Designing a flow trigger rich environment.

Art Studio Design

Design A Studio Space That Helps You Focus

I believe that you can design a rich flow trigger art studio environment. Researchers who study flow states often talk about rich environments. Flow states are optimal performance states, also known as "getting into the zone".

The zone is where we're said to do our best work. I believe you can design a rich flow trigger studio environment. Design a studio space that helps you perform better.

  1. Reduce Visual Clutter
  2. Add A Variety Of Textures
  3. Use Neutral Colors
  4. Music
  5. Scents
  6. Layer Lighting
  7. Tea Or Coffee?

Studio Design Ideas

I believe the key to designing a rich working environment is to design a space that activates all 5 senses. I do some of my best work in coffee shops. Well-designed coffee shops often provide a layered sensory experience that supports focus. Use these studio design ideas to turn your art studios into a high focus environment.

Reduce Visual Clutter

One of the easiest ways to create a high focus environment is to reduce clutter. Clutter competes for our attention rather we acknowledge it or not. We start thinking "I should be doing this or that" instead of working towards our goals.

Take time to really look at your environment. What grabs your attention as you look around? What do you notice? Identify visual distractions and work to reduce them.

Art Studio Design For Small Spaces

Minimizing the number of colors within your space will make it seem bigger. It will also reduce visual distraction.

My studio space is small, so some items have to be left out in the open. I don't have enough storage space to tuck them all away. An easy solution is to buy all-white or neutral colors when decorating or outfitting your studio space. Monochromatic design using one single neutral color can be a smart choice for small art studio design.

Consider replacing objects and containers with items that fall within the same color family. Buy containers preferably the same color as your studio walls.

If you have white walls and white objects, they visually blend together. Objects of similar color seem unified. Too many colorful objects in many shapes and sizes distract. Ask any Mom who's had to clean a toy room. The sight of colorful toys of every shape strewn across the floor doesn't invoke calm serenity.

Design For Art Studio - Use Neutral Colors

Use neutrals colors to create a sense of calm. Like in a painting, neutral and unsaturated colors are often used to create the background. Neutralized colors visually recede. They create a feeling of distance and depth.

Use a neutral wall color. Outfit the space with only the items necessary. Consider buying items and containers in the same neutral color as the walls. The items will visually fade into the background.

Studio Art And Design

Studio art and design is much like composing a painting. Think of your studio space as the background in art composition.

Keeping the background neutral enables the painting's focal point to stand out. When you want to direct your attention to your work, your work essentially becomes the focal point. Decorate your studio as you would the background of a painting. As a background is designed to enhance the subject, design your studio to support your work and performance.

Create A Focal Point

Think of your studio as a painting. Decide where you want the focus to be. Use color intentionally to guide your focus.

I would argue that the most colorful thing in your studio should be the artwork you are creating. In painting, we reserve the most saturated color for the focal point. This concept can work in your studio space as well.

Reserve the most saturated color for your artwork and possibly a few fun items to keep the space playful and happy. Aim to make your work the focus of your attention.

Identify Tiny Threats

Look at each item within your space. Ask yourself if your brain would consider this item to be slightly threatening, comforting, or neutral. Your brain is constantly on the lookout for threats, even tiny subtle ones.

Consider round leaf houseplants. The amygdala is our built-in threat detector. The amygdala is a small, almond-shaped structure in the human brain. The amygdala is constantly scanning our environment for threats.

We aren't always aware that our threat perception is turned on. Sit back for a moment and really take in your environment.

Researchers have found that the amygdala lights up when presented with angular or sharp shapes.

For example, if you decorate your space with cactus, your brain has to keep you aware of this tiny little threat. There can be painful consequences if you brush up against a cactus. Therefore, a tiny amount of your attention will likely be devoted to keeping a safe distance.

Many Feng Shui principles seem to be built around our subconscious. Decorate your art studio with items that you think your subconscious would deem calming. Avoid items that you think your subconscious would find threatening or distracting. These things are so small that we dismiss them as irrelevant.

If distraction is a problem for you. If it's keeping you from doing your best work. Give yourself every advantage that you can.

Plants create a relaxing environment, especially round leaf plants. Round shapes look comfortable and inviting. Rounded furniture feels calming.

Fractals are used in architecture to create beautiful pleasing designs. Fractals are small geometric shapes that repeat in a variety of sizes. Plants provide a wonderful variety of fractals and textures.

Add A Variety Of Textures

Incorporate a variety of textures into your art studio design. Consider a textured rug or seat cushion. Natural objects are a great choice. Wood and clay offer a variety of textures that are pleasing to the senses.

Best Music For Focus

Music is said to be able to organize the mind. When information conflicts with our existing attention, we are no longer able to use our attention in the ways we desire.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is often referred to as the Godfather of Flow. In his book, The Psychology of Optimal Experience, he mentions psychic entropy. Think of entropy as disorder. Like unorganized clutter in our spaces, disorganized thoughts create clutter in our minds.

Consider how anger, anxiety, a bad mood can distract from our goals. An organized mind would be the opposite of entropy. Some types of music are said to organize the mind. My research suggests that Baroque music is the best choice when you want to organize your mind.

Whatever noise you find pleasing, use it to create background noise in your studio. If you like to hear people talking, consider talk radio. Be sure to keep the content positive, uplifting, and aligned with your goals.


Scents can trigger memories. Use this to your advantage in your studio design.

Many of us artists are fond of the smell of turpentine. The smell immediately takes us back to memories of working in the studio. Mine takes me back to the painting studios of KU.

Of course, turpentine vapors are bad for you. It's a bad choice for an air freshener. However, you can recreate a similar effect by choosing a specific scent for your studio.

Keep this scent consistent over time and only use this scent for the studio, nowhere else. Eventually, the scent will trigger your brain that it's time to work, time to focus on art-making.

Layer Lighting

Patterns of light and dark can create a sense of awe. Restaurants, museums, and more use lighting to create a calming serene atmosphere.

One of the easiest way to create a serene environment is to layer light.

Introduce a variety of light sources to your studio space. Use a variety of different lamp shapes and styles. The lamp bases and lampshades can provide texture to your space while providing light.

Be sure to use all of the same types of light bulbs throughout your studio. Vary the lumens to create a layered effect. Lumens are the amount of light that a bulb produces. You'll find the lumens on the label. A higher number of lumens produces a higher amount of light.

Keep the light temperature or Kelvin temperature the same for all of the bulbs. The Kelvin temperature is the color of light that the bulb produces. You don't want yellow light coming from one corner and blue light coming from another. This can confuse your eye when trying to determine the correct color temperature when painting.

Read the label when you buy light bulbs. Buy all of the bulbs in the same Kelvin temperature.

LED light bulbs will produce less heat. This can be a factor to consider when lighting a live model. Your model will likely feel more comfortable if you use LED bulbs. Traditional bulbs can produce a lot of heat.

Beverages & Snacks

The same way that a specific scent can tell your brain it's time to work, a specific type of tea, beverage, or snack may do the same. Consider buying something special for your creative time.

Again, keep it consistent. Over time, it will become one of your working habits. If I only have Earl Grey tea when I paint, Earl Grey tea may help me relax and get into work mode.

Use this one carefully though. Eating a chocolate muffin every time you paint could be disastrous for your health or waistline.

Don't Let Old Work Prevent You From Making New Work

Many of us have a collection of work that spans many years. It's great to hold onto older artwork and preserve a record of our progress. Just don't let old work get in the way of making new artwork.

Clutter and a crowded space can fuel procrastination.

Is your studio crowded with older work? How often do you have to move old stuff around in order to work on something new.

I begrudgingly sent a few large painting to the burn pile. I'll admit it was hard to let go. I had to talk myself into it. I remember all of the time and work that it took to create those paintings. Letting go of them made me feel better in the end. It freed up studio space. It gave me room to focus.

Be willing to dispose of old work if it's slowing your progress, getting in your way. Consider taking photographs of the old artwork. Photos don't take up much space. Be selective about the pieces you keep. Save only the best work from a given time period. Devote your studio space to making new artwork and further developing your skills.

If I had to choose, I'd rather make new work than preserve old work.


I believe you can turn your art studio into a flow trigger rich environment with a few design principles. Use these principles to create an environment that activates all 5 senses.

Reduce visual clutter to reduce distraction. Identify tiny threats and eliminate them. Use rounded shapes, calming music, or background noise. Add a variety of textures. Layer lighting to create atmosphere.

Add a specific scent or beverage. By being very intentional with your environment, I believe you can create an atmosphere that will help you do your best work.

Author: Sonia Reeder-Jones