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My husband, Paul Ferney, is an artist, and despite our initial thought of finding a studio for him, due to pandemic lockdowns, that was suddenly off the table. So instead of cramming it into a corner of the bedroom, we moved the dining table into the living area of our New York apartment and started looking for storage space for all of his necessities. The challenge was to make this area inspiring, but also a reflection of his personality. I wanted it to feel as beautiful as his paintings. Here’s how I did it.
Think beyond Gallery White
The room has nice light and large windows, but in terms of design it is quite simple. All Paul and I knew was that we didn’t want stark white gallery walls. The colors he paints with should pop and look nice, but the walls shouldn’t feel cold. We wanted something in the mud-gray family, so we chose Valspar’s Soft Pelican.
Organized doesn’t have to be hidden
When you’re actively working, you’re making a mess, and it can happen very quickly. So thinking ahead, the biggest problem we knew we would face was trying to get a… checked mess, and that comes from functional storage. I put everything Paul reaches for on a daily basis in pretty glass jars and various bowls, making them easier to access, but also looking deliberate. Now you walk into the room and you see all these brushes and paint. They evoke a similar feeling to when you are a child, or even an adult, and you have a block of blank paper and fresh pencils – it is exciting to get to work.
Buy your cabinets in bulk
It’s great to have frequently used items out in the open, but it was just as important to make sure there were plenty of locked cabinets. Everything he didn’t need easy access to, from cardboard boxes for shipping to canvas stretching tools and extra frames, we packed in IKEA Ivar cabinets. We covered the entire workspace with it; they are great because they are 32 inches long so there are lots of modular shelves to work with. But they’re also the perfect height to prop a canvas against for display or drying, as there’s no room for an entire easel. For the larger pieces, Paul paints with the canvas leaning against the walls from a sparse worktop.
The other thing about the Ivar units is that they are stackable. You can have them in a row or turn a few into a bookcase. We painted ours the same shade as the wall to make them look more seamless.
Keep storage solutions simple
After Paul paints, he needs a lot of open air to let his work dry, and it can take several days, so just picture frames or the tops of the Ivars wasn’t enough. We built a plywood rack in just a weekend using standard hardware store 2-by-4s. That was a big, big win for organizing. It’s one of those projects you want to do forever, and we finally let ourselves do it. The shape is very simple, but you can put a lot of paintings in the slots. I am primarily a practical person, so this room was less about a design transformation and more about knowing how he would use the space. Now he is there constantly, and every nook and cranny is (very quickly) filled with both old and new work.