Room for Creativity

by Mary Jo Bowling

One of the most important spaces in a home is where you can pursue simple pleasures like arranging flowers, working with wood, or developing craft projects. Such an area need not be large--even a small closet will suffice if it's well designed. Here are some ideas to get you started on your own project room.

Flowers in the laundry

Jann Jaffe made a big career change, and as a result, she changed her house. When the Santa Barbara woman gave up her film production career, she started working with flowers. Her laundry room doubles as a floral project room, with all the counter space, water, and outdoor access she needs. Working around the washer and dryer, Jaffe created two work centers: a wet area and a dry area.

DESIGN: Jann Jaffe, Garden Lane Floral, Santa Barbara (805/969-7769)


* Recycled containers are used for storage--strawberry boxes hold notepaper, and French flower buckets store rolls of wrapping paper. Later, either can be used to hold flower arrangements.

* The wet area has a sink surrounded by a zinc countertop. It's perfect for cutting and arranging flowers or repotting houseplants.

* The dry area uses wall-hung shelves for tissue paper, ribbon, wrap, and more countertops.

Tips for creating your own project room

1. Light. Make sure you have good lighting, both natural and electric.

2. Work surface. You will need a sturdy work surface at a height appropriate for your project. To determine size and material, ask yourself if you will be standing or sitting, if the projects are wet or dry, and if you need a cutting surface.

3. Storage. Take a look at your tools and materials. Their number and size will determine how many shelves you need and how tall they should be.

4. Utilities. Evaluate your water and electricity needs. Jaffe says she wishes she had put electric outlets all around her workspace.

Craft closet

This 2- by 5-foot family room closet has been reborn as a craft center. It's outfitted with clever, clearly labeled cabinetry to organize supplies. The best part? "You can close the doors during a project, and no one will see the mess," says Birns.

DESIGN: Laura Birns Design, Del Mar, CA (


* Doors backed with dowels hold rolls of wrapping paper.

* Shelves and cabinets are easy-to-clean white laminate--an advantage in an area where materials like paint and glue are used.

* A 2-foot-long extension pulls out for more Space.

* A drawer contains a wastebasket and extra storage space.

* Recessed can lights-two inside the former closet and a third over the adjoining space--brighten work surfaces.

Parents' retreat

Geoff Holton and Margaret Norman have big hobbies and a small house. Their activities--he likes woodworking, she makes pottery--call for a lot of large, noisy tools best used away from the house. So they designed a shared backyard workspace containing a woodworking shop on one side and a pottery studio on the other.

The space has become especially important with the arrival of their son. "With the baby, there's no way I could have a studio away from home," says Norman. "I can take my baby monitor in there when he's sleeping, and a window lets me see the yard and patio and keep an eye on him when he's playing." Holton, an architect, adds: "We needed a place to be creative. Of course, I get to be creative in my work, but that comes with deadlines. At home, I'm free of that. This is the happiest room in our house."

DESIGN: Geoff Holton and Margaret Norman, Geoffrey Holton & Associates, Oakland (510/663-9797)


* The wood shop opens to the patio through a large glass door that slides on barn door hardware.

* The studio overlooks the yard through a window.

* A wall of fiberglass panels separates the workspaces, which allows the couple to share natural light, while maintaining privacy and providing a "dust barrier" between table saws and wet clay.