Choosing the right flooring for your art studio is a major decision. We all want our studios to be as functional and fuss-free as possible—the right flooring choice can make your studio time a pleasure, but the wrong choice can have long-lasting consequences that will affect your comfort and your wallet.
When my husband and I decided to build a freestanding art studio on our property we knew much of the interior work would need to be done by us if we were to stay within our very modest budget.
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We had gained considerable DIY experience rehabbing our 1970’s era house, so we were confident we could finish the interior of a 220 square foot studio by painting the walls, laying flooring, and installing all the hardware and trimwork ourselves. (We did leave specialized tasks like electrical work to licensed pros.)
But early on I knew I needed to make a choice. . .
What kind of flooring was best for my art studio?
I’m a painter and jewelry artist. My preferred medium is acrylic, so I use lots of water. And I’m messy, so moisture resistance and ease of cleanup topped my list of criteria in selecting flooring for my studio. And of course, it needed to be affordable.
The number of flooring options on the market today are overwhelming. There’s tile (both porcelain and ceramic), hardwood, engineered wood, wood laminate, composite flooring, cork, and vinyl, just to name some of the more popular types.
Each has its own pros and cons, but after much discussion with my husband, lots of online research, and several scouting trips to flooring stores to gain an overview of what was available, I was finally ready to make my choice.
I used a spreadsheet to record the advantages and disadvantages for each type of flooring, its price per square foot, and where it could be purchased. The spreadsheet made navigating my way through so many options much easier.
And as you might imagine, I learned a lot! Here are my top flooring tips, gleaned from my own experience—hopefully you can use them as well!
6 tips for choosing your art studio flooring
1. Choose water resistant flooring
If you’re using liquids of any kind, inevitably there will be spills. You want flooring that’s easy to clean and doesn’t stain. In particular, vinyl flooring and ceramic and porcelain tile are good choices.
Some manufacturers of wood laminate now claim their products are water resistant. Since laminate swells if water infiltrates the seams between planks, I recommend you buy a sample and test this claim for yourself before investing in a roomful of it.
(On the other hand, if you’re a fiber artist or weaver who doesn’t need water to create what you do, water resistance isn’t likely to rank high on your priority list.)
A word of caution here – avoid carpeting no matter what kind of work you produce. It’s impossible to clean when paint or solvents get spilled on it, it requires vacuuming which raises dust (bad for lungs and wet paint) and if you accidentally drop beads, pins, tiny components or any other small objects on it, you may as well be searching in the Bermuda Triangle.
2. Pick a flooring you can install yourself
Vinyl self stick tiles and laminate planks that snap together are ideal for DIYers. Floating sheet vinyl flooring is also easy to install. You simply cut it with a carpet knife or craft knife to fit the room’s shape. It needs no glue to stay put.
On the other hand, a 12 foot wide roll of it can be extremely heavy, depending on the size of the space it’s going to cover. If you choose sheet vinyl be prepared to apply plenty of muscle to get it into your studio.
3. Don’t choose a floor that you’ll love TOO much
Hardwood flooring is beautiful and quite popular in gallery settings, but its beauty can inhibit you from flinging paints with abandon, or attempting anything messy for fear of marring its good looks. This type of flooring is best left out of spaces where you work unless you’re willing to protect it with drop cloths.
The same goes for any type of flooring you fall in love with. . . if it’s too precious, your work may suffer!
4. Consider all the uses of your art studio
Do you hold studio open houses or other social events in your art studio? Some flooring can be permanently damaged by stiletto heels, so if you hold social gatherings it’s important to raise this issue in discussions with flooring suppliers. Some flooring withstands impact from high heels, others do not.
Consider also whether the flooring becomes slippery when it gets wet – for example, on rainy days. If you teach workshops or classes in your studio you’ll want to avoid hard, slick surfaces to minimize the possibility of falls as students track in water.
5. Be willing to scrounge!
I’m not suggesting that you dumpster dive (though I’ve heard of artists who’ve scored boxes of ceramic tiles and rolls of perfectly useable sheet vinyl in those grubby depths). No, by “scrounging” I just mean keeping an eye out for what you want on websites like Craigslist, FreeCycle, or Facebook Marketplace.
These sites routinely feature home improvement products offered for free or very cheap. A quick check on Craigslist as I wrote this uncovered 60 pieces of interlocking plastic flooring free for the taking, and brand new composite flooring at just $1.89 per square foot.
Don’t overlook Habitat for Humanity ReStores, either, which frequently receive donations of home improvement overstocks from big box retailers. One Habitat ReStore I visited had dozens of boxes of DIY self stick vinyl tiles—enough to cover several hundred square feet—for just a few dollars per box.
Bargains like these can be found without too much difficulty, it’s just a matter of knowing where to look, and checking back often. If you’re not too picky you can acquire new studio flooring for a song.
6. Choose a light floor if at all possible
Almost every art studio can benefit from having more light. If your studio has small windows, no windows, sits in a shady location, or just lacks a lot of interior lighting, your flooring can help!
A light color on the floor will reflect and amplify whatever light does reach the studio, whereas a dark floor will absorb light and can make a studio feel gloomy. White, ivory, or pale beige flooring can make a small studio appear much more spacious, a plus for artists who must work in cramped quarters.
Bottom line—when you’re choosing flooring, list your priorities based on your needs and the type of work you do. Know what you’re willing to give up if necessary, and what’s a must-have. And if you’re not averse to them, a spreadsheet really can make it a lot easier to decide!
So what flooring did I pick for my own studio?
I chose extra thick loose lay sheet vinyl from a big box retailer. It’s light beige with a subtle “flagstone” pattern, a nice smooth surface that makes cleanup easy, and—when it was purchased back in 2011—it was reasonably price at $1.25/sq ft.
Since then it has been subjected to paint spills, spray varnish, abrasions, nose diving x-acto knives and more. . . and it still looks great (when I bother to clean it).
The extra thickness makes long hours standing at my work table more comfortable, and when I drop beads on it they’re easy to find. Plus, if we ever decide to move, it can be rolled up and go with us!
Special thanks to Lynn Edwards for sharing this post! To learn more about Lynn or her art, please visit her website atwww.lynnedwardsart.com