Lofty ambition

My studio has no ceiling, you look straight up into the underneath of the roof. While doing exactly that the other day, I realized that space also presented the perfect opportunity for solving an ongoing studio issue.

You see, when you do spend your time making sculpture, remodeling a house and upcycling furniture, you need a lot of stuff: tools, workbenches, materials. So while my storage shelves, and my revamped card index store a lot of things, there are bulkier items that wont fit, and they tend to get stacked around the studio here and there. In places like:

Under the workbench

Leaning up against cupboards and walls

Even against the door

All of which can be annoying. It gets in the way, and you have to shuffle stuff around to find something in particular.

Where to store materials is always a major issue. So there I was gazing up at the rather lovely pattern made by the boards and roof underlining one day, when I had a light bulb moment: I could build myself a storage loft up there.

Actually to tell the truth, the previous owners had already utilized that space. I know I’ve previously noted their bower bird-like ability to squirrel away all sorts of rubbish into various nooks and crannies. Most of which we have now got rid of thanks to a recent rubbish pick up.

Their idea of loft storage was a hodge podge of things precariously balanced on some very bowed boards:

Previous owner's storage solution

My loft storage was going to be different, though. It was going to be built properly (or rather as well as I can manage it – I am no carpenter), and be designed in such a way that everything was not going to fall down on my head if we have an earthquake. Ahem … when we have an earthquake.

Here is what it was like once we had got rid of all their junk:

clearly those bendy boards needed to go

All that remained were our two spare single mattresses; 5 nice straight 2 x 4s (not everything they left behind was junk), and those bent boards.

First, I relocated the mattresses into the attic, and relieved those poor bowed 1 x 4 boards of their burden. Which left me with two large beams spanning the width of the studio.

Add some metal rafter hangers, a few sheets of ply and it was time to get the tools out.

Fun! I love it when I have to get the tools out. Best of all, with this job I got to use my birthday present circular saw for the very first time. Happy happy happy.

Using my new saw was like having my birthday all over again.

I decided to hang the five 2 x 4s 16 inches apart (which is standard for floor joists) between the two large beams. Then go over the lot with 5/8 ply to give it extra structural integrity.

The first job was to measure the distance between the beams, then cut the 2 x 4s to fit.

Always remember the lumber cutting rule: measure twice, cut once.

And if you are me, and were born with some sort of weird measuring impediment, where you swear you measured something carefully and correctly and then find it doesn’t fit: pay minute and close attention, measure 4 times double checking each time, and then – and ONLY then – cut once.

And hope it fits.

Now, before I start showing you images of work in progress, a disclaimer: I have rudimentary carpentry skills. I am not a skilled cabinet maker, more a rough and ready builder. I can make things out of wood that work, and stay together, but they are not pretty.

If I want things to look pretty, I buy them ready made or I get someone else to make them for me. This fits in with my Rule Number 2 of house remodeling, if you remember it. If you cant do it properly yourself, pay for a professional to do it.

This storage loft, however, is in my studio, and it is going to get knocked around. It does not really need to be beautiful. Besides, my studio already looks pretty rough and ready, so it will fit with the aesthetic perfectly.

So I measured ultra-carefully and cut my beams, then used the hangers to hang them:

Joists going up

By the way, these joists are not bent, it is just the distortion of my camera lens. They are all nice and straight and true.

And the right length, and the correct distance apart, without mistakes. I am soooo proud of myself.

When I had all 5 joists hung, I was ready to start adding the ply. When I picked up the ply sheets for this project, I had them cut into 2′ x 4′ lengths.

Cut ply ready for action

I did this for two reasons. The first was so I could fit them in my car. Poor car, I dont think it ever anticipated it would be used to drag lumber, sinks, plumbing supplies, paint, etc around.

The second reason was to make them a size that I could handle on my own. I knew I would be climbing up a ladder with these babies, so I wanted something I could lift easily, so I wouldn’t endanger or injure myself.

I started adding the ply sheets to my joists.

1st ply sheet goes on

And eventually, they were all on:

Boards completed

There we are: storage loft finished, right? Wrong!

I could easily have stopped there and loaded the loft (more on loading in a minute), but we live in the Bay Area of San Francisco, somewhere known for its seismic activity.

The last thing I wanted was to have all my stuff come crashing down on my head in the event of an earthquake. So I decided to put sides and a front on my loft storage platform.

Adding the sides

Sides on

In case you were wondering what the two gaps are, the gap near the wall is so I can store long pieces of lumber across the width of the loft. The gap near the front is so Treadwell can get through when she is leaping around in the rafters, which is one of her favorite past times.

Treadwell climbing the rafters

She thinks my studio is really her special climbing gym. And far be it from me to spoil her fun.

I digress. The joists were on, the floor was done, the sides were complete. Now my storage loft was ready to load.

Which brings me to an important point. I am putting bulky things up there, the things that clutter my studio space. Bulky light things. What I am NOT doing is putting really heavy things up there. Because the structure is not designed for a huge amount of weight.

It helps that the only way of getting stuff up there is by climbing a ladder.

I am also spreading the load. I don’t have everything piled in the middle, but rather spread out over the whole structure. Because my storage loft is not designed for a huge amount of weight in one place.

And everything that is loose, and might shake and roll about in an earthquake is tied down with what we would call occy (or octopus) straps in Australia, but here in the States are called bungee cord. You know, the stretchy elastic thingys with hooks on either end. Yes, those.

So a reminder of what the ceiling storage in my studio looked like before:

storage before

And here it is now:

Loft after

loaded loft

Anything that might get dusty is in bags

Loose scrap boards secured with a strap

And a spot for long pieces of timber at the end

But the best after picture is this one. Why? Because there is no scrap lying around anymore.

where there was once material scraps, now there is space.

And there you have it. My studio is officially finished and ready for action. There are still a couple of minor projects yet to do, but nothing major, nothing that has to be done before I can use it properly.

Except for one thing. I have to change the layout. Because it isn’t working as it is. But once I have finished lugging stuff around, and getting it properly sorted out again I will unveil the studio in all its glory.

That’s right, my next post will be the completed studio reveal. Promise.


3 responses to “Lofty ambition

  1. Very nice, Clare. Impressive!! I love that Treadwell still ‘owns’ the loft! 🙂

  2. Oh yes, Treadwell owns everything. 🙂

  3. Pingback: Studio a gogo | Quirk Street

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