips for readers planning a similar project?
I dismantled a working studio and relocated the most critical parts to the kitchen table, safely away from drywall dust and wet paint. And all the while continued to meet deadlines in different time zones, so I’d suggest that:

1. Being both well-organized and as calm as possible are ideal traits to possess!

2. Before starting, it’s important to have a clear picture of the desired outcome, as well as the technical issues (sorting out the new locations for electrical outlets, lighting, and that sort of thing).

3. Anticipate any necessary interruptions to your utilities, and factor in a little extra time for anything unforeseen that you might encounter once the work begins. The process can be enough to try the patience of a saint, but it’s been well worth it!

work from home secrets

From her home-based studio in Victoria, British Columbia, Suzanne provides graphic design services for clients located around the world. She’s a seasoned designer of logos, vector and traditional illustration, websites, online advertising and printed publications, always delivered on time and within budget.

Posted in: Home offices

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