Recently, I received an email from Kelly of Botanique that began: “A looooong time ago, back when my studio was just a dream, I posed a question to the Expert Discussion Panel about what to include in a studio build out/advice about a studio build out. It was so helpful!!” Kelly went on to tell me that she had completed her studio and been working out of the space for over a year. You can imagine my excitement! I’m grateful to Kelly for sharing the story of her journey with us and inviting us into her studio for a tour. And I’d like to say a special thank you to the BB Expert Panel for their generosity is sharing their time and advice consistently over the years. Several readers also shared great advice in the comment section the day Kelly’s question was published on Botanical Brouhaha. I’d like to thank you all, as well.
So, let’s start at the beginning. Kelly’s letter to the Expert Panel asked:
“I am in the process of building out my first studio (in my home!) and am trying to gather thoughts and advice on building a good studio space. Things like minimum (and ideal) square footage, what designers love about their studios, or things they wish they had done differently are all very helpful at this point. I have a detached garage and ample space in the basement, and am trying to decide which area(s) to use, so I would also love any thoughts on that.”
Click here to read the Expert Panel’s advice to Kelly.
BB: How did you end up deciding between the detached garage space and the basement?
Kelly: I decided to build out the garage. I made this decision for a few reasons: 1) Many people mentioned the challenge of stairs, going up and down multiple times for any load in/load out of the studio, and I have to say I am really glad I don’t have any stairs to contend with. 2) The more I thought about it, the more I realized I really wanted the space to be separate from our house. It is really hard for me to draw the line between work and the rest of my life, and it is GREAT that my actual workspace is not under the same roof as our home. 3) In the end I think the biggest factor for me in deciding to build the studio in the garage is somewhat specific to my business: I both grow and design flowers, and I take a huge amount of inspiration from my garden. We designed the studio so it has big French doors that lead directly out to the garden- I can walk out with a bouquet in one hand and clippers in the other, and browse through the garden until I find the perfect thing to make it really pop. I LOVE having the studio so close to the garden. It is also nice to have a detached space for meeting with clients and teaching classes. I don’t think I would feel comfortable doing either of these things if clients/students had to walk through my basement or come through my house to get to the studio.
BB: Who drew up the plans for your studio? Who built out the space?
Kelly: I am really lucky that my dad is a contractor, and though he lives on the opposite side of the country, he came out and lived with us for a few months to help get the studio build-out off the ground! He, my husband and I did a significant amount of the work, but we hired a great plumber and electrician early on to get the studio wired and plumbed for my needs. After my dad left, we hired a contractor to help us finish the project. I have now been working in the studio for about a year and a half, but I moved in before it was 100% finished. We have continued to do small projects (like hang shelving) up until just a few months ago.
BB: What features were you adamant about including in your new studio space?
Kelly: I really prioritized lots of natural light, and I do love how airy and bright the studio is. Proximity to the garden was also a big priority. I wanted the space to be inspiring and aesthetically pleasing, which for me meant lots of light, and a pretty neutral canvas in every other way. I also wanted the space to be flexible- it is pretty small, just 240 square feet- and I knew that I was going to be needing every single square inch to be useful space. I have my work tables on wheels so they can be moved/rearranged easily to accommodate the different needs of production space/meeting space/teaching space, and have LOVED having a lot of shelving too. Someone also mentioned creating a “photo ready” space in the studio… somewhere that you can basically rely on for good light, so you don’t have to spend a lot of time setting up a photo every time you want to take one. I have a corner of my studio where I store a few wooden pillars, right next to one of the windows, and this is my photo corner- having this spot ready to go makes snapping photos for social media and documentation a lot easier and faster than it used to be.
BB: What turned out to be your favorite feature? Is there anything you wish you could change?
Kelly: My favorite feature…. I’d have to say the big French doors and the deck that lead right out to the garden! I take so much inspiration from my garden that having the ability to be so close to it, and see and engage with it while I am working is really special to me. In terms of what I would change… I knew from the beginning that the space was small. If I had the option of making it bigger, I definitely would. That said, I have found ways to deal with the small space: I only store “display” inventory in my studio- whatever we are using immediately for an event and whatever looks prettiest/is something I want to be able to easily and quickly show to clients during consultations. Everything else is stored in the basement. I have a small table in my studio where I occasionally bring my laptop and do office-type things… but I have a separate office in the house, which for the most part keeps the paperwork out of the studio. We are currently in the process of building a little cooler that will be attached to our house, but only a few steps from the front door of the studio. It would be really nice if the cooler could live inside the studio, but again, there just isn’t the space, and so far we have just managed without one!
BB: Are you inspired by the space?
Kelly: So inspired! It really is a beautiful space, and such a HUGE step up from everywhere else I have worked (under the awning in front of our front door, various places in our unfinished basement, the kitchen…..)
BB: Do you have brides/clients come to your studio? How have they felt about your space?
Kelly: Depending on the person, I do have brides/clients come to the studio, and I also meet off-site at venues and coffee shops. For a while I felt really uncomfortable having clients come over because to get to the studio they had to walk by our house (which is a constantly evolving construction project) and it just felt unprofessional to me. I was afraid they would think, “This is where I am going to spend thousands of dollars on my wedding flowers? Nope, I don’t think so.” But in fact I have gotten so much amazing feedback on the studio- people LOVE it, and they really love seeing the garden too. I have found that a lot of my worries are just in my head, and that my clientele tend to be coming to me because of my approach, so they really appreciate seeing some of the “behind the scenes” type areas. It has actually been really good for me to just get over the fact that things that aren’t perfect- the house is under construction, the garden is often a total mess, the studio is a home studio… none of these things actually change my ability to deliver incredibly beautiful wedding flowers, and run a very professional business. Also, a lot of my clients are at a stage in their life where they are starting to settle down, buy houses, often remodel some portion of their home…. They tend to actually get excited about hearing the story of the studio build out and the garden, and I think it actually makes the whole experience of working with Botanique more personal, which is important to me.
BB: What was the most helpful piece(s) of advice you got from the BB Expert Panel?
Kelly: Many designers mentioned the difficulty of working in a situation where you have to keep going up and down stairs- I am so glad I chose to build out the garage rather than the basement for this reason! I installed a nice, deep, stainless steel sink, which is FAR superior to any regular faucet. Having a good, easy to use water source really is important for efficiency-sake. I obviously didn’t follow a lot of the advice that revolved around having lots of space- it just wasn’t an option given the budget and space we were working with. I was worried about this, and it has created some obstacles, but ultimately I kind of like that the size of the space keeps the business at a certain size right now…. And forces me to be creative to use it in different ways. If I were to do it over again, or advise anyone currently building out their studio space, I would say to follow as much of the advice that the panel gave me as possible, and also get really clear on your priorities for the space- what are the top things you want to do with it, and how you envision your business growing. In addition to continuing to design flowers for weddings, I have decided to grow my business by adding a teaching element (workshops), and finding markets for the flowers I grow but don’t use in my designs. The studio can definitely accommodate all of this. Doing really huge events, or multiple events on the same day, are not really options in the size space I have now, but I am ok with that, at least for the time being!
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