With the structural inspections complete the drywall crew continued their task and now the tape and mud is being applied. Open ceilings in the two studios, gallery and prop room mean 12ft tall walls have to be dry-walled and smoothed. Looking forward to seeing the crew’s tall stilts on the high walls! There will be a drop ceiling in the lobby, editing office, bathrooms and kitchen/makeup areas.
We decided to remove some of the overgrown vegetation to reveal the front of the building so that the signage will be visible to the 50,000+ vehicles a day that pass the studio. We are playing with signage design, paint colors as well as exterior landscaping. Kind of cool to see the exterior moving along as well.
No construction project goes as planned, and conventional wisdom says it will cost you double what you originally budgeted, but we are fighting like crazy to ensure that that will not happen here. Nevertheless, we have discovered that a lot of work was done to the building over the past 20 years will not meet the current Florida building code and the minute you pull a construction permit, all work, past and present, has to meet the current code. So it looks as though we will have to
Completely upgrade the AC system with 4 new units supplying 12 Tons. It’s pretty obvious that the 20 year old A/C system will not be able handle the demand of the new studio design. The plan is to run the A/C every day to cool the editing office, lobby, gallery and bathroom, but only run the A/C in the studios during shoots. So the ability to rapidly drop the temperature in the two large studios is essential. Without dropped ceilings, and a relatively low R19 roofing system, excess capacity will be important to get the temps down fast enough in the summer months.
Repair a leak in the roof and wall that caused quite considerable damage to the drywall in the main studio area
Re-look at the wiring of the building. Several electrical penetrations through both the exterior walls and the interior fire walls do not meet current building code and need to be addressed
It’s also time to decide on tile treatments for the lobby and gallery areas. Fortunately Kim’s excellent taste for interior decoration will make my life so much easier.
Dealing with the city building department for building permits and inspections can be a trying process. Sometimes it goes well, other times it can be a nightmare. I guess this time around ours was smack in the middle. All our drawings and permits were passed without revision, however our plans got stuck (and lost) within the building department for almost 2 weeks, delaying all progress. And delays cost money.
THE START OF THE BUILD OUT PHASE
Now that we have the permits the build-out has started. Drywall framing is going up, plumbing for the new ADA bathroom and kitchen, duct work for the new AC units and more.
Despite having tried to incorporate as much pre-planning into the design of the new studio as possible, there are several changes that we have implemented through the project and sometimes construction delays give you time to reflect and rethink your strategy!
Now that the demo is complete the empty structure looks so full of potential. While we love the idea of on large completely open shooting space, the reality is that we are able to get more out of the studio with two separate shooting spaces and a prop room that services them both.
So, for now, we are enjoying the wide open space as it will soon be framed out in our new layout.
The demo team had three days to knock down all the interior dry walls, remove all the ceiling panels, old electrical wiring, demo two of the bathrooms and open up the concrete block dividing wall to allow for moving large props between studios. Also there was an old silver halide recovery shelter outside that had to come out – talk about photography from another era!
We stood back and watched them work. Brian and I continued to shoot and work at our existing studio and we took turns to visit the new studio and record the demo process under way.
DEMO PROJECT – DAY 1
Progress photos from Demo Day 1
DEMO PROJECT – DAY 2
Progress photos from Demo Day 2. Finally the space and potential of the building is being revealed, and the natural light studio area is looking amazing. Exciting to see this materialize as we had envisioned it.
DEMO PROJECT – DAY 3
Progress photos from Demo Day 3. No real changes from Day 2 – more detail removal and clean up. Outdoor silver halide retrieval shed is gone!
Of course, when doing the demo, a lot of hidden issues were revealed. Most related to previous work done to the building that would not meet the current building code and would have to be addressed. We discovered holes in the exterior concrete block walls that were allowing ants and even small lizards to get into the block and into the insulation between the block and drywall. Also there was evidence of water damage inside the building and by directing water on the affected areas we narrowed it down to east and north facing windows where the sealing gaskets that were leaking.
Due to the changes in room configuration some of the existing A/C ducting would have to be moved so we are re-looking at the entire AC system and distribution.
Jerry and I came to a deal on the price and they moved heaven and earth to clear out the studio prior to closing. The newly cleared space still gave us no idea of what the final layout could possibly look like other than the vision we had in our heads.
I immediately set out designing the basic layout of the new studio. To make matters more difficult, the drawings we got with the building did not match the actual building in any way, so several changes had happened over the years that never made it to the drawings. So after painstakingly re-measuring every part of the existing building I got back to working on the layout.
I used Google’s free 3D modeling program Sketchup, (now owned by Trimble) and the scale 3-D model allowed me to play with all the components that we needed to factor into the final design
There were a few minor items that caused us problems at our old studio that we wanted to resolve in the design on the new studio. In the old studio we would have to walk through the main shooting area to get to the bathrooms, and when you are doing a boudoir or nude shoot with a client, the last thing they need is someone else wandering onto their set.
Another issue was that although we had the privilege of working within 3,000 sqft of open shooting space, it was really difficult to teach classes where we wanted to have two separate and distinct sets operating at the same time. This also hindered us in renting out shooting space when we had other clients booked. Having separate and distinct shooting areas would alleviate these issues.
So with our past experience guiding us I set about the new design to incorporate……
Welcoming attractive lobby and viewing area
High-end gallery area to display prints and frames
Two separate shooting studios – one for product and portraits with cyc, and large natural light shooting area (this separation will help with classes)
Ability to get vehicles into the studio
Ability to move large props and furniture from one shooting studio to another
Large modern open-plan productive editing suite / office
Large prop storage room with workshop for building sets and props
Access to bathrooms without having to go through the shooting areas
Over-supply of electrical outlets and roof trusses in the shooting studios to accommodate pull down pantograph systems
Similar over supply of data connections to facilitate easy tethered hookup to client and studio monitors
Quiet NAS / Server room yet easily accessible
Attractive outdoor shooting area with movable shade
And of course updating the bathrooms to ADA and all that it entails.
After several revisions, mainly due to code enforcement and ADA issues, we finally came up with a workable layout which we had the architect draw for permitting approval. We contracted with local general contractor Gil Hyatt Construction and told them to proceed with haste!!!
The final design drawings have some changes to the above design, but follow the essential layout. Modifications were required to avoid substantial re-wiring costs.
In the past I have lived vicariously through several other photographer’s studio construction project threads. So this time I am sharing my photography studio build out project. Hope you enjoy the journey as much as we are enjoying putting it all together.
I have been a pro-photographer for more than 30 years, and like all photographers, ended up commandeering the garage to make my own home studio. When I immigrated to the USA 20 years ago I set up another home studio in our garage but as the commercial clientele grew, it became obvious that we needed a more upmarket shooting space, worthy of our clientele.
From 2004 to 2006 my wife and I searched high and low in Fort Lauderdale for a suitable building that met our demanding criteria, but as you might recall, during that period the property market was out of control here and there were literally no buildings that met our criteria that we could justify financially. So we decided to rent, found a great space close to our home with a great landlord and have been very happy with the decision.
OUR EXISTING PHOTOGRAPHY STUDIO
For the past six years we have been renting a very convenient and really superb 4,000 sqft Unit. We took possession as a box, and and designed a really productive working space within its confines. As you can see from the photos below our current studio lacks nothing and it has been a very enjoyable home for our business. While there were a few “nice to have” items that we wanted, there was literally nothing that the rental space did not provide us or our clients and other renting photographers, but we wanted to be in control of our destiny and hopefully see a return on our property investment.
THE NEW BUILDING – THE SOON TO BE NEW STUDIO FOR ADEPT STUDIOS / DANNY STEYN PHOTOGRAPHY
Time moves on, and that out-of-control property market went on a plummeting downward spiral as it crashed from 2007 to 2011 when it finally bottomed out. In retrospect I am really happy we didn’t buy at the peak of the bubble! This year, Fort Lauderdale showed the first real sustained month-on-month increase in the residential property prices. And from my experience, commercial property typically lags the residential market by about 18-24 months. So it was time to buy.
For the past two years we have been wearing out our real estate agents searching for a suitable space, and one day I drove past the bastion of Fort Lauderdale high school senior’s photography studio, University Studios, and discovered that it was for sale. Apparently Jerry, the owner, had taken ill and was looking to sell.
My wife and I decided to take a look and we immediately fell in love with the bones of the building. It met all our criteria. Strong and secure, stand alone building, well maintained, good roof, great traffic frontage with 50,000+ vehicles a day, lots of parking, daylight studio, outdoor shooting area, and several other criteria that we were adamant about.
Inside, the guts of the building would have to be completely remodeled as our business clientele is most definitely nothing like the fast turnover seniors photography that Jerry’s studio was set up for. However the cyc wall and several other items were definitely worth keeping and the fact that we could help out another photographer with the purchase made the deal even more appealing.
The pictures below show the lovely exterior bones of the building, and the very cluttered interior in the midst of Jerry and his team packing away twenty years of accumulated odds and ends. Its really sad to see the departure of one of Fort Lauderdale’s photography pioneers and we wish Jerry and Johanna all the best in their retirement.