In the beginning...
When we first acquired the space in the Summer of 2013 the previous owner who was a cabinet maker was using the space as a workshop. Aside from a crudely partitioned restroom, the space was one large room.
This was exactly what we were looking for when we started our search for a new space. One Sunday afternoon we saw an ad for an open house. We called the real estate agent and even though we had gotten the open house date wrong she showed us the property. As it turns out, what she had to show was not at all what we had in mind. Undaunted, the agent asked for more information and took our contact information promising not to bother unless she had something that met our requirements.
True to her word, we did not hear another peep until she called us and told us about a place in Fallbrook that she thought we would like. We jumped in the car and headed North on I-15 past the impressive Rainbow Bridge to Fallbrook. When we saw the property we fell in love at first sight. The home was a Midcentury Modern classic designed by one of Frank Lloyd Wright's Tallesin students. Kitchen and bedrooms flank either side of a huge great room with glass facing a beautiful swimming pool. Across the yard stood an impressive 1500 sq ft workshop crying out to be my new studio.
The Design phase...
I had some very specific design requirements in mind for the studio from the very beginning. I wanted to use the majority of the space for the recording studio with a small portion set aside for a woodworking shop. I wanted the control room to be very large and spacious with a front wall featuring large built in main monitors in a stone wall. I wanted separate booth areas with reflective and non-reflective surfaces that had adequate space and connections for a full drum set. I wanted full climate control with separate air conditioners and air recirculating system. I wanted a live room big enough to comfortably hold a live band.
Armed with some preliminary designs found online and Rod Gervais' book 'Home Recording Studio: Build it like the pros' I went to work slicing the space up to suit my needs. I used sketch up to draw my initial design. I knew that I was going to be spending a considerable amount of money on this project so I decided it was prudent to hire a professional acoustician to help me tweak the design and make sure the room size ratios were optimal.
The drawing to the right is the final version. Some highlights are the hanging wave guide panels and the Geddes wall. You can see the sonically de-coupled walls separating each of the spaces. Much of this is detailed in Rod's book.
In the end things turned out exactly as hoped for. Each room is tuned for sound as every great sounding recording starts with a great sounding room.
Once the design was completed and all the necessary hoops jumped through acquiring San Diego County planning approval and building permits work began on the buildout.
I really lucked out getting in touch with Blue Horizon Construction, a local building contractor named Greg Peterson and his able bodied assistant Richard Snover. I have to say I could not have done it without them! Greg and Ricky have mad skills and even more importantly a strong eye for quality and a very collaborative spirit. They had not worked on a recording studio prior to this project but by the time we finished they understood all the little details that make all the difference.
In the photo at right Ricky is laying out the first wall between the live room and the control room setting up the thirty degree angle for the part of the wall that will hold the main control room monitors.
Thank goodness Ricky isn't afraid of heights (or anything else that I know of). He rides that rolling scaffolding like it was a skateboard.
The great thing about the rough construction phase is the nearly immediate gratification. Things go from being a big saw dust filled mess to something that really allows you to picture the actual space very quickly.
Most of the walls were up by the end of 2013 and the whole place had that delicious Douglas Fir new construction smell.
Already by this time the few friends that knew what I was up to started asking "When do you think you'll have it finished?" I never could give them a straight answer but fortunately I do come from a family of building contractors so I knew going into the project the two universal truths of building 1-It's gonna take longer than you think and 2-It's gonna cost more than you think. As it turned out... Both were true for my project.
I guess they always are.
Drywall, Plumbing, Electrical and sub flooring...
Once you get the walls all up its easy to get all excited and think you're almost done. Believe me, nothing could be further from the truth.
The electrical presented a major challenge right away. The sub panel was up way too high and needed to be moved to the space that would become the equipment closet. I hired an electrician to do the panel move, but I ran all the wiring in the studio laying it out to keep the lighting and utility circuits completely isolated from those which would service audio equipment.
There is enough 5/8" drywall in this studio to do a small apartment complex. All the walls and ceilings have two layers independently taped and separated by a layer of green acoustic glue. All the angles and crevices made sanding and prepping the surfaces costly and time consuming.
The core changes to the plumbing were adding a water heater, moving the lavatory, and raising the waste up to accommodate the raised floor.
The subfloor is built from 2x6 lumber isolated from the cement shop floor by rubber "uboats". About a mile of conduit was installed to hold the various audio connecting cables. The whole assembly was topped with two layers of 3/4" plywood separated by green acoustic glue.
Although a bit out of sequence here a do need to add the air conditioning and recycling system. Two complete ductless air conditioning systems were installed at a cost of >$10k. Even though I still trimble at the cost, this was absolutely essential as it is lacking at so many local studios. Comfort is a necessary luxury when it comes to doing your best work in the recording studio.
A Challenge for the crew...
One of the biggest construction challenges was building the soffit to house the Urei a Time Align speakers in the live room. The design called for something that would allow them to sit in floating boxes at exactly the right angles so they would sound right for listeners in the live room.
I hand sketched a few drawings and showed them to construction guru Greg Peterson. He looked them over and for a split second gave me a look that said "You've got to be kidding..." But quickly got over it and scratched his head, asked some great questions, and proceeded to start laying it out on the floor beneath where it would be installed.
It truly is an engineering feat! I am not exaggerating when I say there is not a single 90 degree cut in the whole thing.
Once complete I was delighted! The soffit came out exactly as I had imagined. Again, I think this would have stumped a less experienced builder but Greg (with plenty of help from Ricky) figured it out.
Stone, Hardwood, Fabric and Fiberglass...
Even after the plumbing, electrical, drywall and drywall was done a double dipped boatload of work remained.
First was the stone veneer wall in the control room. I estimated the amount of material needed and added 10% for good measure. I picked this up in Santa Ana in my small pickup. It was a very heavy load so my truck groaned all the way back home. I hired Ricky Snover to install it. The job took >40 hrs to complete and was extremely tedious. As usual, Ricky did a superb job.
Using Masonite and cotton waste felt, a built and hung all the wave guide panels in front of 10" of denim insulation and a layer of 1lb per sq ft mass loaded vinyl. Getting that MLV hung was a death defying feat on its own.
The design called for many cloth covered panels which I built and covered using the highest quality low cost labor available (my wife).
When it came time to install the hardwood laminate flooring I turned once again to Ricky Snover who knocked it out in about a week.