Room to Create: A Guide to Designing Your Space & Enhancing Your Creativity | Mimi Chao | Skillshare

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Room to Create: A Guide to Designing Your Space & Enhancing Your Creativity

teacher avatar Mimi Chao, Owner & Illustrator | Mimochai

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      What You Will Need


    • 3.

      Benefits of Having a Creative Space


    • 4.

      Setting Intentions


    • 5.

      Physical Space


    • 6.



    • 7.



    • 8.

      Minimize Distractions


    • 9.

      Get Organized (or Not)


    • 10.



    • 11.

      Engage the Senses


    • 12.

      Breathing Space


    • 13.

      Final Thoughts


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About This Class

Learn tips and get inspired to carve out and protect your own creative space! A dedicated space helps overcome creative blocks and ruts, and gets your mind into a habit of creativity.

So many of us wish we could be more creative, or more easily tap into our creative flow. Maybe you feel creatively blocked, easily distracted, or unmotivated. If you relate, I have good news: You can improve your creativity right now by making your own designated creative space! 

In this class, I’ll explain why having a creative space helps your creativity, and provide clear and inspiring guidance for how to set up your own creative space. I’ll share actionable steps toward building your unique creative space, interesting science supporting these tips, plus personal insights gleaned from my own experience as a professional creative! 

This Skillshare features a free downloadable Class Workbook that will guide you through the steps we’ll be taking together in class. Find the free workbook under the Class Project tab on the right, under Resources.

We'll address big-picture considerations as well as specific practical advice on common hurdles, including: 

  1. Why it’s important to have a creative space
  2. Setting intentions for your creative space 
  3. Finding your own creative space, regardless of how much room you have 
  4. Physical space, lighting, and seating considerations 
  5. Minimizing distractions 
  6. Ideas for organizing your supplies (or not!) 
  7. Gathering inspiration and decorating your space 
  8. Engaging the senses and creative self-care 
  9. Breathing space, i.e. how to use your creative space mindfully :) 

And as promised, below are links to some of my favorite resources to support you with this project! 


Creative Books 

Try Libby, a free app, to get e-books and audiobook versions of these books from your local library! 

Sources for Furniture and Organizers 

See you in class! -Mimi

Meet Your Teacher

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Mimi Chao

Owner & Illustrator | Mimochai

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Hello I am the owner-illustrator of Mimochai, an independent creative studio based in LA. I'm here to share skills in drawing and mindful creativity. If you'd like to be updated on my new classes, just hit the +Follow button

My guided community is at My shop is at and my portfolio site is at Follow me on IG @mimochai and @mimizchao

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Level: Beginner

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1. Introduction: Many of us would like to be more creative or wish we could more easily tap into our creative flow. Maybe you felt creatively blocked or unmotivated, or find that you're easily distracted and often just unproductive. What if there is some simple things that you could do right now that would help improve your creativity? Well, chances are good that you can do just that right in the comfort of your own home. My name is Mimi and I'm an LA based Illustrator and run my own independent studio, Mimochai. I draw, I write, I teach, and I manage a small team of creatives. Creativity is obviously a big part of my day-to-day life and my work depends on it, not just for drawing and painting but for problem-solving and big picture thinking. I love encouraging others to pursue their own creative passions. One of the first pieces of advice that I give to someone just starting out on their creative path is to designate a place for their creativity. I decided to make this class to provide clear and inspiring guidance on how to do just that. I'm going to guide you through an introduction of how to set up your own creative space from basics to nice to haves. I'm not just going to talk about what to do but why it's helpful. Maybe you're wondering, do I really need a whole class on this? Don't I just pick a table and get to work? Of course, you can. But besides the obvious pointers, I'm going to share some things that you might not have thought of. For example, have you thought about what colors you see in your space or what you smell? Both of these aspects have been shown to affect your creativity. Besides practical advice, I hope this class will simply inspire you to actually commit to making and protecting this incredibly important space. By the end of this class, you'll have the tools you need to start building your creative space right now. So let's get started. 2. What You Will Need: Let's talk about what you'll need. For this class all you technically need is something to sketch with or write ideas on as you envision your new or updated creative space. You can use a notebook and pencil, a tablet or stylus, whatever you're comfortable with. I've also created a worksheet that you can download and use to follow along with instead. If you already have a space that you know you want to work with, that's great. You can test out these ideas as you watch this class. You can even take a photo of your space and draw ideas on top of it. If you don't know how to do that, by the way, check out my class drawing on photography. It's the same idea. On the other hand, if you're not sure where in your home you might want to set up your creative space, you can first watch this class and then decide. Lastly, if you know that you don't have any space near home to do this, don't worry. I'm also going to include tips on how to find your dedicated creative space outside of your home using many of the same concepts that I introduced throughout this class. Okay, ready? Let's meet in the next class. We'll talk about the benefits of a dedicated creative space and some examples of famous creatives and how they thrived in theirs. It'll get you pumped up and even more ready to commit to making your own. I'll see you there. 3. Benefits of Having a Creative Space: Let's talk about why it's so important for you to have a dedicated physical space for your creativity. There are actually so many great reasons, but to keep things simple, I'm going to focus on my top three. First, it helps you focus because it can eliminate distractions. You can put your phone or your work away while you create. If you do your creative work on your computer or tablet, like I do, you can turn off notifications. If you need to, you can request your family or roommates to try not to interrupt you while you're in your creative space. This is actually really important for me because I need a quiet atmosphere for most of my deep thinking and creativity. The space also helps separate my creative work life and home life, even though it's all technically happening under one roof. These days, with many people working from home, that's extra important. The second thing is that when you enter your creative space, you're letting your mind and body know that it's time to create, even on days when you have a lot going on or maybe you aren't naturally feeling up for it. We all know the Pavlov's dog experiment, where dogs are trained to salivate just at the sound of a bell. They are conditioning it to expect food. We can actually be conditioned in a similar way, scientists call this classical conditioning. If we're exposed to a situation that prompts creativity enough times, we'll be conditioned to automatically associate that setting with our creative mode. Also, honoring that space tells your mind that your creativity is important, it's a priority, and you're committed to it. When I'm in my creative space, it helps put me in the right mindset more quickly and allows me to focus, come up with new ideas, and clarify them into actionable steps. It doesn't mean that I can't work in other places, it's just an extra boost when I'm in my own space. That leads me to the third benefit. You can really be intentional and make this your own space. You can build your creative space with things that inspire you and give you ideas. For example, I like to keep a little stack of some of my favorite books on my desk to remind me of what it is I want to create through my work. I have The Little Prince, The Alchemists, Moomins, and Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind. These are just a few ways that I've noticed that my space supports my creative journey, and will support yours too. By the way, don't just take it from me, I am, of course, not the only person that has benefited from having a dedicated creative space. Many famous creatives throughout history have also had famous studios. For example, the impressionist painter Claude Monet painted in a sunlight room overlooking his beautiful garden, which he called his most beautiful masterpiece. You can definitely see from his paintings that he was enchanted by nature and light, and, of course, he communicated that very successfully. There's also the English writer, Virginia Woolf, who once famously said, a woman must have money and a room of her own if she's to write fiction. Woolf personally had a self-contained writing launch on her property in England, which she would go every day to write many of her novels, articles, and diaries. There's so many more examples too. Beethoven would wake up and go straight to work at the same table at his home every day. Writer George Bernard Shaw built a hut for himself close to home so he could escape unwanted visitors by having his wife tell them he was out of town. Charles Dickens even took it a step further. Reportedly, when he was traveling on book tours, he would sometimes move the furniture in his accommodations to feel like his study back at home. Now, while you might think, well, of course, these masters needed their own space, the same benefits are also important to everyday people like you and me. We all need to nurture our creativity regardless of our profession. Creativity is all about solving problems, coming up with new ideas, and expressing your true self. Let's start setting up your creative space. 4. Setting Intentions: Now that you know why a creative space is so helpful, let's make one that's just right for you. First, let's set an intention for your creative space. There's no right answer here. It just depends on what you want and need. For example, if you often feel overwhelmed by mess when you try to create, maybe try setting an intention for your space to be supporting creative clarity. That might mean making it a tidy, calming, clutter-free zone. On the other hand, if you feel creatively blocked, maybe try setting an intention to make an energizing space that sparks creative flow. That can mean decorating with lots of pictures that inspire you and or collecting articles featuring artists that you admire. Take a minute to reflect on what you would like to accomplish with your space and write it down. If you're not sure, don't worry, let it marinate as you've finished watching this class. I'll also provide some suggested intentions in the class workbook. It can be as simple as this is where I create. Now, with your intention in mind, let's talk about practical steps to set up your creative space. Remember, you can always experiment and adjust as you learn more about what works best for you. 5. Physical Space: Now we're finally at what you probably thought was going to be the first step, picking your space. This will depend on what kind of creative work you like to do and how much room you have. If you have an entire room that you can convert into your studio, that's great. Detach sheds, unused guest bedrooms, or even a large closet, can be great options to turn into your creative space. Don't forget, many of the world's best ideas were born in garages. If you have options to choose from, try finding the space with the best open view and highest ceilings. Both of these factors have been shown to stimulate creativity. If you don't have a whole room, don't worry, many people don't. Try picking a corner of a room that doesn't get a lot of traffic or an ark such as a curve under a stairwell. On the other hand, if you live with roommates or have kids, or just in a really tight living situation, there might not be any one place that you can claim as completely your own. Again, don't worry, just stay flexible and try picking a specific chair at the dining table or maybe a specific place on the couch. One way way get similar benefits of training your mind to still think it's your creative space is to consistently use that one spot and to bring something with you every time you use it for creativity. For example, at the dining table, you can bring a place mat that you only use during your creative time or bringing a candle or plant to put next to you while you work. Discuss with your roommates or family members where you can use a shared space during certain times as your designated creative space so you can also try to avoid interruptions. Another good tip is using a temporary folding screen, which can help create some privacy and cut out visual distraction. Last but not least, you might consider finding your creative space outside of your home. Maybe it's a go-to table at your favorite local coffee shop or your local library. Establishing a routine to go to these places specifically for creative work will still help you carve out a space to serve your creativity. We all have different circumstances so please don't get discouraged by what you do or don't have. Focus on what you can do with what you do have. In fact, making it work is creative work in and of itself. Let's move into the next tip. 6. Lighting: As you pick your spot, consider what kind of lighting will be most supportive to you. Are you more creative with bright and airy spaces or maybe with a dimmer light? There's at least one study which I find really interesting that's published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology that suggests that darker lighting can actually help creativity by eliciting a feeling of freedom, self-determination, and reduced inhibition. I actually personally find that I like bright and natural light when I'm doing creative work but there are also times when I feel creative at night. My studio has good lighting for nighttime work as well. Your own lighting preferences will help you decide where to locate your space and maybe even what time of day to use it. You can consider getting task lamps if your area doesn't get good natural light or putting a dimmer on your lights if possible so you can adjust it to your mood. If you don't know what kind of light you work best in, you can always experiment with options you have at home before investing in a new setup. 7. Seating: Next, you will of course need comfortable seating, but not too comfortable because you want to stay awake. Think comfortable but alert. I personally like dining chairs that are comfortable but also offer good back support. Those office chairs with the rolly feet always remind me of work and I haven't found one that I like the look of personally. That said, if you need extra support, be sure to take care of your body first and get that ergonomic chair. If your sitting situation is less than ideal right now, you can always start with just what you have already and make a note to upgrade as soon as you can, because good seating or even the right standing desk can really make a difference. It will not only help you create for longer periods of time, but it'll also help you protect your health and posture. 8. Minimize Distractions: Now that we have the basics of your space, your lighting, and your seating in order, let's talk about getting rid of those distractions as much as possible. First, note the various things that can be distracting to you. Which of these are in your control? For starters, you can limit your own technology distractions, so consider putting your digital devices away, or at least on do not disturb mode. I do a lot of digital creative work, so I can't get away from my digital devices but I do use the do not disturb mode a lot. Or, I'll open a dedicated full-screen window on my computer so I'm not distracted by other tabs and notifications on there. Some distractions, on the other hand, are not in your control, such as noise from the street or from others living in your house or outside in the coffee shop that you're in. To minimize distracting noises, my favorite techniques include playing ambient noise which studies have shown can boost creativity, using noise cancellation headphones which is great if you can't get away from people making noise, and also having go-to playlists that match my mood. I like to have a high-energy playlist for when I need a boost, a playlist that pulls me into deep focus, and a more whimsical playlist that encourages me to explore. Lo-fi beats without any lyrics are always my go-to. I'll share some links to my favorite playlist in the projects and resources tab if you'd like to start there. 9. Get Organized (or Not) : When it comes to creativity, people and studies are split on whether it's better to have an organized or more free for all space. I personally find that having an orderly space gives me a clear mind, and a clear mind helps my creativity flow. I used to be more messy, but once I was able to design my own space to make it how I like it, I have become a lot more motivated to keep it nice and clean. At the end of the day, I always make sure to keep my desk tidy and the rest of the space as organized as possible. On the other hand, there's definitely studies that say that clutter actually makes one more creative. There are plenty of creatives that are notoriously messy. See what works best for your personality and just be honest with yourself. At the very least, I think it's fair to say that having the right furniture and organizational systems can save you a lot of time and energy. If you're not constantly looking for your misplaced pencils or tools, you'll have more brain space to think creatively. The right setup really depends on what kinds of tools you use. Check out what similar creatives are using to get a sense of what might work for you. For example, I start all of my video recording items in our studio closet with labels to keep track of them. I also group my art materials by type into labeled boxes. Big box stores like Target, IKEA, Container Store, all have lots of great and affordable storage solutions. But you can also find great items on sites like OfferUp or even your local Facebook Exchange Group. I'll list some resources in the class materials for you to check out. Go and gather your equipment that make sense for your current circumstances. Start with what you have and get what you absolutely need to and can afford. Then I encourage you to just take notes on what your dream setup for future references. I personally started with a tiny desk in a corner and hardly had any supplies, and then I just worked up from there. 10. Inspiration: Now for some fun stuff. It's your creative space, so surround yourself with inspiration that sparks your curiosity and inspires your imagination. A fine and easy way to do this is to build an inspiration board. Every time you see a picture that excites you, print it out or cut it out and pin and tape it to your board. Soon you'll have a unique piece celebrating your personal aesthetic and creative direction. If you're working towards goals, you can also make it a vision board which showcases images that remind you of what you want to achieve. Don't limit yourself to inspiration either, memorabilia and all photographs can be great for inspiration. Nostalgia has been shown in studies to be a catalyst for creativity, which I found really interesting. I personally like to use floating shelves so I can put up a mix of books, objects, prints, and then rearrange them and swap them out really easily. I also like to tape things to the walls, something about that fill so casual and free and help stir my creativity. On the other hand, I also have a gallery wall in my studio for a more permanent pieces along with a shelf full of books that inspire me in addition to the special stack that I keep on my desk. I think books are and especially wonderful way to stay inspired. You can read and display your favorite creative books so you can be reminded of their wisdom whenever you need. I love to read books for artists, illustrated guides, and books about mindfulness, so I've built myself a little library of sorts in my studio. You can see my creative book recommendations in the Class Resources tab if you want to try this approach. Many people also feel inspired by nature. If you have a nice view of nature that might be all you need but if your views feeling a little uninspired or your spaces and have the windows, you can bring nature into your space with some house plants or some fresh flowers. Of course, you might also have a mixture of both. I personally love low maintenance house plants such as this ZZ plant and I'm also grateful to be able to look out onto the trees. As you collect objects and images that inspire you, remember not to overwhelm yourself because you still need space for your own thoughts. If you find that you have too much going on, you can always pair back and swap things out when it feels right. For me, I'm really intentional about what I bring into my space. I like a balance of inspiration and minimalism. I could have a lot more in here, but it would become overwhelming and distracting and then counterproductive. On the other hand, working in a stark blank white room would not feel right for my creativity either. Feel free to change it up, you will find the right balance for you. 11. Engage the Senses: Visuals are always the go-to source of inspiration, but don't neglect your other senses as well. Studies have shown that sensory stimulation can actually help inspire creativity. Interestingly, different people are stimulated by different senses. Consider the other senses of sound, smell, taste, and touch and see which, if any, help you. For sound, of course, music is a big source of inspiration for many creatives. Pay attention to what sounds seem to best serve your needs. It might be different than the kind of music that you normally listen to when you're just relaxing or hanging out. For me, I like to listen to lo-fi ambient music without lyrics. Others might prefer classical music or maybe some upbeat indie coffee shop music. As for the other senses, some creatives reportedly think best while squeezing something like a stress ball, while others swear by having a strong scent in their space or even chewing on a particular flavor such as mint. Think outside the box and experiment to see what works for you. For a bit of self-care and sensory stimulation, double duty, remember to stay hydrated with a nice cup of water, tea, or of course, coffee. This can provide both smell and taste stimulation and even touch as you hold onto your favorite mug. I personally always have this KINTO mug with me as it keeps my water at the perfect temperature and also actually has this really nice texture for touch. I also have some lip balm and some lotion handy to stay hydrated in a dry climate. That provides a nice scent and touch sensation as well. In the colder months, consider getting a heating pad or a nicely textured blanket to help keep you warm and focused on your creativity. For scent, I like to use a diffuser for some aromatherapy, or you can light your favorite candle or incense. Going back to sound, besides music, you can try listening to an inspiring audiobook or podcast too. I actually read so much more now that I listen to audiobooks while doing creative work. I often get lots of ideas while listening. Mixing and matching these little treats is a really fun way to experiment with the mood and atmosphere in your creative space. Have fun with it. 12. Breathing Space: On the topic of self-care, I highly recommend setting aside some breathing space for you to slow down, connect with yourself, and find inspiration within as well as around you. Sometimes your mind just needs a break, and that break actually can lead to breakthroughs. You know how you seem to always get your best ideas in the shower, it's the same idea. As I've discussed in many of my tutorials, mindfulness and creativity are actually two sides of the same coin. By engaging in mindfulness in your space, you're actually also deepening your creativity and avoiding creative burnout. Your reading space could be a sofa that you take a break on, a cushion on the floor that you sit on for meditation, or simply a view out in a nearby window that you can look out to while focusing on your breath. For me, I have a dedicated meditation area that has really helped me through my creative work. Give it a try. 13. Final Thoughts: I hope you're excited to find and carve out your own creative space now. I wanted to keep this class short and actionable, so focus on just the most important basics. If you'd like even more tips and details on the scientific studies that back these tips. I recently came across this book, My Creative Space by architect Donald M. Rattner, and I really recommend it. It covers some similar tips as this class, but it goes into more detail on specific science-based techniques, and is also full of nice photos of all different kinds of spaces to get you inspired. The most important thing is to just get started and to use your creative space consistently. A regular routine combined with a designated space, are going to be so helpful for your creative development. Routine may sound like the opposite of creativity, but in this particular case, it helps clear your mind of unnecessary noise so you can focus on being creative. Thanks so much for joining me in this class. If you'd like to stay tuned on my future classes, I welcome you to follow me on my teacher page on Skillshare, to join my newsletter and to follow me on Instagram. I have lots of classes planned for the future, so please stay tuned. Till next time. Bye.