Friday, August 2, 2013

Apartment Remodel on the Cheap: Artist's Studio

My home DIY project (for the last four months; I'm a slow worker) has been to fix up the "useless" space under the stairs in my loft.  

I had an AHA moment when the roommate mentioned that he wished he still had his own desk to do his art on - why not make it a creative studio space? Roommate has a place to work, I don't have to share my coffee table with art supplies, the cat doesn't eat acrylic paints and die, everyone's happy. (I jest: we are very careful not to let anything ingest the poisonous paints). 

I'm posting because I always get discouraged when I read remodel posts and think, "oh, I can't do that, I live in an apartment, not a house" or "man, I wish I had $1000 to gussy up my apartment with, too." This is pretty simplistic stuff, but I think it might be helpful for someone else looking to spruce up a smaller space. 

The challenge has been getting as much use out of the space as possible, because it's so tiny; it's perhaps five feet deep and I can barely touch both side walls with my arms outstretched... not a scientific measurement, I know, but my measuring tape has gone missing.

Personal goal: do it on the super cheap, too, because spending money sucks.

I am soooo close to being done now; mostly I just need to straighten up and get some trash tossed, but the foundation of the space is there. 

Here is the part ready to show:

Cabinet cost: free! Snagged it from some acquaintances who moved recently, and I had screws for mounting already in my tool box. A little tightening on the loose handles, a good wipe-down to get the grime off, and it's pretty much ready. If I hadn't found it this way, I probably would have used freecycle or Craigslist. Someone is always moving and unloading shelving. 

[Protips: Hell, if you can't find anything online, just go cruise a neighborhood Saturday anytime after about 4pm when the garage sales close and grab stuff off the front curbs. Also good: apartment complexes near college campuses in May, August, and December when a lot of students are moving. They'll leave stuff by the dumpsters so they don't have to cart it home or take it all the way to Goodwill. I have in my time scored a vintage orange-leather chair and floor lamp that way, and a small patio table, and a milk create full of old books, and a rolling table I use as my mail center, AND a nice dark-wood bookshelf in mint condition. Bottom line: people are lazy; use this to your advantage. 

I draw the line at entering the dumpsters, because they tend to be full of trash and bugs, but anything outside is fair game if it's in decent condition. If someone left it next to the dumpster, chances are they recognized it was too nice to just throw away.]

The close-up tour:

Shelf for sharpeners, and samples of spray paint and paint markers. 

Cost: Free - I sent a sample request from the Liquitex website, and the sharpeners have been floating around the apartment for ages. 
(If anyone knows of any other free art sample spots, please do let me know)

The pull-out drawers are full of artsy pens, markers, and pencils. 

Cost: $20/month for an ArtSnacks subscription, grand total of $80 so far (more on ArtSnacks in a future post). I've been collecting the art supplies they send for about 4 months, so the roommate has something to art with. This is basically the only cost I've accrued on this remodel, so I'm not too concerned. The beauty of ArtSnacks is that I get cool art stuff to add to the stash without having to go buy entire marker sets or research art supplies at length.

 If you wanted to do this for less, I would recommend Craigslist, freecycle, and Goodwill. Also it can never hurt to contact art supply companies and ask for samples. 

Outer view of the fold-out drawers. I love these things!

Mini-moleskeins and some sort of fancy eraser, also through ArtSnacks. 

Top shelving! Will house things like the acrylic paints I don't want the cat getting into. 

Top of cabinet, with bonus stack of canvases I picked up at Michael's. 

Cost: $20/6 canvases. I love Michael's, and this was a glorious meeting of 1) waiting for a big sale and 2) downloading the iPhone app so I could use one of the attached coupons. Seriously, Michael's are almost always offering coupons (paper and electronic) and having sales; it really pays to wait until you can get something cheaper. 

Total cost for the remodel so far: $100 even, and that's really the bulk of the cost - I think everything else I have gathered was free. 

More to come on Unveiling Day...