I am in the process of moving into a new apartment in San Francisco. Amidst the endless furniture shopping, cleaning, painting, and waiting during absurdly long delivery-time windows, I have been planning the construction of the ultimate apartment-based graphic design studio. As I’ve always set up shop in a room with another purpose (currently my studio also serves as my bedroom and recording area), the prospect of having a dedicated design room is very exciting. I figure this move will be a good opportunity to really take my time and build the perfect work room — from the paint on the walls, to the the table tops and filing cabinets — every detail will be meticulously considered.
The room itself is 11.5′ x 9′, plus a generous closet. The purpose of the room will be a place where I can work, file, cut, store, display, print and create. Basically a little graphic design super room. Unfortunately there will not be space for my music set up, so my guitars are going to have to bunk with me in the bedroom. You’ll notice there is also a small window. Ideally, for consistency reasons, I would prefer to have no window — but I’ve come around on the issue in hopes of the keeping studio morale high…
The first order of business is the wall color and I have been staring at infinite variations of color grey for the last very long while. I am trying my best to approximate Munsell N8, the wall color I mentioned in the Color Management Field Guide. Of course, the easiest way to do this would be to buy the actual Munsell paint, but I am unusually freaked out about chemicals and odor, and I tried to find an appropriate substitute with zero VOC’s etc. I spent a long time printing out high quality reproductions of the color I thought I wanted, and I took these to the local Benjamin Moore to see if they could whip up a mix. (And when I say local, I mean next door — so that’s another reason for going with BM. I change my mind frequently and I wanted to have the option of switching colors at a moments notice.)
The color I went with (up to this point) is Grey Horse 2140-50. It looked perfect on paper, in the can, and at first when it was on the walls. Unfortunately, now that it has dried, it reads as a very light blue color (makes the room look like I’m expecting a baby boy). So basically I’ve decided to diverge a bit from the “Munsell or bust” plan I set out with. I could have expereimented with few other approximations, but when it comes down to it, I prefer a much darker grey anyway. I am willing to give up some “spectral bias” if it means the room looks cooler and makes me happier. (I think I prefer something closer to the N3 or N2 end of the Munsell system.) Of course, this means I have to paint the room again, but I’ve become a rather expert painter over the course of my decorating (indecision, and frequent repaints, will do that to you).
A thorough discussion of the color grey and the quest for the ultimate neutral grey can be found here. The article is about home theater solutions, but the information can be carried over. From my searchings on the web, the issues and thoughts surrounding the color grey and its benefits and specifications is very scattered. Like color management, theories abound and there doesn’t seem to be very much consensus. The balance is between overall aesthetics of the room, and how the color of the walls will affect your perception of the work inside it. For me, I’ve decided to error on the side of aesthetics at the moment. I am still going to try and choose as neutral a grey as possible, but I don’t think it will be worth it to sink too deeply into the research for the perfect grey.
(Note: I chose to spell the color in question as ‘grey’ as opposed to ‘gray’. Usually I alternate just for the fun of it, but for the purposes of this article I decided to look into the ambiguous spelling issue a little further. From what I can gather, they are both correct, each is just more prevalent in various countries. My favorite description of the situation was here, and states, “Gray is a color. Grey is a colour” — alluding to the international adoption of grey. Personally I prefer grey, and will continue to proliferate this spelling until all hope is lost for gray.)
The next step will be the surfaces and I’ve measured the room countless times in anticipation of my eventual run to buy the supplies. Rather than purchase pre-made desks I am going to build my system from scratch, so it will be custom fitted to the room and my specification (not to mention, a whole lot cheaper). The table tops and surface sitation will be the focus of the next article in this series. Feel free to weigh in on your own custom studio/office solutions via the comments.
On a related note, there is a great discussion on Scott’s recent workspace post about the aesthetics of your workspace.