Your Creative Space: Size and Placement

Photo credit: Matthieu Aubry

On Tuesday, I talked about the importance of the space in which you create, specifically the first phase of design — programming . If you missed that, click here to check it out before you read any further. It’s the most important aspect of designing (or redesigning) your creative work space.

Today I will be talking about: Space. The final frontier. These are the voyages— Oops, not that kind of space. This kind of space is the physical area where you create. So you’ve done your analysis and have a detailed list of all your needs (a program). You know the boundaries you have to work with. Now you just have to figure out how to lay it out to your advantage.

Expansive Spaces vs. Intimate Spaces

What are the dimensions of your space? If you measured it, you get points. But did you think to include the height? (Bonus triple extra points if you did!) Volume is a key factor in the design of any space. If your ceiling height is too low, it can give a cramped, stifling feeling, especially if you spend hours there every day. If it’s too high or the space too large, it can make you feel lost or distract your focus. While knocking out the ceiling or adding a new one might be out of your budget, you’ll need to consider the weaknesses of your space if you are going to somehow compensate for them.

The size of your space (both vertically and horizontally) affects the ambiance of the room. To make a expansive area feel more intimate, create “pockets” within the space by way of furniture or partitions. Never just line furniture along the walls in a large room (unless your studio is transformed into a dance party venue at night). Also, consider using darker, muted shades on the walls of a sprawling space for a cozier feel. To make a small space seem larger and less constricting, keep the walls light and free from patterns (like wallpaper or other faux effects). Keeping the scale of your furniture on the small side will help maximize the space that you do have. (A 24” wide office chair will give you a good deal more wiggle room than a 30” wide one when you’re pushing it aside to reach the cabinet nearby, although the change might seem minor.) Make sure to keep the ceiling bright white if it is low or if your room is small.

Laying out the Space

For the purpose of this topic, I’m going to assume your space is a single room (or smaller). In that case, most likely your room layout will consist of movable items – furniture and equipment – rather than fixed walls. Here are a few things to consider about furniture placement:

  • Don’t default to the first arrangement that comes to mind. Try as many options as you can think of, then select the best one. If you aren’t completely terrified by the idea (or if you’re completely enamored by floor plans, like I am), draw a floor plan, make copies, and then sketch out several layouts. That way you can save the backs of your husband, son, father, friends and whatever loved one might be helping you move furniture. The best arrangements aren’t always the immediately obvious ones. Don’t take it for granted that they are.
  • Work with preexisting architectural features instead of fighting them. Don’t block a window, fireplace or built-in shelf with a piece of furniture. Think about what equipment needs electrical access and locate the power and/or data outlets around the room (Don’t forget to locate these on your floor plan!). In some cases it may not be possible, but if you work with the existing electrical, it will save money.
  • Keep focal points in mind. The purpose of your space is to work, to create; thus the focal point of the room should be something that leads you to do just that. There is a saying coined by famous architect Louis Sullivan: “Form follows function.” It doesn’t matter how aesthetically pleasing something is, if it impairs the function of the space, it is bad design. Function is the most important.
  • Visualize yourself at work. Sit (or stand) where you’ll be primarily working and survey the area. Is your back to the door? If so, will that keep you focused on your work, or cause you to keep turning around to check on who might be sneaking up behind you? Are you facing the window? Natural lighting is good for productivity, but if your portal to the outside world boasts a view of the neighbor’s back yard, people-watching could cause a distraction from your work.  If you use a computer, think about which way the monitor faces in regard to any windows – light from behind can cause reflection while bright light in front of you can make the screen difficult to look at and cause eye strain.

Please leave me a comment and let me know if this series has been helpful. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Make sure to come back on Tuesday for the next post in this series, my all-time-favorite interior design topic: lighting. And if you have any questions, general or specific, please leave them in the comments. I will be happy to try and tackle whatever you throw my way.

6 thoughts on “Your Creative Space: Size and Placement

  • I love your ideas, plus since I know you used to be an interior designer I know you know what you’re talking about 😉
    I’ve realized that my best place of productivity is in the living room. In the study all the books around me are too intimidating (like Courntey’s problem with her desk a while back), but in the bedroom I distract myself with thoughts of laundry, etc.
    Now you’ve got me convinced I need to rearrange my whole living room! We’ll see if Sean goes for it.

    • Yes! I love my books — but all of those tiny universes, lined up neatly on their shelves, get too overwhelming when I try to create a universe of my own! Totally with you on this, Jessie. : )

  • Ooooh, I’ve always considered focal points when I paint — but never in arranging living space! Now I’m completely enthralled and can’t wait to get stuff moved to the house so I can start figuring out where everything goes. Fun fun fun! A focal point that leads me to writing…hmmmm…. Can’t wait!

    • Every room has a focal point, and beyond that, there’s typically a path that draws the eye around the space. I didn’t give any examples of focal points because I think they vary so much by individual. It could be a painting you admire…a clean desk sans clutter with your laptop smack-dab in the middle…a window with a scenic view…
      But part of it is also identifying a focal point that might be negative to your process. If the TV is the focal point, it could be a distraction. If the messy kitchen counter is the culprit, guilt might impede your work. I’m just thinking of my own house at the moment. 😉

      • I have a quill pen and inkwell that have languished in a box for far too long. As soon as I can get my hands on a little shelf, I’ll be displaying the pen & inkwell in my writing nook — perfect inspiration! 😀

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