Several months ago our photographer Michelle and I were planning our upcoming shoot and discussed how much we wanted a light filled room to shoot recipes in. As much as I love our kitchen, it’s actually the spot in our house that gets the least amount of natural light, making photo and video shoots difficult there. Plus, the fact that it’s also where our family hangs out every day makes it a less than ideal place for our team to get creative work done.
“It’s too bad we couldn’t turn yours.” guest room into a studio,” Michelle remarked. “It gets the best light in the house.”
“Oh, I wish!” I replied. But then I thought… wait. could we?
I couldn’t shake the idea, and within a week I had convinced Adam that we really could do without our guest room. We’re both big fans of using every area of the home to its full potential, and even though I didn’t exactly love the idea of giving up our only guest room, knowing that this new space would be one that would support our daily creativity and collaboration, far outweighed our reservations.
Goals for this design project
When I started planning how to turn this bedroom into an actual studio to support all kinds of creative work, I had a few main goals in mind:
Space for kitchen preparation. This would be the place where we would shoot our recipe photos and videos. While I wouldn’t be able to install real kitchen appliances, I wanted it to have counter tops and prep areas to function (and read) like a real kitchen.
Maximize the light. We chose this room for the incredible light it gets, so I wanted to position the layout to maximize the angles of sunlight during the day
Create a backdrop to shoot Casa Zuma. In addition to our recipe content, I wanted a space where we could quickly shoot new products for the Casa Zuma website. Having plenty of fairly neutral backdrops and open display shelves was a must.
A central work table for projects and collaboration. Cooking, cooking, setting up our laptops for meetings – we needed a central work table and an island that was an open space for collaboration.
Budget. I had to do it all on the cheap! I knew I had to get creative to make this space as beautiful as I imagined without dropping tons of cash. I’m proud to say the entire project came in at just over $2,800.
Before and after
To the left: the “before” room, when it was set up as our guest room. I really loved the space, but since most of our family lives in Austin, we didn’t end up using it that much, and I’m not a fan of having rooms sitting empty in a house when they could serve a much more useful purpose ! Plus, it was time for Henry to get a bigger bed, and this woven neutral headboard was perfect to repurpose for his upstairs bedroom.
To the right: after! The new studio has proven to be a great place for our team to work in, with lots of light and great energy. The one budget item that I didn’t include in my overall calculations was plastering the walls, which you’ll see adds a lot of depth to the afterimage. We actually did this in our mini-remodel a few years ago that I covered right here.
Scroll on as I break down the main elements that brought this room together…
The island / work bench
I searched high and low for a counter height island that was the right dimensions for this room. It had to be big enough to provide plenty of work space, but not so big that it made it difficult for us to move freely around the room. And I wanted something with a timeless, rustic design and vintage vibes – which meant using reclaimed wood.
My first search came up empty, but then I came across an Etsy shop called Whatman Barn furniture who make custom-made islands from reclaimed wood. I reached out and told him what I was looking for and 6 weeks later a huge box showed up in my driveway with our beautiful new island.
I surrounded it with three of mine table stools in woven leather from Saffron + Poe and it just feels perfect.
The lower cabinet and table top
IKEA scores all the way, baby! I was super excited when I found these set of drawers with a texture similar to shiplap for the classic European farmhouse style vibe I was going for (I think that finish is gone, but there are plenty of other good ones. I love the light ash.) I topped them with a large plate of theirs laminate table top in a bleached wood tone and we were set. A note that I learned the hard way: If you want these to be flush, be sure to order the little legs that goes on the bottom to raise the counter off the floor.
The open bookcase
This was a difficult one for a few reasons. I wanted a single marble shelf that ran the length of the countertop for an elevated, graceful place to display plates, cutting boards, and Casa Zuma pieces. However, marble shelves tend to be (a) very expensive and (b) difficult to install because they are extremely heavy. Here was my solution – I’ll admit it’s not perfect, but it really was the best price and I’m mostly happy with how it turned out.
First I found these marble shelves on clearance at Ballard designs (yes, it took some deep internet searching, and yes, sometimes the most unlikely sources turn out to be a gold mine.) Since I didn’t want to have to cut into the drywall to install interior brackets, I decided to use exposed steel brackets for a slightly industrial look. I ordered These from Etsy.
Next it was time to mount them on the wall, which didn’t go as smoothly as I had hoped. I wanted to place the 4 brackets exactly evenly across the wall; But when we started drilling, we ran into some awkward wall studs that prevented us from placing the brackets exactly where I wanted. However, we made it work by getting a little creative with the distance. Progress and not perfection is the goal, guys (I keep telling myself that. And yes, it’s probably something I’d like to redo later).
The woven light fixture (it was $39!)
This woven pendant in the center of the room is definitely my favorite steal. I found it on Etsy from Beldi Bohemia store and it was exactly the California-meets-Mallorca vibe I was looking for. We removed the ceiling fan that was in the room earlier and replaced it with a simple light bulb that runs right through the center of the straw basket. It’s exactly the finishing touch this room needed.