El Estudio

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A view from a back corner with the sound system on the right, attached to the wall so the CDs don't bounce.

The exposed brick and rafters in the ceiling give it a feeling of more than just a studio. The middle door leads to a changing room.

You can get an idea of the different textures in there. Yes, there are a lot of doors.


Our studio is behind our house in the Rogers Park neighborhood on the North Side of Chicago.  It was created from space in a brick building built in the 19th century that has just the right balance of practicality and soul.  The history and feeling of the building makes the experience real.

As I planned the floor, there was a lot to think about and no flamenco flooring experts to ask for help.  While there are a lot of floors around (duh...) and a lot of dance floors in studios, there aren't a lot of floors that flamencos admire.  Commercial flamenco studio floors are usually tolerated, but I was not creating a commercial space with a disposable floor that could be replaced easily when it was ruined.  I also wasn't making a showcase of high-tech (expensive) solutions for the feeling and sound issues.  I decided to work from my heart.  I would make a floor the way I thought it would have been made years ago,  with a few modern improvements.

The structure of the floor is made of 2x4 joists set at 12" centers.  The thought was to make a base that would flex a tiny bit but would be consistent, hence the smaller than normal joists set at  tighter than usual centers.  The floor is set above the existing cement floor, a sloping floor with drains in the middle.  This meant that, while the 2x4s rested on the cement at the edges of the area, the middle is at least 6" above.  To minimize flex, I ran supports from each 2x4 to anchors in the cement every 18".  Three-quarter inch exterior B-C plywood was biscuit-joined together and screwed to the joists, with expansion gaps at the walls.  To provide access to the existing drains in the floor, there are access panels that can be removed to get to the drains and other items.  The sub-floor was squeak-free, but comfortable on the feet, although much too loud as is. 

The actual flooring is 3/4" red oak.  Be aware that if you buy bargain oak flooring from a home improvement center, as I did, you will have to deal with waste due to defects.  I installed it conventionally and was worried that the floor was getting too stiff, although I felt the sound would get better.  I was pleased to discover that it feels great on the feet.  The formula worked.

The floor does not have any plastic finish such as urethane on it.  I was thinking about guitars with strange sound because of the super hard, durable finishes applied to them.  I also wanted to avoid cracks in the urethane that would be inevitable because the energy we all put into heel work.  Supposedly modern finishes just don't seem to be right for flamenco. I began by with golden oak oil stain,  bringing out the grain in an aged  style and not ruining the feel by introducing artificial elements to the natural wood construction.  In keeping with the philosophy of using way of times past, I used an oil finish (Tung oil).  It fits us perfectly - feels good on the feet and easily fixed when attacked by a loose nail from a boot or shoe.

As far as I am concerned, this is the way to make a flamenco floor that looks good, feels good, and sounds good.  I am also pleased to say that it has not given any trouble after a winter in a sometimes unheated studio.  The studio seems happy.  I love it when a plan comes together......

Bill Kowalewski-Barrera