Giant List of Features A Mobile Studio Must Have

I won't make an actual layout until I have a vehicle, but I do have a list of features that will have to factor into that layout. Some are more important than others. I'm thinking I'll break this down into separate blog posts to collect ideas for each feature. 


  • Everything has to strap down in some way for transport. 
  • The more I can see what I have, the easier it will be for me to use it. (Aka stacking everything in boxes is not an option) This has to be a functional, active space, not just storage. 
  • Ideally this space will be tall, whether I find a truck that tall or extend the roof. 8-10 feet on the inside is my goal. 
  • I want to maneuver within the city - drive on all streets and alleys, park in odd places (not just bus stops or empty parking lots). This means a short wheel base more than a short vehicle, but both are best.
  • This will be my full-time studio - comfort is pretty important, because otherwise I'll avoid working there. 
  • Since I'll be parking in weird places, I want to be 'off-grid' or independent of any hookups to function. 


Work Surface: I need as much work surface as possible, enough to spread out a couple of projects at once. I know that long is more useful to me than deep. I'd like to have it flip down, too, in case I need the floor space more than the table space. With that in mind, I'll always need a little table space, so I'm thinking a 70/30 split in the surface would be nice, if I can keep it flush with itself. That way I can lay down one part and keep the other up for Stuff.  I imagine it'll be a table-top of some kind with little legs propped against the wall. If the legs could telescope or rest at different angles, I could even have the option of a drafting-style table. 

Computer: I am seriously considering keeping my iMac in the Studio. If I'm really going to be using this as my full-time studio, I need to be able to do digital as well as traditional-media work there, which means Photoshop and full access to my hard drive, not to mention the best photo-editing capabilities I can get. It'll mean that security will be a big deal, but I think it'll be worth it. 

If I have a fold-down desk, I don't want the computer sitting on the desk itself. A wall mount would be great for flexibility of space, as well as safety of the computer itself (I THINK). I'll need to do some research about computers in moving vehicles, and the best way to secure them in a risky location. Maybe a lockbox of some kind that can go over it?? Obviously I'll shut it down when I'm driving the van. A little space for computer accessories will be necessary too, then. Keyboard, mouse, tablet, scanner, and maybe a printer. 

High Counter Surface: At first I considered this a 'want' because of limited space, but I know I'll go crazy if I don't have some kind of secondary surface to for temporary throwing-stuff-down, as well as a few standing tasks. This will probably be a counter-height surface ≤ the size of my work surface, worked into the storage shelves or something. 

Storage (small stuff, design): This will need to be near the desk, handy to reach when I'm sitting and working. Currently in my Immobile Studio these things are arranged aesthetically on a lot of small shelves next to my drafting table.

This obviously won't work for the Mobile Studio - I'm thinking small shelves with baskets, or small drawers. RV people have a lot of solutions for stuff like this - cabinet doors that fold up or clip closed or slide away... Possibly I could get some reclaimed stuff from old RVs. I foresee a lot of bungee cords in my future. 

Storage (paint): This is the bulk of my storage needs, but pretty simple to figure out.  I have five kinds of paint: Gallons, Quarts, Craft Paint, Misc. topcoats,  and Misc. Acrylic.

  • For Gallons, Cobalt Studios does big paint perfectly - shelves deep enough for exactly one gallon of paint. 
  • This is fine for Quarts too - they can stagger almost two-deep at that shelf size. I figure if I set up a bar or bungee cord across these shelves, they're good to go for travel and visible storage. 
  • Craft Paint fits nicely in the bins I have for them now, so the bins just need shelf space (and another bin since I'm in over-flow mode right now).  
  • Misc. Acrylics also has a good system already - a big medical bin that's easy to take out at a job site and rummage through (divided into sections for color).  
  • Misc. Topcoats is the most awkward. Seeing the different kinds is important (it's hard for me to remember what I have and what each does), but they're all wonky shapes and sizes. I'll consider it unsolved.

Storage (Mural): Stuff I will NEVER use in the studio doesn't need to be handy inside the studio space. This stuff includes extension poles, dropcloths/tarps/etc, scaffolding, ladders, extra work lights, extension cords, my misc. outdoor supplies box, big buckets, and maybe a few more things. 

Ideally it'll be easily accessible from the outside, the roof, or near one of the doors. I'm also considering a 'shed' division for the back of the truck - sort of a muckroom, ext. access kind of space. 

A window: I've got to have some natural light to not feel like a crazy box lady. Most of these vehicles have at least one, but some don't have any, which will mean punching a hole in the wall. I'm also considering skylights. 

Window covers: For as many windows as I have, I'll need covers for them too, for privacy, temperature control, and security. Many blogs I've read recommend covering windows from the outside for maximum safety so that they don't even really look like windows, but I don't know if that's necessary. If I cut windows into the walls, I can keep the negative space of the cut and use it as a cover... But I think something opaque on the interior will be just fine. 

Sink: I HAVE to have a sink. It's the first real challenge I'm giving myself - most everything else is just a matter of putting things in the right place and maybe hooking up to a generator. I can't operate in my studio without a sink, and having my own wash-place on-site when working on a mural would be truly amazing. This means I'll need a water-tank or water collection system or both - not sure how the plumbing of this will work yet. Best-case scenario I have a deep-sink with a drying spot next to or above it. It shouldn't be right next to my work surface (splatters), and it would be most handy right next to a door or window. A little hose attachment will probably come in handy too. 

Heating/AC: I have no idea how this will work yet, but I have had a studio with no heat or A/C for the past two years and it just makes me not work there. Not acceptable. 

Regular electrical outlets: I'm working on a list of things I'll need electricity for, but there will always be some odd thing I need to plug in, so handy outlets will be important. This is another big utility question - generator? Inverter? Eh?



A lot of windows: I need A window, but I want LOTS of windows. The trick is that wall space will be at a premium for storage (I assume).  Possible places: in the doors, over the desk area, skylights, long thin windows just under the shelves (let in light, don't get blocked by stuff), over the sink.... Or I could do like this truck and just replace a whole wall with plexiglass: 


Toilet: This is not really a need, but it's a pretty big want. This is still totally unsolved at this point, but I know I am not very interested in a a black-water tank. I'll probably go with something a little crunchier - composting toilet? Bucket with excellent lid? I don't expect anyone but me to have to use this thing. 

Comfy sitting/napping spot: A good half of my work is just sitting and staring into space, and sometimes that requires a soft chair with pillows and a blanket. I would imagine that this would be a conversion from something else - maybe a pad I can lay on the counter surface and treat like a window seat or napping spot. Even better, I could covert something in the driving area to a sleeping spot. I foresee many occasions where sleeping the night in the studio would be very very convenient. 

Walls & Floors that I can beat up on: tacking things to the walls, flicking paint onto the floor, wiping paint everywhere, spraying stuff on the floor, writing on the walls, etc etc etc - these make a comfortable studio. It's a 'want' because I'll beat up whatever I have anyway, but there are some design options that could make things more replaceable or lend themselves to pinning and painting and writing. 

Again, Cobalt Studios has a great setup for floors: a soft composite of some kind covered by thick, very absorptive rag paper. You can practically clean your brushes on it, walk comfortably and stand for a long time, and replace a lot of it pretty cheaply. I will probably settle for cheap plywood or something. 

The walls.... I dunno. Wood is really nice for all of those things I want to do, but I've gotten some dissuasion from people thinking the movement of the vehicle will crack and splinter anything that's not welded on. I'll need to research that myth, and what materials would be cheap and effective for my wall- and floor- needs. This will depend heavily on my vehicle though. 

Flat-file: I've survived this long without one, and I can certainly keep going, but dayum a flat-file would be handy, and very secure for driving. 

Outside access: All these food trucks have me thinking that some outside access to my inside setup would be very convenient and feasible. Recently I've been working out of the trunk of my PT cruiser, and it's super handy as a work surface. Since the Mobile Studio vehicle will almost certainly be much higher off the ground than my PT, it might be enough to use the floor of the Studio as an outdoor work surface. Maybe part of the wall hinges up? More on this once I know the vehicle. 

Microwave? Hot plate?: I pack leftovers for lunch a lot. Heating those up would be nice. 

Awning: for those hot sunny days or drippy rainy days...

Unsolved Questions (bolded above):

  1. Research computers in moving vehicles. What is the best way to secure/protect an iMac?
  2. Is there a best way to make my topcoats storage visible but secure?
  3. What even is Heating? A/C? How how how??
  4. And water? What is that? How how how??
  5. And electricity? Generator? Inverter? How much power do I need and what's the best way to get it?
  6. What's the most low-impact low-profile way to have a toilet on-board?
  7. Walls and floor - material and construction?