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Old 21st October 2020
Gear Head

Post Building Recording Studio in 3rd Story Converted Attic - Looking for Designer References & Guidance

Thank you in advance to anyone who reads this and even more so for anyone who shares advice or who can point my attention in useful directions. I really appreciate anything anyone can offer.

About Me: I've been a home recordist / semi-pro audio engineer for over 20 years now. However, up until February of this year, I've only been able to do audio work on the side (my day job was in Finance and Accounting). Throughout my day job career, I slowly collected serious gear and eventually rented a few different rooms over the years in hopes that I could transition at some point to a more serious audio business. 5 years ago we moved to upstate NY where I rented a professional room, continued collecting gear, produced audio for myself and a few friends, worked on a business model with my partner who is still based in NY and SAVED. This month, we will be officially setting up our new audio business' legal entity and committing to full-time audio work. My life-long dream, like so many here, is to build a small, custom studio that's mine and mine forever. And now I think we have a chance to actually do it.

Other context about me of note:
  • I'm 41
  • I'm not handy at all but will be dedicating the next year of my life to this project and I'm looking forward to acquiring new carpentry skills and learning everything I can about this process.
  • I have a long-term wonderful relationship with a local builder who is also a musician and wildly talented at custom work. He's done everything on our house to date and he will be the GC on the project.
  • I've never worked in a pro studio, so do not know what it's like to produce audio in a fully professional facility (just gotta be honest about that with you guys).

Audio we Produce: In addition to traditional recording (musicians, bands, VO, etc.), our early days clients have been leaning towards the mixing / sound design / scoring / post and installed experiential audio spaces. My first love will always be recording bands but our business is looking to expand far beyond that and the team we are building has a much broader technical background than just traditional audio (think maybe game audio, custom audio cue systems, etc.). So the space needs to be flexible so that it can follow us where the business and our clients take us. That said, I do need to be able to record bands in this space for my soul (and my own music).

The Project: My house is currently a ~2,000 SQF 1900's wood construction big old lady. We have restored / remodelled many rooms over the past 5 years we've owned it and it is our 'forever' home. We love it upstate and do not currently have any plans to leave (unless I can not build this We have 2 options to build a studio on the property currently being discussed. My preferred is to convert the attic and so that's what this post focuses on.

The attic is unfinished and has walk-up stairs already that would be grandfathered in per the building inspector. Our plan is to add a very long shed dormer to the roof which will help us clear height requirements in the code and give us more or less a working area the entire size of the main house. If you measure the attic floor from footboard to footboard, it's approx 28' X 23'. Of course, useable space will be less than that because of the sloped roof on the side the stairs (see pics below).

As you can see, we are in very early days with this project. I have been in contact with the city and we have a plan to address all of their concerns regarding code. I think we should be able to clear everything (including sprinklers, egress , insulation, HVAC, etc.). Tomorrow our structural engineer will come to assess the foundation, load requirements and any other issues that come up. Assuming we get the green light from him and cost isn't to the moon, the next step would be to start working on the studio's configuration with a designer to seeing what is possible.

Goals in no particular order:
- Very close to sound proof vs. the exterior (in a neighborhood so want to play drums with out disturbing and need to limit sirens, trains, etc. from contaminating recordings).
- Limit, but doesn't have to be perfect, transmission of audio into rooms below the attic space (which is primarily a guest bedroom and 'great / media room').
- Top notch mixing space to mix in (and potentially master in) that measures very well.
- Control room and live room?
- One big treated space?
- Vocal booth
- Amp iso booths
- Baffled amp iso booths in footwalls?
- 'Machine room' in footwalls?
- Half bath?
- Storage areas?

What I am looking for: Currently I'm searching for a professional studio designer who can work closely with my team on the ground (myself, structural engineer, GC) to decide how best to divide up the space and maximize the feature sets above. The space will force inherent compromises that we will need to work around. The final product won't be perfect. But it needs to be as close as possible, turning every compromise into a feature and utilizing every square inch available. I also need someone who can partner in helping me make the big decisions (one big room or control room + live room, for instance). Also looking for someone who can help me measure and tune the final product.

From the community, I'd be so grateful for any reference materials or advice from members who have tried an attic build before. I am clear-eyed and aware it's probably one of the more compromised and challenging places to install a studio. But I'm confident with the right team, smart planning and resources, we can achieve a very, very good final product that will serve as a home base for my business for years to come and is capable of producing the highest quality audio possible from a 'semi-pro home studio'.

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