At the end of this month, we’ll celebrate our one year anniversary with our charming and talented contractor. When we moved into our little 1925 downtown bungalow last summer, we met said contractor at the same time, making plans to finish off our unfinished basement and attic spaces.
Our renovation goals included: 1) an attic studio/learning/homeschool/writing/art environment for tinkering and making, and 2) a basement music studio and hang-out pad for band rehearsals and recording. In short, we wanted to create spaces that would enhance our ability to follow our creative pursuits and allow us to invite friends over to join in the fun.
Here we are, one year later, finally finished and enjoying our new/old house! Though I’ve carved out creative spaces in previous homes, I’ve never built them from scratch before, and the ability to build to suit our needs was appealing, though the process was about as fun as a root canal (seriously – we were reduced to a 10 x 15 den for most of the winter, studying in the midst of a half dozen contractors, dust, noise, piles of sheetrock, etc. Whew!). Today, I’ll share our attic studio with you, as it’s the main homeschool space.
The Attic Studio
As we thought about our attic studio, the family made a list of priorities, based on how we wanted to use the space. Above all, we wanted the area to be functional, and allow us to freely create and dream and make. Here’s what we desired:
Easy and attractive access to art supplies and books
I built the huge-mongous bookshelves (featured in the top photo) for our previous, very large house. I brought the lumber over, thinking I could cut them down to fit our smaller domain. What a pleasant surprise that I didn’t have to! The shelves as I had originally designed them took up one entire wall of the studio, but tucked under the skylights, they look as if they were built for this space. It’s comforting to have all these resources right there at the ready, and it makes clean-up so simple. Everything has its labeled box (well, most everything), and being such an open, dominant fixture in the room invites us to go over there and explore.
Space for small ongoing projects that can be left out, like puzzles, spring plants, or science projects
A card table works as our ongoing project space. Right now it’s holding all our plants that are desperate to go in the garden. I like not having anything more permanent than the card table, because sometimes it’s nice to open that space back up.
A large work table
I picked up our large work table at a school district surplus sale several years ago for $5. I love that thing.
A small desk that’s ALL MY OWN with space for a small filing cabinet, and other office-y things
Though I normally end up working on the large work table, having a desk all my own is very important to me. When you homeschool, you share everything – your time, your meals, your space, your computer. Just knowing that I have one tiny space that’s mine is empowering, and reminds me that I am more than mom and teacher.
Space for one comfortable chair just for hanging out, reading, or whatever
Our comfy rocking chair faces the beautiful skylights, and this combination has proven to be our most well-loved feature of the attic. In that chair, books have been written, discussions have been had, snacks have been partaken, falling snow has been admired, music has been enjoyed, and many miles have been rocked. The only thing lacking is a second glider chair. But that’s on our wish list.
Lots of natural light
Ah, and the skylights. There are so many studies by Important People that show how natural lighting in a learning environment enhances performance, creativity, and general well-being. We all know this intrinsically. In our well-lit attic, we seldom have to turn on the lights. Again, through these long, dark winters, feeling connected to the outside is especially nourishing.
Wall space for maps, white boards, art, and other things
Though I don’t have as much wall space as I did in our previous home, I did leave one wall available, and adorned it with an oversized white board, a world map, and some original artwork. There is still plenty of wall left, keeping future wall-hanging options open. If you read my blog with any regularity, you know of my love affair with white boards. It is a favorite space for computing math problems, generating story ideas, illustrating science projects, doodling, keeping a day’s schedule, and more. Mine I suppose is different than one you would find in a traditional classroom, as the kids have always used it as much as I do; it’s more of a learning tool than a teaching tool. I wouldn’t have an educational space without one!
Space for spreading out Lego projects that we don’t have to put away
The space around the staircase was perfect for some closet shelving to hold the Lego projects, and we carved out an open storage area for additional Lego shenanigans. Eva prefers to build standing up, so I put the shelves at that height. Though I had outlets for lamps installed in the Lego closet area, thinking she would want to build in there too, we haven’t really used that space for creating. It’s mainly serving as essential Lego storage.
Carpet (this was Eva’s particular request)
Selecting the carpet helped Eva adjust from moving from our previous home which was completely carpeted, to our hard-wood bungalow. She missed having the ability to spread out on the floor and roll around. That was an easy decision for us, and its added warmth and comfort has increased the attic’s functionality.
A window seat with plenty of cushions and storage to curl up, write, read, and daydream
Eva requested the window seat as her writing space, and I designed and built it to fit the area, using a couple of stock kitchen cabinets to bookend the bench and provide extra storage. Outdoor couch cushions make it nice and comfy, and you can watch the birds really well from there. So far, she hasn’t really used it for writing, but I love it anyway. It makes for a nice hideaway reading nook.
Open storage for our huge collection of games
We are a family of gamers – Settlers of Catan, Carcassone, Munchkin, chess, Ticket to Ride, Flux, etc. etc. Especially during our long winters, we will often pull out a game to play during (and after) dinner. It’s a great way to just hang out and be together, and it gives us something to look forward to at the end of a long day. It also feels like we’re doing something kind of decadent, like having an extra dessert. When you have winters as long and cold as the ones we do in North Dakota, treats like this are essential. To house our game collection, I wanted space that was easily accessible, open, and attractive. Just as neatly stacked games beg to be picked up and explored at a store, a well-stocked, attractive game closet inspires variety-filled gaming nights.
Stay tuned for the basement music studio! And in the meantime, please share with me your favorite learning space elements. What do you find most beneficial?
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