Our kids' stuff gets EVERYWHERE. What with arts and crafts, cookery bits, board games, play shopping, children's books, bikes, scooters, etcetera, etcetera, we were finding that the kids' things were spreading from their bedrooms to fill all the shared spaces in our home too. As a result, K-Dog and I found it more and more frustrating when WE wanted to do something; nothing was ever to hand or easy to get started on.
But the good news is that when we took a hard look at our small-to-middling Victorian terrace house, even bursting at the seams with stuff as it is, we were able to find spaces to annex as dedicated 'grown-up' areas - one for each of us. All it took was thinking about what we both needed, and then identifying a few wasted areas around the house that we could make better use of with a little bit of reorganisation. And I promise you, if messy pack-rats like us can do it, you can too!
The way we approached making space for ourselves was to ask a few basic questions:
Making Space for a Grown-Up Art Cupboard
What I wanted was space to do the arts, crafts and sewing I've always loved. A dedicated art studio was, alas, out of reach for me, but I felt I'd be happy if I at least had a grown-up art cupboard (ie no glitter glue, pompoms or foam shapes...) and some table space for working. So when I thought about my absolute priorities, the key things I needed, it was quite simply that - a large-ish table, with storage for art materials and equipment close by.
Our largest table is our dining table but as we have a breakfast table where we mostly eat, the dining table ends up a bit of a dumping place for random stuff. It would make no difference to our day-to-day lives for me to use it as my art making space, and it could still be used for the occasional extended family/friends meal with a quick tidy. Did I mention it was basically a dumping zone anyway? Having to tidy it before use was pretty much par for the course!
This table is in our front room - a long space knocked through from two rooms. There is a chimney in both halves, and while the sitting room end has a lovely Victorian-style fireplace, the one behind the dining room table is just a bare cavity with a wooden mantle surround. It was definitely under used, since all it held was a pile of glitter ball baubles I'd had since University (yes, they were rather dusty). Rehousing them to the local charity shop left a lovely empty space, just begging to be filled. But not with the kids' stuff. Nope, with mine.
I kept it simple, partly to get it done quickly, but mostly because that's all it needed. I originally planned to put up proper shelves inside the space, but found that the old wine boxes I store my art stuff in actually stacked together rather nicely - no drilling, nails or screws required.
The only new bits I bought were a pair of MDF paper racks - one for A3 and one for A4. Placed next to each other, they were exactly the right size to fill the width of the fireplace and made an excellent, extremely useful, bottom shelf. I then stacked the wine boxes and an old wooden crate on top, making a nook for my printer that supported a shelf for the rest of my supplies.
I also included a couple of Ikea A4 plywood magazine files, for some vertical storage, and put a few nails in the surround so that I could hang my ink rollers - finally stored the way they should be!
Finally, there were already a couple of cup hooks screwed into the underside of the mantlepiece (I use them at Christmas to hang up garlands). Attaching a length of twine and some miniature pegs made a great drying rail for my prints, and again took only minutes to do.
My three and seven year old kids were very interested in the new set-up, but have also been very respectful - even little T-Bird understands that this is 'my' stuff, and that they have their own art equipment elsewhere that she can use whenever she likes. They know they can have a go with my things when I'm working at the table (T-Bird especially loves inking up a lino with a brayer and taking a print) or they will bring along their own stuff to do alongside me. Otherwise though, they have so far been happy to leave the boxes alone. This was a concern for me beforehand as my linocutting tools are very sharp, so I took especial care to show them both everything and explaining why they could not touch some things without me.
The last thing I added to my new studio space was an old industrial-style paper rack that I'd got for a bargin on ebay - the owner had been using it for seed trays in his greenhouse, so it was a little unloved! It fits perfectly into a corner just to the side of the table, and is just right for storing finished prints and pieces, and as a drying rack for work in progress.
I could also have utilised the mantlepiece over the alcove as an extra shelf, but it's very narrow and was already in use as a mini nature shelf for the kids' finds and their forest school makes. I love having these bits out on display for them so decided to leave that as it was. I did give it a dust though... it had been a while!
It took me no time at all to set this up, and yet it has made a huge difference to my enthusiasm for creating again. It's now so much easier to get going, and everything is exactly where I need it. Us grown-ups had ended up with less space for our own bits than we had when living in a flat literally half the size of our current abode. For the most part, we were fine with this - we never wanted a home where the presence of children was undetectable once they were in bed - but now we've clawed something back for us, even just this little bit of space, it has helped us regain our sense of identity and I hope provides a positive role model for the kids.
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