make-believe: a studio of one’s own.

August 31, 2016

a studio of one's own | reading my tea leaves
Virginia Woolf wrote about the importance of having a room of one’s own in which to work. The slim volume—two essays really—is worth a reread, though I’d recommend not letting it derail your work morning as it did for me, recently. Woolf contends that on broaching the subject the women and fiction, “All I could do was to offer you an opinion upon one minor point—a woman must have money and room of her own….”

I’m not a fiction writer, generally, but I’d agree that money and a room of one’s own are crucial elements for writing professionally. At this point, I’d also settle for the corner of a room. A quiet corner outside of the space where I also eat and cook and sleep.

I’m on an unofficial, and certainly slow, search for a studio space to call my own. These last two years of making things work through a combination of perching in coffee shops and stealing back home after naps has started to wear on me.

I’m ready for a little corner where I can get creative and leave a bit of a mess around (mess being subjective of course). Having the chance to occasionally work from my aunt and uncle’s garage while we stayed in France reminded me of how nice a dedicated work space can be. And how very different that feels from perching in a coffee shop, especially when in addition to writing there are photographs to be made and projects to complete.

Yes: I’m thinking I need a quiet corner with white walls and a place I could plop my old workhorse of a table-turned-desk. I’d love for it to be close enough to home to make schlepping to and fro feasible and for there to be windows enough to make the space bright. It’s a tall order, but one’s got to get used to making them. Until I stumble upon the perfect spot, here’s a little fantasy list of of what else the space might include:

A copy of the original.

A tiny brass ball for burning incense. 

A simple print frame for hanging inspiration.

A hammock for lounging.

A few hooks for staying organized.

And baskets for the same.

A stool for standing on to get right the shot.

A black pendant for shedding a little light.

A customizable planner to keep me on track.

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  • Reply laura August 31, 2016 at 8:25 am

    May seem like a luxury but a devoted writing space is crucial! When the door is closed, both humans and animals in our home know not to disturb me. Best of luck in the search!

    • Reply Erin Boyle August 31, 2016 at 11:24 am

      Thanks, friendly!

  • Reply Lynn August 31, 2016 at 8:41 am

    My favorite kind o f make believe! My kids and I live in a one bedroom apartment (nope, not a typo). Usually it works well and we all enjoy it. But sometimes everyone needs a little space of one’s own.

    • Reply Erin Boyle August 31, 2016 at 11:24 am

      Speaking from experience, doesn’t sound like a typo to me!

  • Reply Jess August 31, 2016 at 8:55 am

    Hey, just a heads up– its Woolf (though many an English major get confused thinking of Tobias).

    • Reply Erin Boyle August 31, 2016 at 11:23 am

      Ah yes. Money, a room, and a copyeditor of one’s own…all needed 😉 Thanks for catching that!

  • Reply Christine August 31, 2016 at 9:30 am

    I know how you feel! Have you considered a co-working space? I work at one where I have my own desk (which I can leave messy if I choose!) and own cupboard to store my things. The place where I work is mostly quiet, it’s people in their 30s and 40s running small businesses, and I since I have my own key, I can access it evenings and weekends, outside of normal coffee shop hours 🙂 I am not sure how it is in NYC, but most spaces should allow you to rent your desk month-to-month so you could even use a co-working space as a transitional desk while you look for a studio.

    It’s a great solution for me because I only pay 220€/month to have a desk here, and moving to an apartment that has enough space for a desk would cost far more than that. Co-working spaces also seem to have much cleaner toilets than coffee shops, and you can make your own beverages and food if there is a kitchen.

    • Reply Erin Boyle August 31, 2016 at 11:23 am

      Yes, totally! Just haven’t seen one that would suit my needs yet!

  • Reply Julie Coats August 31, 2016 at 9:31 am

    Good morning, Erin- I hope you are well 🙂 I am new to your site, so thanks for your patience on my novice comment etiquette.

    I love your post on a dedicated studio space and will need to read Virginia Wolff’s book. I have a small studio space in the corner of our living room; carefully thought out, it provides everything I need, including privacy. A floor lamp with shelving serves multiple purposes: Keeps my resources organized, provides lighting, and blocks my peripheral vision. I found having a visual element block me from the rest of my home kept my mind focused and separated my work and living spaces. Additionally, there are other items for inspiration, comfort, and personalizing my space. I hope that helps 🙂

    • Reply Erin Boyle August 31, 2016 at 11:22 am

      Ah yes, it’s just the small apartment and small child (soon-to-be children) that makes things complex around here!

  • Reply Erin August 31, 2016 at 9:52 am

    Love this! I dream about having a lovely office for myself.

    Just a little note: it’s Virginia Woolf (not Wolff) 😉

    • Reply Erin Boyle August 31, 2016 at 11:24 am

      Got it! Thanks!

  • Reply Libby August 31, 2016 at 10:10 am

    We recently moved into a new house and for the first time in my life, I have an office. And it is so glorious! As of right now it’s… not exactly inspirational (picture red, shag carpet, faded brown wallpaper) but just HAVING the space right now is revolutionary! But I do have fantasies about one of those little sheds in the back yard. 🙂

  • Reply Sally August 31, 2016 at 10:26 am

    I’m moving into a place with my boyfriend and started off the search daydreaming about having an extra bedroom that I could turn into my little place to write. Alas, that was too tall of an order with our budget but I think I’ll just have to make do, at times turning the apartment into my work space, especially when my boyfriend works late. Hope you have luck finding a space!

  • Reply Rylie August 31, 2016 at 11:12 am

    I long for a specific place to write, even if I’m not writing professionally. Maybe a studio or a garage, but probably a little dedicated corner in our next less-tiny apartment 🙂

  • Reply Mary Kate August 31, 2016 at 11:38 am

    I, too, used to live in a tiny apartment in Brooklyn Heights and used to schlepp my laptop everywhere from the Starbucks to the Promenade to the park get writing done, but I soon found that I don’t work as well in public spaces. From worrying that you’re not ordering enough to justify sitting there any longer to worrying over losing your spot when you get up to go to the bathroom, or just being nowhere near a bathroom, it was not ideal.

    I live in Jersey City now in a bigger, cheaper, just as charming apartment, where an entire corner of my bedroom is all mine. It has my desk and my chair and is right next to the door to the deck, so I can even choose to go outside and write when the mood strikes. Someday I dream of a backyard studio, like your aunt and uncle’s garage, but that will have to wait until we’re ready for full-on suburbia.

    Good luck with your search! Brooklyn certainly does not make things easy!

  • Reply Heather August 31, 2016 at 12:29 pm

    We’ve recently done some moving around in our 625 square feet, for our family of four, and I was so happy to carve out more space for myself. Previously, my girls had some toys in the living room area and my husband and I shared a bedroom with the girls. Now they have their own room (my husband and I have squeezed a sleeping space into his 90 sq ft office—sleepin’ on the floor, still sorting things out!), so there are no toys in the living room. In the corner where there toys previously were, I now have a table of my own, for cutting and sewing, finally pursuing a long-dreamed-of endeavor. It feels wonderful.

    I sometimes wonder if you ever think of moving out of state to have more space, maybe near your older sister.

    Those baskets are perfection. I recently bought some baskets at Target, but returned them, because they weren’t quite right. Might need to save up for one of these! Also, I’ve been coveting an Appointed planner for awhile. So pretty!

    • Reply Erin Boyle August 31, 2016 at 12:31 pm

      Sounds lovely! We do sometimes think of a move—though not for reasons of space necessarily! Really, I think working full-time from home with kiddos is a tough gig no matter how much space there is!

    • Reply Heather August 31, 2016 at 12:31 pm

      *their* toys

  • Reply Christie August 31, 2016 at 12:45 pm

    Absolutely! I am a lawyer, and when I started my own practice, I did work from home. Then I moved into my own office. There is nothing like having this little space that I share with my assistant. It is wonderful–decorated simply. I love coming here. It’s so peaceful.
    A small note of advice–it does get easier, this balance–when your kids get to school. I remember very well when my second was born 2 1/2 years ago, and trying to find that time to work and the agony I felt when he wouldn’t take his nap. Both kids are in school/preschool, and my days flow so well. I only work part time–6 hours a day–but it is great to keep me sane and keep my identity and allow me to be there for my kids when they get home.

  • Reply cara August 31, 2016 at 4:05 pm

    It doesn’t solve the studio part, but have you seen Croissant? It’s like Class Pass for co-working spaces. You do have to cart around your laptop, still, but the coffee and comfort and nice bathrooms are included. I’ve signed up for a month every now and again when working from home isn’t, well, working. Costs about the same per session as an iced tea at the coffee shop. And you can explore various neighborhoods, if you’re in the mood.

  • Reply Bonnie Rae September 1, 2016 at 10:06 am

    This post is so beautiful, and timely! We are moving to a new small space and there is actually room for a beautiful workspace. I love your style and your advice and I will definitely be taking these tips with me as I decorate!

    p.s. I ordered the Allbirds sneakers you have because my old sneakers wore out and they are AMAZING- thank you!

  • Reply Jennifer Laxmi September 1, 2016 at 12:10 pm

    Love this, so inspiring both visually and functionally. I’d love to have a corner space at some point. Right now it’s all in my head, ha! Need to organize and deliberately plan an area to feel inspired and stay focused.

  • Reply Sophia September 1, 2016 at 8:33 pm

    Erin, a very good option, that planner:) I hope you find just the little space you’re looking for.

    • Reply Erin Boyle September 1, 2016 at 9:25 pm

      So glad you saw it!

  • Reply Alex Milmeyster September 1, 2016 at 11:00 pm

    I imagine finding such a one is rather difficult in New York, or any other insanely overpriced market! There is now mass migration of creatives to Midwest and down South, where room of one’s own is more widely available and much more affordable

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