A place for everything…
In a previous life I worked as a produce clerk in grocery stores. My first boss used to say “If the back room’s a mess, you can’t get anything done on the sales floor”.
In the world of professional cooking, there’s a concept called “Mise en place”. Sharp knives, clean cutting boards, fresh ingredients fully stocked… If the chef, sous chef, prep cook or line cooks “mise” is a mess, the food will suffer.
Whether job site, work vehicle, studio, shop, tool boxes, desk… I’ve always been serious about well organized and efficient work spaces.
In the spirit of this, I thought I’d share some ideas I’ve applied to create a basic, functional faux finishing studio.
Leaning shelves with attached bench: Simple, inexpensive, space saving.
A couple years ago I needed a bench, storage space and easel in a short term studio space.
I talked to a carpenter friend and he showed me the leaning, floor to ceiling shelves he’d built to store wood in his shop. Based on his shelves, I designed and built a shelf/bench combo.
Because of the angle, weight added from tools and materials serves to increase the over all stability of the structure.
I wasn’t sure the bench aspect would work, as the whole thing depends on a certain amount of balance. After building and using it for about a year, I can assure you it works great.
How to build faux finishing studio leaning shelves & work bench
Materials are listed below, though this project is very versatile and can be customized for your needs and space.
- My space had 8 foot ceilings, so I used 2×6 verticals. Any higher and I might use 2×8’s.
- Bench and shelf length is about 60 inches. Any longer would require more structural support for the bench and shelves to minimize sway, aka “deflection”: the degree to which a structural element is displaced under a load.
- 3/4″ x 6″ B-grade (low cost material) wood shelves and 3/4″ CDX plywood bench, 24″ wide. Shelves could be 8″ or even 10″ wide.
- For shelving support, I used 1×2’s on edge, fastened with 1.5″ deck screws through the top to the underside at the rear edge.
- To eliminate bench flex I attached a 2×4 on edge at the back, underside, fastened through the top with 2″ deck screws. I also added a 1×2 under the front edge.
- The distance from the wall to the feet of the 2×6’s was about 20″. I chose this distance because I wanted to store larger buckets and bins under the bench. You might want to just add more shelves down there.
- Find your angles: For the feet of the verticals, prop one 2×6 at the angle you want and use a level to mark a horizontal line at the bottom to cut.
- Anchor the tops of the 2×6’s: Note the short 2×4 near the top on the wall on the left side. It spanned and anchored to the studs in the wall and I toed the 2×6 into it with a lag screw. On the other end (in the corner) I pre-drilled and drove a 4″ lag screw through the 2×6 into the corner stud. Result was excellent lateral strength.
- Because the room was multi-use, I needed the bench to fold up. I screwed strap hinges into each end of the bench and to the 2×6’s.
- Bench swing limiters were lengths of 1/8″ stainless cable anchored with eye screws to the 2×6’s, and hooks at the outside edges of the bench.
- To hang my shelves, I screwed 6″ long, 1×2 blocks to the insides of the 2×6’s. I only built four shelves. I’ve learned over the years that more space leads to unnecessary stuff. I like to keep every day tools and materials at arms length and store infrequently used stuff in an easy access location such as a bin under the bench or a nearby closet.
- In the top photo, note how my bottom shelf matches the bench height, extending the width of the work space. The full length 1×2 support for that shelf is on top, not bottom. This kept round objects from rolling off the back.
- The wall to wall carpetting in the room needed to be protected, so I set the whole rig on top of a 12×12 drop cloth and just left it there. This could be folded up to the bench when I needed that floor space. A pain to sweep/vacuum, but it served the purpose of keeping the carpet clean.
Materials for faux finishing studio shelves and bench
- 2, 8 foot 2×6’s
- 3, 5 foot B-grade 1×6’s
- 5 foot x 24″ x 3/4″ CDX plywood
- 4, 6 foot 1×2’s
- 1, 8 foot 2×4
- 2, 2″ strap hinges
- 48″, 1/8″ stainless steel cable and 4, 2 hole aluminum crimp stops
- 2 eye screws and 2 hook screws
- 1.5″ through 4″ deck screws
Leaning shelves are a great solution for a faux finishing studio in terms of cost, efficiency, space saving and overall usability.
Since most job site conditions are vertical, I’ve always used easels vs a flat bench when creating or matching finishes.
Like my bench and shelves, I needed my easel to be minimal. I’ve built free-standing 2×4 easels in the past but their footprint needs to be quite broad to hold large practice and sample panels.
Easel materials list
- 1, 4 foot 2×6
- 1, 6 foot 2×4
- 1, 3 foot 2×2
- 2, 4″ lag screws
- 10, 2″ deck screws
- 1″ x 36″ x 48″ sheet of melamine
I used a table saw to rip the 2×6 into two pieces that taper from 2.25″ to 5.5″ (2×6 material is actually 1.5″ x 5.5″).
For the horizontals I cut 2, 30″ pieces from the 2×4 and lag bolted them into two wall studs (16″ apart). The lower piece is about waist high, the other is 18″ above that.
I screwed the tapered 2×6 pieces, widest ends at the bottom, into the ends of the horizontal 2×4’s.
The 2×2 was screwed onto the front, bottom of the tapered 2×6’s. This acted as a ledge for my large melamine sheet.
Melamine is not fun to build with. It’s quite heavy. It needs to be scored before cutting or it shatters. Also, cutting it generates a huge volume of obnoxious smelling sawdust. But its surface holds and releases low-tac tape well, cleans up easily and lasts forever and the weight is good for aggressive brush work (flogging, stippling…).
I could skip the angles on the 2×6’s by fastening the melamine to the verticals. But the angles allowed my monster sheet of melamine (1″ x 36″ x 48″) to sit without any anchors on the 2×2 ledge.
I drilled holes for dowels on the outside of the 2×6 to hang brushes and other tools within reach of the easel (sorry they don’t show in the photo’s).
The configuration of this shelving/bench/easel combo could be customized and altered in many ways to suit your personal faux finishing studio needs.
I found this setup so workable and satisfying that I wouldn’t hesitate to build one in a permanent studio.
Inspiration: The Studio of Casey Neistat
Film maker Casey Neistat’s creative output is legendary, due in no small part to his dedication to organization; his belief in the importance of “Mise en place”.
I watch Casey’s videos every day for creative and professional inspiration and I never get tired of seeing his amazing work space.
I’ll leave you with a tour of what is currently one of most famous studios in the world.
Also, his videos are pretty damned entertaining (careful, that link can lead to addiction).
If you need clarification or more details about this faux finishing studio project, please don’t hesitate to send me a message. I’m happy to answer any questions and I’d love to hear from you.
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