The new ColieCo Studio is finally open for business!
And we're delighted to be in!
We have much more space now - twice as much cutting desk to work with, a much larger new machine desk with room for two more machinists, and additional fabric storage. And we have a beautiful, airy space in which to work on your sustainable lingerie and swimwear!
We've been waiting a long time for this: we'd originally hoped to finish work and move in last summer. Designing, building and fitting our new home has been a long, slow and stop-start process, a bit of an emotional rollercoaster ride, and a real learning experience.
There have been pauses, rethinks, redesigns, re-dos, re-re-dos and modifications. And no doubt as we settle into our new space, more of the above will follow...
We thought we might try to make use of what we've learned over the last 12 months (yes, it really has been a whole year!) to help out any other creatives thinking about planning a new studio or workshop.
So having re-run the process in our minds and boiled it all down, we've settled on our five top tips for completing a studio build for creative businesses.
Here they are, and we hope they're of some use!
1. Scope - Get professional advice and help with the heavy work
Some people are experienced and/or brave enough to undertake pretty major building and renovation work on their own, and the ColieCo Team (with a little outside help) proudly built the furniture and storage for the first lingerie design studio we moved into when we moved our operation to Portugal.
That studio has served us pretty well the last few years, but it had its limitations beyond its size, not least because we didn't get that useful expert advice which hiring a building contractor can bring (like, "OK, but you're really going to wish you'd installed more power outlets over there..." OK, yeah, we did!)
This time we were embarking on a much bigger change, which included the complete renovation of three rooms, to serve as the new public face of the business, the new studio room and a staff bathroom.
And without boring you all with all of the details, without professional advice we'd have ended up with a different roof made of completely different materials, different electrics, and a different lighting setup in the studio itself. Not only that, but we certainly wouldn't have ended up with as tidy (or likely durable!) a result.
The old roof comes off and a new roof goes on the new ColieCo Studio
So at the very least seek the advice, and at best, focus your attention on your core business and leave a big distraction in the building renovation itself in more capable professional hands.
2. Requirements - Write a bug list
This is a list of those pet hates in your current studio space or workshop which bug the hell out of you on a daily basis.
You know the kind of thing: not enough light when you're working in one particular area or at one particular machine, that one box of accessories or set of tools which is always a jumbled mess, patterns or models not being readily accessible, disorganised makeshift storage space for work-in-progress products... Every practical creative has them.
Think not only about what you've had on your want-and-need-list, but also make sure you don't carry forward those correctible frustrations which you've been grudgingly living with.
Search for solutions that you can build into your studio design to give you easy wins and save future teeth-grinding.
Designed to ensure everything is in easy reach
3. Design - Tape out where you want the furniture to be on the floor and walls
There's a real tendency to see empty rooms as much larger than they can serve to be functionally.
Decide on your needs in terms of desk space, sketch out the furniture and/or machinery you're wanting to accommodate, then, once you've worked out what looks like a sensible configuration (thinking about access to materials and people's movement is important here, even if you're the smallest of teams), get some masking tape and tape silhouettes across the floor and walls where you're planning on everything sitting.
You can also tape shelf space on the walls and think about which materials should sit where for easy, quick and efficient access.
Once you've done that, you can move chairs/floor-standing lamps/racks/any other easily moveable small furnishings into the room and place them around where the furniture and machinery is taped out.
Then get your team in!
Practice moving around the studio you've designed together, sitting at the desks and machines and thinking about what your processes look like.
Are you going to be tripping over each other all of the time? Banging each others' seats? Banging elbows and hips on furniture? Can you reach all of the shelves to grab the materials you need without having to move around too much? Have you designed in enough storage space?
Poor studio design is a recipe for stress you don't need!
This exercise will help you think about your draft design in a different way, and might save you making a costly mistake in investing in hardware that doesn't suit or fit your space.
It's also much easier working this way than moving everything around once it’s all in there!
4. Build - Don't compromise on your installation
Rather than trying to shoehorn cheap, ready-to-order desks, shelving units and other furniture into your design, work out what'll work best for you and go get it.
If you need to order bespoke furniture to meet your needs, to spend a little more money and to wait a little longer for it to be ready, it's worth doing so.
You and your team are going to spend thousands upon thousands of hours working with the fixtures and fittings you build in, and even the smallest added conveniences are going to reward your patience and investment many times over.
We worked with a local craftsman to create the furniture and fixtures for the new ColieCo Studio
If you're able to, why not approach local craftspeople for help? That way, as well as getting exactly what you'll need, you'll be supporting other small business-owning creatives and the local economy.
5. Decorate - Make it pretty!
Your new home can be both functional and beautiful!
Not only are you going to be spending a *lot* of time in your new surroundings (nobody wants to work in a studio that looks like a prison cell, right?), but you have your branding and your public face to consider.
Paint the walls to match your brand's colour palette, put a logo up somewhere that will be visible in your studio photography (vinyl logos aren't expensive, are easy to apply and look fantastic - this is where we got ours), and invest in some artwork to make the space a more interesting place visually.
Here's what we did to spruce our wallspace up whilst helping support indie artists through last year's lockdowns.
Have a think about how you might be able to keep the place clean and tidy without investing too much time in cleaning and tidying - activities which, regardless of who is performing them, take time that nobody is going to pay *you* for.
Remember: every image of your studio which you make public - and there's real value in showing people behind the scenes content - is a reflection of your brand.
People are investing in your products *because* they're handmade and ethically-produced. Show them how it's done!
So those are our top five tips...
Here they are in summary:
- Scope - Get professional advice and help with the heavy work
- Requirements - Write a bug list
- Design - Tape out where you want the furniture to be on the floor and walls
- Build - Don't compromise on your installation
- Decorate - Make it pretty!
We hope they're helpful!
And who else has been through the process already and what have we missed? Let us know your thoughts and ideas, and we'll add them in below!
Thanks to all of you for your kind words on the shots of the new studio we've already shared, and thanks for reading our latest post.
Stay safe and look after each other.
Studio photography by Michał Babiarz