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If you cannot find me in the kitchen, the laundry room or chain smoking on my backporch, walk out side and follow the path to my bliss.Outside the screened in porch past the deck and the pool.In the quaint little structurepainted tan with white trim.There is where I’ll be.

When we bought this fixer upper nine years ago, I hated it . I truly needed to be convinced on this one.The house itself was plain, with as much architectural personality as a shoebox. It is your standard 1957  cinder block structure Florida home. It was  made to withstand hurricane winds , not my judgement. I had agreed with my husband that restoring an old home would be a great idea, but I had visions  of a charming victorian diamond in the ruff.

The house, though small, has a large backyard with  three trees .All the way at the back of the property next to a looming Sheffelera was a wood structure the size of a one car garage.It had a barn like door and windows on the three visible sides. Inside, it’s bare wood walls held up a long workbench and ceiling  rafters framed cobwebs.

My husband sold me on this dreary old home with the promise that he would turn that old shed into my very own art studio. Of course there were more urgent needs that came first.Converting the carport into a master bedroom was pertinent.There were only two  lilliputian sized bedrooms and the children needed their own rooms.Next came building a deck,because the whole big backyard was  an expanse of dirt and crab grass.Five years later, the dream of my studio was still not realized.It always seemed to be  pushed to the back burner.Whenever my husband wanted to tear out a bathroom or put on a tin roof, I whined,”What about my studio?”

Finally the perfect storm of finances  and frustrated foot stomping led to the renovation of the old work shed.

Now,sliding glass doors  lure me in. The  brick red tile is cool against my feet.Sunlight floods the room. Straight ahead is a white formica counter with large cabinets below it and a sturdy stainless steel sink.The bare studs are now drywalled and  are the pale green color of a keylime tart.  White crown molding and base boards shine  like fresh meringue. On the wall to my left is my favorite piece of furniture.It is a bright lime green sleeper couch  patterned with lively flowers in bright yellow,  orange and white .It is circa 1972 ,found in a thrift store in mint condition. It goes well with the lava lamp I think. In front of  the Brady Bunch couch sits a small coffee table with a glass top and white painted wood posing as bamboo, another  70’s kitch piece. Ontop of the coffee table sits a lemon yellow princess rotary dial phone. It is my retro-retreat.

Next to my couch  a  grey metal  locker stands.It looks just  like one you’d see in the hallway of a highschool, except it’s large  and has a shiney bright orange door. This is home to my stock of paper, pads and paint. It  sits cozied up to my high top drafting table, loaded with vases full of various sized paintbrushes ready as soldiers  to be dispatched to duty.Nearby a well loved easel sits with perfect posture  it’s shelf tirelessly supporting an old canvas with a failed painting.

Opposite the groovy couch is my small art desk. It sits lower than my other table and has a leather swivel chair in front of it, pocked with paint spots and kitty claw marks.The desk is cluttered with the tools of my trade. Colored pencils peek expectantly out of their flat boxes. Pastels patiently pass time in their own stacked cases along the edge of the desk. An electric pencil sharpener holds it’s tiny mouth open for a snack of wood shavings.

Behind the wall where the sink counter  is ,a molded white door leads to  a lovely little bathroom whose bright yellow walls stab your eyeballs. I may have gone overboard with that paint selection, but I worked with it.Accessorized with bright red and orange towels, the bathroom feels like you are in the nucleus of the sun. An enchanting triangularwhite porcelain  sink cowars in the corner.  Often I walk all the way out back just to use my own little bright bathroom, a place in direct contrast to the snobbish tan and white decor of our  restroom inside the house.

There is a  windowed doorway in the studio bathroom that leads you  outside to a small area enclosed by a high wooden fence with a gated door. I  follow the flagstones to the little outdoor shower and I am in Paradise. Magenta hydrangeas hang from the eves of the roof , a coy bench offers to hold your towel and friendly daisies  promise not to peek at you from the ground while you rinse under the spray of  the shower head.

Of course I share this area with pool guests.Both the shower and the bathroom are well worn by visitors by now, but the inner world of my studio is for me alone. I breathe a sigh of relief  whenever I step foot in there. The well insulated walls keep it warm in the winter.The cool air generated by the  window AC, keeps things cool in the summer.Often I go there to escape. When the doors are closed I can barely hear the nails-on-blackboard sound of my children arguing or calling me by my psuedonym,”Mo-o-o-o-o-o-om”.

My freelance business, Arterior Motives , keeps me busy and whenever I’ve got a project to work on I love excusing myself from the family feining reluctance as I say “‘I’ve got to go out back and work”. Wether I’m daintily sketching out a portrait or vigorously sanding down a board to be repainted, it never really feels like work. My spirits soar when I’m in there. The colors  both soothe and excite me. The familiarity of my supplies comforts me and I believe that no place could ever feel as good as my studio.

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One Comment

  1. A very careful, detailed description, Ellen. Your affection for this space is unmistakable.

    This line in particular is fabulous: “An electric pencil sharpener holds it’s tiny mouth open for a snack of wood shavings.” Is this image Flannery O’Connor influenced? I can’t help but recall, from “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” “the line of woods gap[ing] like a dark open mouth.”


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