With the exception of professional artists with dedicated out-of-home studios and hobbyists with the luxury of dedicated studio space, art supplies storage never turns out looking quite as good as the uber-organized craft rooms depicted in magazines. Instead, art supplies tend to spill into common spaces, especially for those of us who paint at the kitchen table, sketch in bed, or stitch patterns and projects in the living room.
Recently, a friend pointed out how I “live with” my art supplies in a unique way. Rather than attempting to squirrel them away in boxes and totes (that would end up cluttering common spaces anyway), I tend to think creatively about how to purpose my most-used art supplies as decor- arranging and decanting in such a way that art supplies “left out” in living spaces of my home actually become part of the look. Once my art supply organization methods finds each item a dedicated and attractive home, my home looks organized and my creativity is sparked by always having art supplies within reach.
In this post, I’ll outline a few of the ways I store my art supplies and tips that can help you organize and get inspired- because when your art supplies are always visible and always at the ready, you can be ready to create whenever the inspiration hits!
1. Store Pens and Paintbrushes in Vases and Planters
Vintage planters can make great pieces to store and display are supplies of various sizes. Vases and pitchers store tall paintbrushes while small, squatty houseplant planters can contain pens and markers. Grouped together in like vessels, these distinctly different types of art supplies create a unified and organized appearance on a bookshelf or tabletop.
To prolong the life of paintbrushes, they need to be stored bristles up, so paintbrushes love to be stored in cups glasses and deep bowls. Upgrade this storage by replacing grungy paint cups with pretty vintage planters and tall vases designed for flower bouquets. Tall paintbrushes love the extra support of the deep vase, and shorter detail brushes – as well as markers, pens, pencils – love to fill out vintage planters. Often the vintage planters have strange interior shapes, so if you have trouble getting your brushes or pens to stand upright, pack a little tissue paper into any excess hollow spaces in the planter.
2. Repurpose Vintage Luggage
Although I’ve dedicated an entire post to hacking a vintage cosmetic case to hold illustration markers, vintage luggage, in general, is great for keeping art supplies organized but within reach. If you do multiple kinds of craft or hobby work, suitcases can be a great way to organize each “genre” of crafting into its own container. For example, you could have a stack of vintage luggage as a coffee table – but each case could be a ready–to–go kit for picking up your cross stitch, knitting, polymer clay, or watercolor project.
PRO TIP: A lot of vintage luggage carries the odor of storage or previous owner’s cologne. To remedy this, check out my article on how to refresh your vintage luggage.
3. Organize Paper in Pretty Vintage Trays or Baskets
I picked up these vintage wood “inboxes” one year at the Canton Flea Market (get similar paper organizers with these search terms in the vintage section of Etsy). Although papers, notebooks, and sketchbooks are easy to stack, containing a stack within a frame or a basket helps create a more organized look. In this picture you can see how I’ve contrasted the contains stacks of notebooks with a basket filled with, yes, more notebooks as well as a page of color swatches. If you use jars with a hinge top or screw-on lid that is airtight, you will also notice that art supplies like paint or markers will last longer. Just like storing something in a zip top bag, the airtight seal of the jar can help prevent art supplies from drying out.
4. Store Paint and Crayons in Jars.
Strangely, I don’t think I saw a hinge top jar until it was well into my 20s, but now they are one of my favorite things to use for food storage, toiletry storage, and even art supplies. In fact, they’re perfect for art supplies! These jars are easy to open and close, and if you purchase new jars (or replace seals on vintage jars) you’ll find that the rubber seal is extremely effective. This airtight seal makes them perfect for storing tubes of paint, polymer clay, or any other art supplies that’s at risk of drying out during storage.
5. Tool Caddies
Tool caddies– both vintage and new– make excellent ways to store art supplies and group supplies needed for certain projects. Tool caddies can also be prepped for kids projects – it’s great to have everything collected and on hand to start a project as well as have a location for kids to’s return supplies when they are done
In the photo below you can see a Pottery Barn kids version of a modern tool caddy that’s working great to hold supplies, and above pictured is a vintage toolbox that I restored with a special process.
6. Decant Ugly Paints or Glue Into Small Jars
For the particularly aesthetically-obsessed studio curator, decanting paints is an option. If you cannot hide a liquid in a drawer or a box, decanting is always an option. Small spice jars work well and in the case of glues is often possible to purchase a plain container that works even better than the original packaging (though not pretty by any measure, glue syringes were a Eureka–level discovery for me).
7. Clipboards and Mini-Easels
Clipboards and easels are a delightful holder for blank paper, works-in-progress, and finished art. Clipboards and easels can be used separately, or I pair these together to create a dynamic art shelf that changes from day-to-day.
Clipboards are functional– making it easy to pick up and begin creating art anywhere– even without a table- and good-looking. Although Etsy has some really unique vintage clipboards, clipboards are one product that hasn’t changed much in the last few decades, and it’s not hard to find new clipboards on Amazon that look vintage.
These are a few of my ideas for creative art supply storage, but I’m guessing there are many more creative ways to store art supplies I haven’t even thought of- I’d love to hear feedback and gather more ideas. Post your ideas for creative art supply storage below.
Lindsayanne is a professional artist, writer, and serial-DIY-er with a knack for solving problems creatively at home, in the studio, out in the garden, and even online. Learn more about Lindsay, her training, and her background here.