Today is the day! We’ve been working so hard on getting our new studio up and running and it’s finally time to share it. We’re going to focus each day on a new part and today is the photo studio! But first I thought I would share the story about how we found it. (ps: We are going to start renting out the space for photoshoots and small events!)
When I realized we were growing out of our old studio last summer I started looking for a new space. It was a pretty tall order. The requirements were: Natural light to shoot blog posts in, Warehouse for our party shop, Office Space, Location in San Francisco, and the kicker: Affordable. Real Estate in San Francisco is pretty insane and when you are competing with fully-funded start ups and Tech companies the pickings were pretty slim. Everyday I would look on Craigslist and send emails out to my network. I saw over 20 different spots and they were either too far away, too expensive, too small, or didn’t get enough light. This went on for over 7 months and was SO DISCOURAGING. There were a few that almost fit the bill but I was always compromising somehow. Then finally in February I was feeling really desperate after another space fell through and I saw a listing on Craigslist that was really vague, it didn’t mention the size, price, or have any photos, but I was feeling particularly defeated that day and it had an amazing location (2 blocks from Tartine bakery and 2 blocks from my house!) so I scheduled an appointment to see it. I walked in to a very raw giant 5000 square ft space with huge floor-to-ceiling windows. It was amazing. I knew it would need some work but we negotiated some of the specifics on the spot and I called the landlord that day to drop off the check. I seriously cried when I signed the lease I was so relieved and happy, it felt like a miracle.
Once we got the space we started on construction plans. I still can’t believe we were able to whip it into shape as fast as we did. It took a little longer to finish the kitchen and decorate it but we finished all the major construction in just four weeks! The credit for that goes to Andrea who manages the Oh Happy Day Shop. Lucky for us her husband is a contractor so she had all the hookups we needed (besides she is just ridiculously organized.) She managed all the construction from start to finish. Yay Andrea!
It was so great to have help making decisions. The hardest part about renovations for me is you have to make a bunch of expensive decisions in a very short amount of time. It was so great to have my friend Jenny Komenda, who is a designer, on speed dial. Whenever I would text her with a problem she would always throw out three awesome ideas. A lot of my favorite things in the studio were her ideas. I also owe a giant thank you to my friend Kendra Smoot, who is a stylist and has flawless taste and sent me the photo that inspired our kitchen and chose most of the features. She also was the recipient of lots of text messages asking for advice and gave so much great input. I couldn’t have done it without the help of these guys.
Here are the “BEFORE” pictures. The space was pretty raw but had so much character as-is. We didn’t want to change too much, mostly make it clean and safe and update a few things. Our renovation wish list: Remove all the fluorescent lights and add new lighting, Add more electrical outlets, Sand the wood floors, Patch the ceilings, Paint the walls and ceiling, Demo the kitchen and bathroom wall and add a new one. It seemed pretty simple on paper but of course like all construction projects ended up to take longer and be more expensive that we could have guessed.
The Photo Studio is about 2000 square feet. So big! We love it because we can have 4-5 different sets to shoot at the same time! It’s such a luxury compared to our old space. Initially I thought we would leave the floors their original brown but the area next to the windows had been covered in asbestos tile and needed to be sanded all the way down so we decided to just paint it white in the end. We deliberately kept the floors uneven and the flooring guy thought we were crazy but we wanted to keep a lot of the character instead of make it perfect. For the lighting Kendra suggested doing exposed silver dipped bulbs but my electrician said to make it up to code we needed to use LED bulbs. I ended up finding these bulbs from Amazon which are LED bulbs but look vintage. The perfect compromise! It was Jenny’s ideas to paint the pipes different colors (we kept the pipes in the main part of the studio painted white for photos) I love how they turned out! I knew there would naturally be a lot of color around our offices so I wanted to keep most of the permanent color understated. I like that we have just little touches here and there. We also painted all the doors an Oh Happy Day Yellow.
We didn’t want to decorate the photo studio (we just wanted it to be a big blank slate!) But we added a few functional details. We put in a few armoires from Ikea to hold our photo supplies and we added curtains across the whole wall of cloor-to-ceiling windows and also between the photo studio and office space. Jenny recommended this Ikea curtain system Vidga that were so affordable and slide on a track. They worked like a dream. The whole studio is like a giant glowy reflective light box when all the curtains are drawn. It’s amazing! I was also happy to see my vintage photo booth finally have a home after being used for storage the last year. It’s really fun to be able to share it with my team and visitors when they come. There is a little nook in the corner at the front that is great for shooting but sometimes we set up a table in it and treat it like a little conference room.
Well that is it for today! I still can’t believe this is ours! I feel so lucky that we get to work in it every day. We will continue sharing our studio tour over the next week or two. What do you think? Big difference, right?
To rent our photo studio in San Francisco for shoots or small events email: email@example.com for information.
Photos by Paul Ferney for Oh Happy Day