Fireplace Studio – How to Make a Creative Space in a Chock-a-block Family Home

I have always wanted my own art studio, but after having kids, my dream changed. All I wanted now was a teeny tiny art studio. Somewhere I could do my own stuff without having to clear up the play dough first…

Our kids’ stuff gets EVERYWHERE. Arts and crafts, cookery bits, board games, play shopping, children’s books, bikes, scooters, etcetera, etcetera. The kids’ things have spread from their bedrooms to all the shared spaces in our home too.

As a result, we grown-ups finding it more and more frustrating when WE wanted to do something; nothing was ever to hand or easy to get started on.

But there is good news! We took a hard look at our small-to-middling Victorian terrace house. And, even bursting at the seams with stuff as it is, we were able to find spaces to annex as dedicated ‘grown-up’ areas. We even found one for each of us.

All it took was thinking about what we both needed. Then identifying a few wasted areas around the house that we could make better use of. Mostly, all it took was a little bit of reorganisation. And I promise you, if messy pack-rats like us can do it, you can too!

fireplace being used for art supplies storage space
Every home has a few nooks and crannies of wasted space. Make use of an unused fireplace to create useful storage!

Making a tiny art studio space…

The way we approached making space for ourselves was to ask a few basic questions:

  1. What am I going to use the space for?
  2. What key facilities do I need my space to have for this? Essential ones only!
  3. Where in my house can any of these key facilities be found already?
  4. What would need to be changed about those areas to give me as many of my key facilities as possible?
  5. How are those areas currently used?
  6. Would any activity/items need to be moved from those areas?
  7. How would it impact day-to-day life if one of those areas became my new space?

We didn’t do this with any kind of formality. But thinking about these questions – and doing it in the order above – definitely helped focus us on what we needed, and what we didn’t; so if you’re struggling with where to start, give it a go.

A Grown-Up Art Cupboard

What I wanted was tiny art studio to do the arts, crafts and sewing I’ve always loved. A dedicated full-size art studio was, alas, out of reach for me. However I’d be happy with a grown-up art cupboard and some table space for working. And no glitter glue, pompoms or foam shapes in sight…

So when I thought about my absolute priorities, it was quite simply a large-ish table, with storage for art materials and equipment close by.

Our largest table is our dining table. Luckily, we also have a breakfast table where we mostly eat. This means, though, that the dining table ends up a bit of a dumping place for random stuff! That also meant it would make no difference to our day-to-day lives for me to use it as my tiny art studio 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!

fireplace storage - art supplies shelved inside fireplace
An infrequently used dining table makes the perfect large desk for all sorts of creative endeavours! But yes, the shelves either side are a mess… and yes, they’re on the list to do soon…

A table to work on

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.

fireplace storage area - art studio with shelves inside a fireplace
Go bohemian and put your art supplies on display!
fireplace storage - art supply shelves in an unused fireplace
For doing art work, it helps to have lovely light from nearby windows!

Shelving for everything

The only new bits I bought for my tiny art studio 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.

fireplace storage - mdf paper racks stood inside a fireplace
MDF paper racks are relatively inexpensive but make storing essential supplies a piece of cake!

I then stacked the wine boxes and an old wooden crate on top. This made 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!

old wooden wine box being used for storing artists paints
Old wine boxes make great storage for art supplies!
fireplace storage - lino printing rollers or brayers hung up on nails in the fireplace surround
A nail in the fireplace wood surround makes an instant hook for ink rollers.

Hooks for hanging things

There were already a couple of cup hooks screwed into the underside of the mantlepiece. I use them at Christmas to hang up garlands, but now I had a use for them all year round.

Tying on a length of twine and some miniature pegs made a great drying rail for my prints. And again took only minutes to do. Perfect for a tiny art studio space!

fireplace storage - lino prints hung up to dry on string over fireplace
Hanging prints out to dry on a simple line attached to the mantlepiece.

My space, your space…

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. She knows she can use their art stuff whenever she likes.

Both kids understand 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 – and how I love this! – 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 special care to show them both everything once it was all set up, and explain why they could not touch some things without me.

stoneware jar of artists paintbrushes
No studio is complete without a jar of brushes!
Pfiel lino cutting gouges and pile of cuttings
My extra sharp Pfiel lino cutters.

The ultimate drying rack

The last thing I added to my tiny art studio space was an old industrial-style paper rack that I’d got for a bargain. 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 it is just right for storing finished prints and pieces, doubling as a drying rack for work in progress.

vintage Hago Beanstalk stacking trays
My bargainous Hago Beanstalk stacking trays – eternally useful!

I could also have utilised the mantlepiece over the alcove as an extra shelf, but it’s very narrow. Besides which, it was already in use as a mini nature shelf for the kids’ finds and forest school makes.

I love having these bits out on display for them so decided to leave that as it was. But I did give it a dust though… it had been a while!

mantlepiece used as nature shelf, above fireplace storage
We use our dining room mantlepiece as a shelf to display the kids’ nature ‘finds’ and their forest school crafting.

It took me no time at all to set up my tiny art studio. 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. And it has helped us regain our sense of identity.


Shopping for your own tiny art studio

Looking to create some art storage for yourself? The easiest and cheapest approach is to look around at what you already have. But what if you are not a pack rat like me? In that case, below are similar products to some of the things I used.

This post uses affiliate links, meaning I receive a small amount when you click through and buy. You can find out more on my ‘about affiliate links’ page.

These storage solutions are similar to the paper storage racks I used.



A4 Paper Storage Unit

MDF cubbyholes

And if, like me, you’re squeezing storage into a small space, go for things that stack. A good example are these crates and art drawers:


Crates with shelf dividers

Artists storage box with drawers

If you’ve enjoyed this post, why not take a look at some of these others?

A Victorian steampunk family bathroom
Transforming our bathroom was well overdue, but it was definitely worth the wait!
eco glitter and lino print
This plant-based glitter is biodegradable and non-toxic – and perfect for an Earth Day kiddie craft!
Vintage Hago Beanstalk stacking trays
Vintage Hago Beanstalk stacking trays – great industrial-style storage!
vintage bakelite Soviet chess clock
Vintage bits like my old Soviet chess clock share space with the kids’ forest school crafts and nature finds.

2 Comments

  1. Hi, what a fantastic way to use the unused fireplace instead of the usual vase of flowers. I love the way how you have created an effective storage place and can dry the pictures #MMBC

    • Rochelle - Rhubarb and Wren

      Thanks Chloe! It makes such a difference having everything all in one place and to hand when I want it – much more useful than a vase of flowers… if a tad less minimalist 😉

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