Wednesday, April 10, 2013

DIY rolling artist palette and work table with shelves

Like many artists these days I find myself trying to make the most of my small studio space.  While I lived in North Texas I was kind of spoiled.  I had a 400 square foot studio next door to my home complete with a kitchenette and a bathroom.  I had plenty of counter and floor space to utilize for my paints and pastels. After moving back to Southeast Texas I find myself living and working in a small efficiency sized apartment.  At the same time I'm trying to get back to making larger paintings again so I really needed to have space for a good sized palette and paints, brushes, solvents, and mediums.  

I started looking around at artists taborets and rolling work tables and found them too expensive to be practical.  It seems if something is labelled as art studio furniture or art materials it automatically comes with a pretty hefty markup and price tag.  Even basic rolling shelves and carts from the big discount art stores online were in the neighborhood of $200 with several above $400.  I considered buying lumber and building some shelves from scratch, but then it occurred to me to look around at the office supply stores and in the home furnishings departments of stores like Walmart and Target.  I considered everything from rolling computer desks to kitchen carts and tool boxes.  I checked Lowe's and Home Depot and even Harbor Freight and found there are numerous items marketed for home use or DIY workshops ready made that would function well in an art studio.

I almost purchased a rolling computer desk from Office Depot but then decided it was a little short for my uses.  I'm a tall guy and generally paint standing up so I wanted something that stood around waist high.  My only other requirements were that I could put a glass palette on top and have some shelves for paint, brushes, and solvents, and that the shelves are pretty durable. 

I finally decided on these metal shelves from Target.  The brand is Room Essentials and they come in different widths and numbers of shelves and are also available in black.  I purchased the wide three self system in chrome.  I also added the industrial 4 inch casters.  The shelves require no tools to assemble and the casters screw directly in to the bottom of the legs. Each shelf is rated to hold more than 300 pounds. I also bought a roll of shelf lining for the bottom two shelves.  The shelves are modular so I can add additional units later if I want.  Target has all of this together in one location in the store so it was a one stop shopping kind of thing.  The total cost for the shelves and liner was right at $60. 

For the top shelf I cut a piece of 1/2" plywood to fit to lay a sheet of glass on for my palette. The whole system is very sturdy and rolls easily (the wheels do lock in place if I want).  I have ample space for mixing my paint and storage of brushes, large tubes of oil paint, and solvents and medium.  I even found a plastic sheet cover that slides right over the whole cart when I'm not using it.  I'm planning to paint the plywood a medium gray and want to get a bigger sheet of glass for the palette.  I figure I'll also add some offset clips or mirror clips to hold the glass in place on the plywood. 

This was incredibly easy to put together and a quick DIY project for just about anyone.  The shelves, casters, and lining were all done in about an hour.  The only part I needed tools for was cutting the plywood, although if you don't have access to a circular saw or table saw you could buy plywood at one of the home improvement stores or a lumber yard and have them cut it to size for you.  All in all I think it's the best palette system I've ever had, and the bang for the buck can't be beat.


  1. Genius! I am looking for an art table with wheels and you're right...anything that is labeled art is ridiculously expensive. I think I can handle this and it would work for my new small studio space. Thanks for sharing.

  2. great!... i was going to make the mistake of buying a 'taboret'...

    makes sense to just make your own...

    nice work by the way...