studio organization

by | Oct 25, 2017 | Art, Artistic Endeavors, Home Studio, Organizing | 34 comments

This studio is totally different from my last one.  It’s about a 20th of the size, maybe even smaller than that.  It doesn’t have storage closets, rolling dividing walls, or many zones for different tasks.  This studio is designed specifically for small-scale creative endeavors and photography.  No shipping, no office work, no big sewing or furniture projects.

Even small-scale creative endeavors require lots of gear, though!  I am still figuring out how to maximize the space I do have, but this is what’s working for me so far…

The large, antique hardware store cabinet is the focal point, statement piece, and most of my storage rolled into one.  It’s perfectly sized for art supplies – everything from tubes of paints and brushes to canvas and papers.

(For those who missed it, I found the cabinet on Craigslist.  It came out of an old hardware store in Maryland.)

Someone asked and yes, I do actually use the labels to identify what’s in each drawer.

And some drawers have dividers and others have been removed to accommodate larger items, like pads of paper.

In some drawers, I’ll use plastic or wooden bins to corral smaller items.  As an aside, one of the drawers had a bunch of tiny dividers and I’m kicking myself for removing them!  They would’ve been perfect for small tubes of oil paint!  Darn it!

By the way, if I meet some untimely demise, can you make sure Jeff doesn’t sell all of my super nice art supplies at a yard sale for $1.00?  Thanks.

The other hard-working spot in the room is the corner with my drafting table, easel, and small storage piece.  I use the drafting table for watercolors and drawing and the the easel for painting.

The storage piece is made of an antique table and a postal sorter.  It’s two pieces I didn’t plan on putting together when I bought them, but they work perfectly.  It looks pretty, but it really is very functional.  It’s packed with items I use regularly.

Of course, the brushes are in mustard crocks on top…

And inside the sorter, some of the items are decorative, but even in the pretty crocks and bowls, there are things I use, like binder clips, a measuring tape, erasers, etc.  I also use the small ironstone butter pats for mixing water and oils and mediums are stored in Weck jars.

I also have stacks of primed canvases and canvas papers and a couple of sketch books at the ready.

The small work surface affords just enough room for my glass palette and an antique tool box filled with my most frequently used oil paints.

The wheeled stool tucked next to the drafting table holds a crate with bulky supplies.  I can wheel it out when I need to have it closer to me.

It holds paper towels and baby wipes for wiping away paint, as well as ziplock bags for storing dirty towels with oil on them (I then fill the bag with water to prevent spontaneous combustion.)  There are also a few bottles of solvent and various mediums nestled inside.  I have a box of gloves in there, but I hate wearing gloves, so I’m going to take them out.  I just prefer to wash my hands frequently!

I’ve been taping my paintings to a masonite board, but was having trouble with the canvas panels falling off (and always landing face-down, of course!)

So, I purchased a holder for small canvases.  It’s really a pretty clever little thing that uses friction to hold the canvas in place.  I put a binder clip on for added insurance, but it holds pretty well with just the wedge in place.

I haven’t figured out how I want to store my color charts, so I just have them hanging on the “clothes line” strung across the window.  I like having them out where I can see them, so I’ll have to figure out a nice way to display them.  (I’m going to run out of room on the line!)

Anyone who enjoys an organized space knows the joy that is found when all of your supplies and necessities are sorted and even aesthetically pleasing.  So, I’ve made a real effort to keep short accounts with keeping the studio tidy and organized.  I clean up after almost every painting session, so I’m not met with a messy palette, dirty brushes, and clutter when I next go in there to create.  I’m also not allowing myself to just plop bags and such on the floor.  I need to put things away or not bring them in there at all.

And it seems to work so far!

I go in there, close the door, turn on my music, and I am ready to be a student and practitioner of art and design.

PS – I have started a new Instagram account @MarianParsonsArt , so I can share hyperlapse videos of paintings, more process details, as well as pictures of all of my work, for those who are interested!



  1. Sharon Rexroad

    For those of us interested? Oh ye of little faith! Heading over now.

  2. Marsha Kern

    You are so talented!

  3. Jo

    I love everything you do! It’s amazing how good you are at oil painting, only having just started. If you ever find another hardware cabinet like yours and don’t want it – I do!!! I keep looking but am not finding one.

  4. amy joanne mogish

    ….I like that…’yard sale for $1.00. I always tell my friends…’in case of my early departing, be sure to check the next trash day on my curb for treasures’…..Enjoying your love for Art.

  5. Kim

    Your studio is beautiful. And having grown up with a talented painter mom, I can say that when we had to dispose of her MASSIVE quantity of art supplies, etc., we pretty much sold them all for $1 each or gave them away! It was overwhelming and the only thing that made sense. It made me feel good to give other creative people some excellent deals. Of course, we “kids” kept a lot too, for our studios!

  6. Marsha

    I am so enjoying following your journey into oil painting and watching your progress with this 100 Meadows project. It’s been so inspiring and you have inspired me to give it a whirl some day. I have no artistic background when it comes to painting on canvases and do not come from a line of family artists. However, if you want to learn something, the resources are out there to do it.

  7. Susan

    Your studio is amazing! I love antiques which is what drew me to your blog from Pinterest years ago. Your storage pieces have inspired me to look at my decorative items to see if they can serve a more practical use. Thanks for the eye candy!

  8. Kathryn

    Wow…#43 is a stunner!

  9. Elizabeth

    Marmalade jars not mustard. I love mine as well. You must find some mustard or mustard seed jars!

  10. Carla from Kansas

    I love your new studio. On another topic entirely would you please do an update on your business in China and when we might see pieces available from that.

  11. Maureen

    Hi, Marian!
    Just want to say #43 is really nice — so interesting and beautiful! You’re doing great!

  12. Laurel

    I had to chuckle at your $1 comment. I am constantly telling my husband and kids, “if something happens to me DON’T sell my vintage fabric and barkcloth in a garage sale!”

    Question? If you leave your color samples exposed to the light, won’t they eventually change color slightly?

  13. Marilyn

    Love you studio. It is so light filled…I have to create in my basement. But hey that is more room than some people have!

  14. Kristine

    I am taking inspiration from your comments about picking up after yourself when you have finished, so you don’t walk into a messy studio when you next enter. And about being conscious about putting things away, not just plopping bags down. I struggle with that, and realize (and appreciate) the enormous sense of well being when I walk into my project room and it is neat as a pin! Thank you for providing encouragement!!

  15. Debra

    Your a natural beauty-talented galore!wow ur children I hope got ur gene!
    Going to follow u on instagram. Debra @nantucketdebrap/

  16. Sue

    To store your tubes of paint, there are clear, lucite lipstick organizers that might work. If they are too small, they may have a larger container that holds nail polish that would work. You can check any place that sells organizers and look under cosmetic organizers to see what could work.

  17. Ashley

    Am I the only one who got tripped up on the nonchalant comment about avoiding spontaneous combustion? What!? I was over here assuming art was a nice, safe hobby. 😁

    • maureen

      I did not know about the spontaneous combustion until a friend of a friend had her house burn down because of it. It is apparently very serious,. Hers was caused from rags with turpentine that she had put (in a bag without water) in the garage.

  18. katerina stepovikov

    sUCH A PITY YOU DON’T HAVE TIME TO WATCH oUTLANDER. A truly beautiful series. Authenticity in it’s period styling etc. xx

  19. judy kulmaczeski

    Just received #38 print from Society 6 and I am getting the frame ready for my new acquisition….!!

  20. Michelle

    Lovey post worthy of submission to the magazine- Where Women Work
    Oh and I bought the Madewell bad with monogram! Love it

    • Elaine

      What?? I missed the info on the bag! Share please!

  21. Becky

    Supplies are great….Rosemary brushes are the very best…and you can use baby oil to clean your brushes!!!

    • Marian Parsons

      I use baby oil for my hands and murphy’s oil soap for the brushes.

  22. Norma Rolader

    Oh so beautiful and love how you use your space You are doing so good on your painting Keep it up girl

  23. Jean C.

    I just turned around and looked at my studio and grimaced. I’m still working on making it less cluttered. I think I have plenty of storage, but… I have a small tabouret that I got for a few bucks almost 40 years ago and it might be time to part with it because it’s just not that functional. I love all your ideas here and I’ll be on the lookout for better storage solutions! On to the thrift shops!

  24. Sandi

    Love how quickly you have organized and set up your new studio. It’s very inviting, airy and bright. We all need a creative space to paint and I would enjoy that space to paint each day. Quite a collection of pastels you have gathered already. Love those Terry Ludwigs !

  25. kathy

    Your landscapes are so beautiful!

    You are such an amazing woman. I can’t believe how much you are able to accomplish in such a short period of time. You must be on the move every second of your day. I love your studio, I love what you are doing to your new home, and I love how much you inspire me! I look forward to checking out your blog and seeing what you are up to every day.

    Thank you!

  26. beth gagnon

    big sigh…..lovely space!!

  27. Susan

    I tried to follow your new Instagram account, but Instagram said that it doesn’t exist. I double-checked it, but it still wouldn’t come up. I am looking forward to following this and I will try again, later.
    I love your studio space and the organization. What a great place to create!

  28. Connie

    Marian, where did you purchase the holder for small canvasses?


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Marian Parsons - Miss Mustard Seed

I’m Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed, a wife, mother, paint enthusiast, lover of all things home and an entrepreneur, author, artist, designer, freelance writer & photographer.  READ MORE to learn more about me, my blog and my business…


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