Ugly office needs a makeover!
August 30, 2010 11:54 AM   Subscribe

I desperately need an office makeover. DIY tips, recommendations (photos inside) and links to your favorite design blogs would be much appreciated!

My office is ugly and I'm embarrassed when my customers see it. I would really like to spruce things up a bit. I need suggestions to make this place pleasant but professional.

The details:
My budget is extremely limited and I'll be doing all the work myself. I have a coworker to help with the heavy lifting.
It's a standard rental situation, so no painting or removing the carpet.
It needs to look gender neutral (my favorite design blogs skew more feminine than is appropriate for my line of work).
I would prefer to reuse existing pieces rather than buying new ones (e.g.: new pictures in the old frames, reupholster the chairs).
The landlord said that we're allowed to hang stuff on the walls.
I have access to a couple of fabric shops and I own a sewing machine.

Finally, the unsightly desks are made of particleboard. Is there anything I can do to them to make them less hideous?

Even more finally, I did not select any of the art on the walls except for the calendar and bulletin board. Please don't judge!
posted by giraffe to Work & Money (17 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
1) LIGHTING. Turn of the fluorescents and get a table lamp or two. (Throw one on top of the file cabinets. You've got great sunlight, it looks like, so you don't need the hashness of fluorescents.

2) Put one or two pieces of framed art on the wall. You can get inexpensive posters of great paintings from museums—try the Isabella Stuart Gardner or the MFA.

3) Get a small throw rug to put on the floor in front of the guest chairs, a little low table to go in between them, and a potted plant to go on the table.

Focus on what the office looks like from the guests' perspective. You don't need to redo everything—just soften things up a little.
posted by ocherdraco at 12:00 PM on August 30, 2010

As for the desks, one thing you could do would be to drape fabric over them and then put a clear (glass or plexi) cover on top for your worksurface. If you're looking to replace them, you might check out the Habitat for Humanity Stuff Sale at Harvard (today and tomorrow are the last days). They might have a desk or two, or lamps that you can used for the above-mentioned lighting. The university also has a recycling sale once or twice a year where they sell furniture and other items that the university no longer needs. I can't find information on it, but Rob Gogan (his email is on this page) would be the person to ask.
posted by ocherdraco at 12:08 PM on August 30, 2010

Wow, that is indeed pretty awful. What's the business? On first impression, it looks like your office is dominated by 2005-era technology, rather than people or design.

1) Hide printers, shredders and the like as well as you can.

2) Get a very light cloth/whatnot shade for the window, take down the normal blinds, and maybe get a darker shade for when it's really bright outside.

3) Get better chairs. You can get decent, stylish chairs from Target for $60 or less.

4) Maybe get light countertops for your desks, and then keep the desks very minimal
posted by tmcw at 12:13 PM on August 30, 2010

At the risk of bringing down the wrath of the anti-Gawker crowd, Lifehacker does a pretty good job of posting office makovers. This post has links to a lot of the tricks and to the Flickr photgroup of other makeovers.
posted by digitalprimate at 12:15 PM on August 30, 2010

If you can't paint, maybe some kind of colorful fabric wall-hanging would help to add color and improve the acoustics. Are there any graphics that would be appropriate to your line of work? (maps, posters, full-page advertisements, etc) If so, put them in some cheap frames and hang them on the wall, too.
posted by rmd1023 at 12:16 PM on August 30, 2010

I know you'd rather keep some of your existing pieces, but in the event you might choose some new pieces, I would recommend to go high - tall bookshelves/shelving, in a very dark brown or "espresso" finish. But tall furniture helps open floor space, and make any office or room seem more spacious. Smaller desks, and taller storage - build up.

Maybe a rug to cover up the plain flooring. Simple and casual, but you need some color in there!. A solid would be perfectly fine. You don't want to go too wild, but pick one color, and stick to variants of it as your palate among neutrals. I'm fond of greens, greys, and blacks together. If you change the photos, have the rug match main colors in your photos. It'll help tie things together.

Picture frames can be painted easily. I just painted a bunch of mine to make them uniform in color (and to match furniture). Light sanding, primer, paint. My frames weren't especially fancy or anything, but it was a fun creative project, using some leftover paint I had laying around. Done in just a couple of hours. You can do this to bulletin boards too.

A coat rack always warms an office up I feel like. Maybe some plants too. And one funky used lamp.
posted by raztaj at 12:17 PM on August 30, 2010

Get some large framed art. Check Ebay, or some other websites for cheap art or prints, at least.
Then find some frames at Michaels.
Maybe taller bookcases to reduce the bright white walls.
Change the lighting as someone else suggested.

also, very good idea from above: "3) Get a small throw rug to put on the floor in front of the guest chairs, a little low table to go in between them, and a potted plant to go on the table."
posted by KogeLiz at 12:18 PM on August 30, 2010

if you need inspiration lifehacker has a running theme of posting different workspaces
posted by pyro979 at 12:19 PM on August 30, 2010

Try searching for "office makeover" and "organized office" on Flickr. I read a lot of design blogs, but can't think of any off the top of my head that are focused on offices. There are a TON of Flickr groups, though and you'll find a lot of design diversity (for instance, the Pretty Organized pool is not just "pretty").
posted by ersatzkat at 12:23 PM on August 30, 2010

The first thing I'd suggest doing is hanging some simple curtains with some color in them. I'd keep your current blinds for simplicity as well as privacy/light, and so the curtains you get don't have to actually block light. They just need to look pretty. You said you have access to a fabric shop--that's great, and you could definitely sew something, but for less time and maybe less money, you could also buy some long curtains from Ikea like this. They are 98 inches long and only $20. It's okay if they don't close--you just want them to hang open anyway. They have other colors and styles, too, of course, but don't go with beige or tan. Those curtains plus a rod would cost maybe $40 and would do a lot. That calendar you have is pretty so maybe go with that for inspiration colors, and choose green and blue fabric.

I think some fabric hanging on the wall (do it curtain style with fabric clips or a sleeve for a rod to keep it simple) on the wall would do wonders. Something simple but colorful. I'm thinking a large piece that could cover much of one wall. You could buy the fabric at your fabric shop or even at Ikea (if you're already there for curtains!).

Then put a not-too-expensive small rug (like from Ikea or Target) on the floor. Add a large plant next to the window.

So that's maybe $150. Is that too much?
posted by bluedaisy at 12:46 PM on August 30, 2010

Lifehacker runs a periodic feature that highlights interesting work spaces. These are often (but not always) home offices, but there will certainly be some ideas there.
posted by monkey.pie.baker at 2:35 PM on August 30, 2010

...and that's exactly what pyro said earlier.
posted by monkey.pie.baker at 2:36 PM on August 30, 2010

I really like Unclutterer's Workspace of the Week.

They mostly show home offices, but there are masculine and feminine options as well as gender neutral offices. It might be a good place to find some inexpensive inspiration.
posted by TooFewShoes at 2:56 PM on August 30, 2010

you can attach fabric to walls with starch - it's removable, and doesn't damage the walls. a nice big panel of beautiful fabric would really liven up the place
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 4:04 PM on August 30, 2010

The Office Stylist blog has a lot of inspiring setups (look under makeovers & profiles). There are lots of things you can do to spruce up even the most boring & drab workspaces.
posted by judith at 6:03 PM on August 30, 2010

Nthing the lighting and guest chair with rug and table ideas.

When guests first approach your office, they see the side of a small table, a huge water cooler, and the side of a bookcase. I would move the water cooler so it can't be seen until you are in the office (to the immediate left of the door would be perfect, since it still wouldn't be in direct eye-line of a guest sitting in the chairs). I would use the small table that's up against the wall as the "coffee table" between the guest chairs. If the back of it is not presentable, perhaps it could leave the office? Finally, I would turn the bookcase so the shelves face you as you walk in the door. Obviously you'd have to keep it as neat as possible. Hopefully there's room for tchotchkes on it. Consider arranging items by color to give things a more put together look, instead of the randomness of varied colored book spines all over.

If you can hang art on the walls, you can also hang shelves. Go vertical, as someone else suggested.

You could try some kind of contact paper treatment on the sides/fronts of the desks. I wouldn't use it on the tops. You'd need to be super careful when applying so it doesn't look like shit!

A lot of visual clutter can be cut by putting doors or a front of some kind on your shelves. If you do hanging shelves, you could create fabric panels (very streamlined and tailored) that would hang from the top shelf to the bottom shelf, concealing what's on the shelves. Choose a fabric to set the tone you want for your office. Your things will still be easily accessible, too. Remember that most decorator fabric is 54" wide, so don't make shelves wider than that :)

Have fun with it, and make sure it's pleasing to YOU, first and foremost. Your guests won't spend nearly as much time in it as you will!
posted by wwartorff at 7:48 PM on August 30, 2010

Thanks for the input, everyone. I guess I have trips to Ikea and the discount fabric store ahead of me!
posted by giraffe at 6:06 AM on September 1, 2010

« Older I'm learnding!   |   What sites are highly skewed toward specific... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.