Home is Where the Art Is

Hobbyists create rooms in which to create.

Melody Layman of Wilmington dedicated the third floor of her Victorian-era townhouse to sewing. When not in use, fabrics are organized by color and stored on floor-to-ceiling shelving. Spindles of theare are mounted on pegs. photograph by Jared CastaldiImagine a room that is yours, all yours, a space devoted strictly to your favorite pastime.

A hobby room could be an enclosed porch that has been transformed into an art studio, a spare bedroom dedicated to jewelry making, a basement woodworking shop, or even an underutilized bath that has been repurposed as a crafting center, complete with running water.

Melody Layman, who sewed her first stitches at age 3, has dedicated the third floor of her Victorian-era townhouse in the Highlands section of Wilmington to sewing.

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For 15 years, she sewed professionally, making costumes for the Delaware Theatre Company and other groups. Now, Layman sews for her own pleasure or to help friends.

In the sewing room, her expansive collection of fabrics is organized by color and stored in large, clearly labeled cardboard cartons on deep, floor-to-ceiling shelving. Spindles of thread are color-coordinated and mounted on pegs.

The centerpiece of the space is a large cutting table, 4 feet by 8 feet, that stands 40 inches tall, a more ergonomically friendly height than the standard 30-inch table top.

“It’s so much better for your back to cut on a tall table because you don’t have to hunch over,” she says.

The table is mounted on wheels and can be easily moved despite its bulk. The top is covered with brown craft paper.

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Donna Turi transformed her home in Alapocas into a light and airy sewing room. Patterns, fabrics, pins and other items are all within easy reach. photograph by Jared Castaldi“You can make notes on it. You can set your coffee on it,” Layman says. “Then you tear it off every few months and start fresh with new paper.”

Donna Turi, who floated down the aisle in a wedding gown she made herself, transformed a guest bedroom in her home in Alapocas into a light and airy sewing room.

Carpet squares, arranged in blocks of blue, green and cream, form a colorful area rug. (Hint: it’s much easier to spy a dropped pin on a solid color than a patterned rug.) A collapsible cutting table on wheels folds up and can be rolled away to save space.

“The table is great for all kinds of crafts,” Turi says. “It’s a bonus when you find pieces that can be used for multiple functions.”

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While she is sewing stylish skirts and elegant duvet covers upstairs, her husband, Jeff, is turning lengths of oak, cherry and other woods into art in his basement workshop.

Unlike a sewing machine, the lathes used in wood turning aren’t readily stowed into a cabinet or case. Figure on a large, open area for power tools, plus specialized storage for chisels, gouges, sandpaper and other smaller items.

“If you don’t have clutter, there are fewer impediments to creativity,” Jeff says. “Plus, the space is safer and more pleasant.”

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Jeff Turi uses the lathe in his beautiful workshop. He has created specialized storage for chisels, gouges, sandpaper and other smaller items. Photograph by Jared CastaldiFor years, Patty Bishop painted watercolors at the kitchen table of her rancher in Smyrna, then packed up her supplies when it was time to serve dinner.

When her son outgrew his playroom, she claimed the space as a studio.

It is a small room and Bishop was able to streamline the area by keeping electronic records and research on her laptop instead of on paper in a bulky file cabinet. Simple shear curtains at the window maximize natural light, an essential ingredient in art. Paints are stored in a rolling cart with drawers.

“You can move it around to where you are working,” she says.

In addition to her own paintings, Bishop decorates cream-color walls with inspirational sayings. A wooden sign says: “Life is art. Paint your dreams.” A large corkboard panel keeps important messages at eye level—and off her work table.

Without a system in place, hobby rooms can soon become a mishmash, says Karen Jessee, owner of Simply Organized in Wilmington.

She recalls organizing a garage workspace for a home carpenter.

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Patty Bishop of Smyrna converted her son’s former playroom into a studio. Photograph by Jared Castaldi“I found eight Stanley measuring tapes because he bought a new tape every time he couldn’t find one,” she says.

Jessee established designated shelves for tools and clearly labeled drawers for nails, screws and other smaller items. A pegboard on the wall is another easy, inexpensive way to store tools so the hobbyist can immediately identify what he or she needs for the job.

And if you want to make the system goof proof, outline each tool with a Sharpie to let everyone know “this tool goes here.”

“Look at vertical space,” Jessee advises. “Instead of letting things creep out over the floor, think about tall shelving.”

Also consider revving up rooms that get little traffic. She organized a seldom-used guest bath in a condominium into a tidy, efficient hobby room for a crafter.

“It had great light, running water and a shower stall that was perfect for shelving,” she says. “The homeowner rarely used that extra bathroom—but she enjoys the craft space at least three days a week.”

5 Tips for Your Hobby Room

1 A place for everything—and everything in its place. Organize small items in specialized drawers and compartments. Stow larger items in see-through plastic bins or clearly marked cartons or baskets.

2 Think ergonomically. Do you sit or stand when you work on your scrapbooks? Consider tables and chairs that can be raised or lowered to accommodate the job at hand. Add task lighting so you can clearly see when you are working with power tools.

3 Looking for specialized storage? Shop for cabinetry at kitchen showrooms and big box stores. Look for pieces that are outfitted with compartments, lazy Susans and other amenities that enhance accessibility. Also consider professional closet organization systems.

4 Repurpose common household items. A spice rack can hold small containers of paint and glitter. A toolbox with trays and compartments can be used to organize jewelry-making supplies.

5 Air it out. Choose a space with a window or some sort of ventilation system. The fumes from glue, paint or petroleum-based products can be toxic.

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