When setting our goals for 2018, a huge one at the top of our list was to purchase a studio space. In 2017, I had very quickly went from saying "I have my studio in one bedroom of my home" to "My home is one bedroom in my studio." We needed a studio space. Badly. After months and months of looking, we found a potential location in late-April 2018 and finished purchasing August 01, 2018.
Located at 16 Laurel Lake Drive, Monteagle, TN 37356, the building had a long history of occupants. Originally, it started as a laundry mat and car wash. Then along the way, it became a church. And at the time, it was a hair and tanning salon. We knew that the building was going to need some work, but we set out with that in mind. It gave us the chance to make some updates and really make it our own.
“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty…
I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life.
I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”
- Theodore Roosevelt
Before diving into the story of our renovations, I'd like to take a moment to say thank you to the former owners, Carol and Norman Prima. I am so appreciative at the ease in which we proceeded through negotiations, the sales contract, and closing. I am thankful that they took extra time to get to know me and my vision for Highland Bluff Studio. And, I love that they began to cheer for us as we started this adventure.
Tearing the walls down. Literally.
Before early August, we had assembled our main team. Luckily, my mother, Susan Meeks, comes from a long history of house flipping, and I was able to recruit her to help lead this project. Our team also included my youngest brother, Dakota Meeks, and some close friends - Angela Larz, Michael Jones, and Derek Seagroves. When we could get him, we also had help from my other younger brother, Jonathan. Michael, Derek, and Jonathan had grew up flipping houses with our family, so honestly, I felt like we had a dream team.
A few days after getting the keys, we had DEMO DAY! And so it began. :)
Essentially, the building has three main sections: one would become the production floor, another would be the retail space, and the last storage, office, and employee kitchen.
This was the view when you walked in the front door. The original space had you walking into a hallway with two small offices on the left, a small open area on the right, and a kitchen hidden toward the back. Our plan was to take out every interior wall leaving a large, open space. This would become the retail space.
This is where the magic will happen! We started to see the potential of our studio. It felt a little like a dungeon. We wanted to brighten this room up and open it up to be seen from the front of the building and cover the floor with pouring tables.
In the last area, there were walls... lots and lot of wall. We removed them to open up a large storage room, the kitchen, and an office.
Overall, we emptied a demolition dumpster FOUR times.
Let there be light. Lots of it.
After a couple of weeks behind a sledgehammer, the studio opened up! We could begin framing and wiring our new space. A new opening connecting our studio shop to our workspace would allow guests to watch the candle making process while they shop in our studio.
Most of the building was covered in sheet metal, but we had something else in mind for the entrance. We framed new openings for custom doors and windows and got the front ready for stone.
A last minute decision to add a window in the workspace was exactly what we needed to brighten things up and make the spaces flow together. We lined the back window up with the front window and door so that as people walk into the building, they can see all they way through.
Staying on Brand. Black and White.
By this point, it was time to start finalizing color choices for the studio. I can remember somewhere along this point someone said something like, "You basically want the space to look like your product packaging."... Well, yes. I did. So, we chose a matte black exposed ceiling, super white walls, and a light brown wood floor.
After hanging and finishing new sheetrock, we were able to add insulation to our exposed ceiling in the studio shop and begin painting. We had removed drop ceiling from the retail space and storage/office area so the areas felt much taller than they had before.
In the production area, we gave the space a studio feel by also painting the ceiling and columns a matte black. This helped create a continuous flow overhead from the front retail space into the production space.
Moving Quickly. Very Slowly.
With our new window and door frames installed, rock could start to be added to the front of the building. We hired a team to do this while we continued to work on the inside.
While rock was being laid outside, we began painting the interior throughout the studio. Much different by now! The studio was starting to feel and look like a studio. By this time, things seemed to slowwwww wayyyy down. But not really, we were still moving very quickly, it was that we had started getting to the details of things - the trim, the outlet covers, the door knobs.
Windows, doors, and floors. Finally.
Late - September
Windows went in by late-September. We all had been anxiously waiting for these, but probably me most of all. Dakota and I were actually at the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance Discover Show in Tampa, FL when they were installed. We had a blast, but were pretty anxious to get back to see the windows and keeping working on renovations.
Once the glass for our doors and windows was installed, we began putting down flooring throughout the building. We chose a vinyl plank floor treatment for it's durability while still getting a stylish look. Again, we used the same flooring across the whole building so that it would seem like one large open space.
Luckily, our storage room was one of the first rooms completed so supplies could start to be moved into the studio.
So much room for activities. Especially candlemaking.
As October began, we started to feel the pressure of finishing the remodel for the holiday season. Progress was made outside, but we still needed a lot of work inside to get the studio ready for us!
After flooring and trimming was completed, we built an inventory shelf the full length of our workspace. This is when it really hit home how much Highland Bluff Studio had grown. Only a year before, the inventory shelf was a fourth this size.
Custom shelving and tables were stained and painted to tie the spaces together. The studio shop and workspace began to fill up, and we were able to start moving into the workspace. We started having customers! Many people would drive by, check out our progress, and give us a wave during all of this time. So some finally stopped and came in to check things out.
Brace Yourselves. Holidays are coming.
By late October, we started moving in and settling into the new space just in time for the holidays! With our new custom tables and inventory shelf, we have plenty of room for pouring and packing. We were on the tail-end of a pretty large commercial renovation but felt like we had to brace ourselves for the upcoming holiday demand.
We continued to develop our studio shop through October to prepare for a grand opening on Small Business Saturday in November. While our main focus is to showcase our candles, we found other book related gifts for customers to shop. We even included a gift wrapping station and offer free gift wrapping.
The cold, winter temperatures hit preventing us from doing more work outside, but we couldn't be happier with the progress of our studio! We are excited to continue making improvements and getting settled into our new home. Thank you to everyone that has helped along the way and thank you to the Monteagle community for welcoming us!
Come by and give us a visit Monday - Saturday 10am - 4pm.