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Paint that cube farm!
August 30, 2007 6:55 PM   Subscribe

What color(s) should we paint the walls in our cubicle-filled office environment?

My office is a large, open space filled with cubicles in a suburban office park. It looks a lot like Initech, frankly: grayish-blue carpet, gray desks, gray cubicle walls with matching dull gray paint on the walls.

New management is willing to put some money towards upgrading our environment. Paint is cheap and the gray walls are universally despised, so it's an easy place to start. Interior designers, however, are not cheap, so as resident graphic designer I've been asked to suggest some colors to repaint our walls.

Considerations:

-- Big, long walls that are highly visible over low cubicles

-- Flourescent lighting, minimal natural light

-- No exposed brick, ductwork, or any other "interesting" interior architecture. This place looks like Dilbert-ville.

Due to the nature of our business, we almost never have clients or potential clients in our office, so this isn't a project for marketing purposes -- just something to make life nicer for cube-dwellers like me.

Are there any good books or websites that discuss improving a sterile, boring cube-farm? I know that advertising and design firms like to show off their awesomely creative spaces, but we don't have good lighting, good architecture, or a lot of money to throw around.

Our workforce is pretty young and hip; I'm not confined to just neutrals, but I don't want to get too wacky either. I'm looking for colors that will make our office feel warmer and more pleasant without making people edgy or annoyed. Hope me, hivemind!

Anonymous because it's about work, duh.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Blue. Deep blue (think the color of the sky when it's bright, sunny and clear) is getting to be a pretty popular color for interiors. It doesn't look wacky and it would make the whole office seem warm and pleasant. Of course, I am just saying this because that color makes me feel happy. I am not an interior designer specialist.

Oh, and since it's a fluorescent interior you will want to get the color shifted a bit so it looks brighter and clearer.

Also, if they're really willing to fork over as for full spectrum bulbs. You'd be amazed at how bright and natural the light is. I worked in an office with those bulbs in for a long time (of course, we also often had fair natural light. The color was really wonderful, not yellow or harsh at all.
posted by Deathalicious at 7:44 PM on August 30, 2007


Yes, I agree, deep blue is lovely.
posted by icebourg at 7:49 PM on August 30, 2007


Some hope offered: My sister is an interior designer, so I can help. Warm colors (reds, oranges, shades of pink etc. do not work on the walls of large office spaces. Not even in pastels. A brisk green, not too dark, will be enjoyed by most, combined with a good coffee service in the morning.
posted by longsleeves at 7:53 PM on August 30, 2007


I've been told that green is a wall color that makes most art look good. I tried a medium-light, warm green (Sherwin Williams "hearts of palm", I think) on my home office walls, with white-white trim, and it looks fabulous. But I have a lot of other stuff that looks good with it.

My first vision when I read this question was of a tropicana-fruity-red, kind of the color of the cranberry-grapefruit juice I used to buy. It's a sort of daring choice, but if it doesn't clash with the cubes (and I think the right gray would go well), or with anything else, you could potentially do quite well with a strong, warm color like this.

Be careful of yellows.

How about you have people come in on a Saturday, paint big old test patches in several places and several different colors (bearing in mind lighting differences), and try them out for a week before deciding?

Also - try to plan for what kinds of things will go on the wall (pictures, calendars, white boards, etc.) - if you can find something warm and strong that will set these things off well, you'll be happy. And you might also encourage the addition of lovely things to hang on the wall, too -- this can make a huge difference, I think.

It's all about context, as you know; a color can look awful if it's just kind of stuck somewhere randomly, but if it "fits", or is made to fit, you can transcend an otherwise blah environment.
posted by amtho at 7:53 PM on August 30, 2007


I'm with amtho. The best such office I ever worked in had deep orange walls, which sounds awful but looked great. The second best-looking had what I called 'melted creamsicle', a pale orange. Most furnishings in the former were wood-grain, most in the latter were steel gray.

The use of "warm" colors also helps "cancel out" the horrible fluorescents. Use of natural materials (wood, canvas, stone) can also help mitigate some of that cold cube hostility.

(I strongly advise you to avoid blues and greens, as the fluorescent lighting will already be giving everything an unhealthy greenish tinge without your help.)
posted by rokusan at 8:19 PM on August 30, 2007


Former Initech dweller myself. Whatever color you pick to repaint, it will only be non-boring for a couple of months. The folks who have to see the same walls every single day will quickly grow immune to the re-paint. And unfortunately, the durable, washable, fade-resistant corporate-approved color you select between "just neutrals" and "too wacky" will have a pretty short shelf-life.

What about a rotating print project? My Initech did something I thought was cool, affordable, and visually interesting: there were simple frames mounted on walls throughout the work space, and different prints appeared in them every so often. Sometimes it was repros of old magazine ads for the company's products; other times, it was just posters and prints that were interesting to look at -- black and white photos, still lifes, seasonal pictures, landscapes.

It might sound pedestrian, but keep the goal in mind: what made the prints interesting was that they were different. Just when you got sick of looking at Martha's Vineyard, suddenly it was an Impressionist painting, and then maybe a couple months later it was a photo of a state landmark.

The trick would be someone who can pick the prints well initially, and having the facilities people agree to take the frames down for change-outs every so often.
posted by pineapple at 8:19 PM on August 30, 2007


In one office I worked we have light coloured walls - but in our section we had one wall painted a dark orange and over it was some huge clear perspex sheets - so we could write and draw all over the wall. Handy for making to do lists and reminders - and sometimes just draw cartoons for amusement.
posted by gomichild at 9:34 PM on August 30, 2007


What about adding plants as well?
posted by happyturtle at 11:23 PM on August 30, 2007


seconding blue or green.
posted by thinkingwoman at 4:23 AM on August 31, 2007


I work for a consulting firm and just did an office move and design two years ago. Our office is essentially a long rectangle. One of the long walls, and one of the short walls, are standard office beige color. The other long wall has windows all along it, but above them and below them we painted a nice red (something like RGB: 200, 0, 22) and on the other short wall, a nice blue (like this book cover). Carpet is a blue/green mix.

Private offices are typically beige, but the big ones have a light green accent wall that looks really nice. Sorry, don't have an RGB code for that!

I'm biased, but I think the whole place looks really sharp.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 4:56 AM on August 31, 2007


Bright, but warm yellow (with a slight orange bias) trimmed in muted green.

Yellow gets a bad rap -- but only because it's invariably some garrish, artificial lemon-yellow. Avoid that. That's for Institutions and Dentist offices.


Trivia: Bobby Fischer once insisted that all chessboards in future tournaments be yellow/green, because it was more relaxing and helped him concentrate. (On the other hand, he *is* full-goose crazy, but the point's still valid.)
posted by RavinDave at 11:54 AM on August 31, 2007


I worked in an office which had a deep but somewhat bright plum color on one wall. I thought it was lovely. There were also some sagey greens in there, which made it a bit dated, probably. But I loved the plum.
posted by orangemiles at 5:45 AM on September 1, 2007


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