Friday, November 10, 2006

Create a Workstation for your Favorite Hobby

By Christina VanGinkel

How often have you wished for a dedicated space to enjoy your hobby, only to conclude that your chances of this happening are just not going to be realized? Your house is too small, every space already has a function, or maybe you have small children around and the thought of leaving your gear out would just be too tempting for small hands. Not all is lost, though it might take some ingenuity and work on your part to make it all happen. While a dedicated room might not be possible, a dedicated workstation might be.

Consider what your hobby is. Ask yourself if it is a hobby that needs to be enjoyed indoors (think scrapbooking, sewing, quilting, crochet, model building, electronics, etc.), or if it is more suitable to an outside of the house environment, such as a corner of the garage or even a separate little workshop (think woodworking, glass blowing, metalwork). Once you know the type of space, you are looking for, take a walk through these areas, inside or out, and consider what each is being currently utilized as. For example, if you enjoy woodworking, but all of your tools are piled on shelves or even still stashed in their boxes, consider each part of your garage, basement, and if you have any outdoor sheds. If considering sheds and garages, you will need to contemplate if these spots are heated (or could be) if you live anywhere, that winter means snow or deep freeze. If electricity is a necessity, make sure that is available too. Remember that you are not looking to take over the whole garage or basement, just enough room to make yourself a workstation to keep all your gear in one spot. Something easily accessible to you, but not out in the open where you feel like it is creating clutter, and if the space has a door, or could accommodate shelving or some sort of cabinet, all the better.

Most homes have areas that are being underutilized for their square footage, and this is the type of space you are in search of. If you have a wall in the garage, being used to store all your holiday decorations that you only need once a year; could they be moved to the rafters of the same garage? Many garages have plain studs that if a few sheets of plywood were laid across, could be used to store things that are not needed all the time. Do note that weight bearing might be at issue, so if you plan to store anything heavy up there, check with someone knowledgeable about building before proceeding.

Sometimes, all you need to do to claim some space is to reorganize. Hall closets, laundry areas, guest and family rooms, bedrooms, even kitchens if they have office built-ins or an unused pantry, could all be hiding the potential space you are looking for.

Once you think you have found a spot that you think would work, get to work. Remove any remnants of what it is being used for now, or redesign the area to accommodate its current use and your hobby. Some examples:

A laundry room might benefit from having the layout of the room revamped, though nothing drastic like tearing down walls, or shuffling water pipes, just basic reorganization and reassessment. If you have all your laundry products on a table next to the washer and dryer or even piled on the floor, put up a shelf above the units to store them. If you have a laundry folding area that never gets used except for sitting baskets on, reconsider if this is something you want to keep in the space, then remove it completely or take the table itself over as your workstation, with some additional storage above or below it. . If you have built-in cupboards that are overflowing with bottles of this and that, that you are not even sure how old most of the stuff is, toss it. Laundry rooms also often become dumping grounds for things that belong elsewhere in the house. That garden hose stuffed behind the door, put it in the garage, and the bag of baseball gear, make your kids put them where they belong. Once all of the extras are removed, you might actually be shocked at how much space you have found.

A closet is another space often filled with items that belong somewhere else. Open any closet in the average home and you are apt to find boxes and piles of things the typical homeowner is not even sure of what it all is. Clean it out to see what room you can gain. Consider the possibilities for a workstation in the space with the added advantage of a door that you can shut when you are in the middle of a project. If some things must stay in the closet that were originally there, use as much of the up space as you can, even if this means hanging a new shelf or resituating a rod higher up than it originally was. This can be a good plan for a closet where you keep out of season coats for example. When you do need to get things down, just use a stepladder to do so, the rest of the time, the off-season gear will be up and out of the way, leaving the lower portion of the closet space for you to install a desk or shelving to dedicate to your hobby as a workstation.

Once you have a space, or think you do, look at it and consider what type of workstation might best fit both the space and your hobby. There are lots of furniture pieces and storage choices created with the hobbyist in mind. Shop with dimensions in hand, so you are not disappointed when you find something you think is perfectly suited to the space, only to discover it will not fit. If pre finished furniture or storage pieces are out of your price range, still do some shopping, either in person or on line. Shop for ideas. When you find a piece that you think would work for your needs, ask yourself what it is about it that you like. Does it have many cubbyholes for storing gear, or does it have a large work surface. Consider how you could turn the idea into a reality on your budget.

If you are mainly after a flat work surface, consider such things as the legs from an old table, or an old table itself, with a new top. Stores such as Lowes or Home Depot carry sheets of eraser board for example, that you could glue down onto the top of an old table for a perfectly smooth work surface for less than twenty dollars.

Creating a workstation does not have to be just a dream. If you have a hobby that you enjoy, taking some time to find space to further your enjoyment of it is only sensible. Once you have a dedicated workstation, you will wonder how you ever survived without it.

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