My usual method of slapping up a Chicago flag and a Queen poster seems somehow inadequate.
January 9, 2012 4:13 PM   Subscribe

Help me decorate my office!

I just started working at a small trading firm, surrounded by a bunch of broey dudes with little to no interest in decor, except to say "there should be some decor." I have been tasked with sourcing this decor.

The space is large, there are many rooms, and many blank walls.

I have been given almost no guidance (no cheesy trading floor photos, nothing motivational, nothing depressing, maybe some plants) and, for all intents and purposes, an unlimited budget.

We have an open floor plan. There is a ping pong table and a hockey foosball game thingy. It's a very casual office, but should at least try for a classy and professional look. Right now it just looks like a dorm common room. Something that skews young and nerdy (but not, like, geeky) would probably be good. We're in Chicago, so anything local would be awesome.

I'm looking for suggestions of paintings, pictures, design aesthetics, etc. I'm very utilitarian in my tastes, and don't know how to make things look "nice". I have no idea where to even start, and my boss would like things to start getting pretty this week. Help!
posted by phunniemee to Grab Bag (32 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I would basically just order stuff from a CB2 online catalog and have done with it. The point would be to go for at a clean and polished look without putting too much thought in it.

This is probably off topic, but are you being asked to be the decorator because... you're a girl, and girls decorate, while broeys dudes don't? I like the idea of a lovely workspace as much as the next person, but if you are a lone girl surrounded by a bunch of guys in the workplace, I might be leery of attaching the word "pretty" to what I do that no one else does.
posted by sestaaak at 4:28 PM on January 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

You may want to get lots of framed big photos of Chicago buildings, especially those connnected to trading or finance. Historic photos tend to look really good and offend no one. And where you folks may meet or chat, of course, large table and comfortable chairs to go around it. If it makes sene for your workplace, you may want to set off an area as a mini kitchen with a Keurig and pods or coffee maker/hot water pitcher, fridge, microwave, etc. Floor plants sound like a good idea. And finally if you have clients coming in, an area to sit down and chat with them, designed like a professional looking living area.

In terms of style of furniture, I'd suggest leather. It looks good and is professional and is comfortable.
posted by bearwife at 4:39 PM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: My boss is awesome. He actually said, "if you're not cool with this, we'll hire it out. I'd hate for you to think it's just being given to the [air quotes] girl [/airquotes]." I'm doing this because I have creative things listed on my resume. I am very arty and creative, just not...decoratey.

We have all the furniture we need.
posted by phunniemee at 4:39 PM on January 9, 2012

What's the budget? How much wallspace?
posted by Mr. Yuck at 4:41 PM on January 9, 2012

The key is to have things nicely matted and framed.

Seconding the idea that architectural photos are pretty much no-lose.

If you want to go out and find your own images, try:
20x200 -
eg prettymaps map of Chicago or
bamboo arrangements by the Starn brothers or
one of the series of diassembled objects by Todd McLellan...
or something pretty like Sweet William by Amy Tatullo
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:43 PM on January 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

Big, old Chicago maps, from The Big Map Blog (by MeFi's own jjjjjjjijjjjjjj)
posted by filthy light thief at 4:52 PM on January 9, 2012 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: LobsterMitten, the disassembled objects series are EXACTLY the sort of thing I'm looking for. Awesome.

More stuff in this vein, please!
posted by phunniemee at 4:52 PM on January 9, 2012

Might be a bit of a cliche, but the Chicago History Museum has some neat old Chicago train posters.
posted by craichead at 4:55 PM on January 9, 2012

The vintage photo blog Shorpy has many historic photos from Chicago and you can buy prints from them - find an image you like, click it, and below the photo it gives a link for "buy this photo", and lets you choose your size.

This etsy search: "prints in chicago" should give you prints being sold by etsy members in Chicago. A quick scan reveals some fun things.
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:58 PM on January 9, 2012

Consider plants. Hard-to-kill ones. Consider "money" art, like an uncut roll of bills from the US Mint, framed. Consider classic stock certificates; like delesseps' panama canal. Potentially also infamous ones, like
posted by leotrotsky at 5:04 PM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Lego model of the sears tower.
posted by eriko at 5:16 PM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

And you could also go for an art rental scheme, with as much input as you choose. I found one in Chicago.

[Here in the Netherlands there are rental schemes for art by folks with intellectual disabilities (I frequent several offices that subscribe, and the art can be stunning), but I can't find any in the US...]

And if money isn't too tight, I would definitely recommend renting the plants. They come in pots with water reservoirs/dosers. Guy/gal comes around to care for them once a month or so - and replaces any that are looking peaked. And you don't get stuck with multiple trips to the loo filling a coffee mug with water.

(You wouldn't have a watering can at first, because buying one would mean offically recognizing that Watering the Plants is now A Phunniemee Responsibility. Be honest, you'd know the plants needed watering. And so you'd do it. Would the bros?)
posted by likeso at 5:21 PM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Brittny Badger has more appliance-disassembly photos (not clear to me if her etsy page is functional but you could email her).

Jenny Odell has a series on 20x200 in which she has cut out a bunch of objects from the aerial photos on Google Earth and then arranged the objects all together - eg she has a print of a whole bunch of stadiums.

Also try searching for vintage mechanical illustrations and prints for sale.
For example here's a Etsy shop selling 1880s scientific illustrations of bridges, clocks, etc

might be too whimsical for your office, but I like his work:
Scott C. has a range of prints of watercolor paintings -- here are two with martial themes that might appeal, depending what kind of trading place you're at:
Ninjas all over the place - bonus, nice and wide
Supreme Battle
And one from his series of "dream houses":
Rocket House
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:38 PM on January 9, 2012

Response by poster: Answers to some questions.

Budget: I was given a nebulous "don't go too crazy." He didn't give me any numbers.

Office size: two conference rooms, a (well-stocked) kitchenette, two large rooms where everyone works at long, connected desk things, a supply room, and the boss' office.

Floor plan: Pretty much set, since the desks kind of need to stay where they are. The front hall area is strange and triangular, and has a large wall facing the door. This wall is very sad right now.

I am fine with watering plants being my job. Lots of things are my job. I am not a plant person, however, and have killed most green things ever put into my care. I've been looking at this list of plants. Anyone know which are the least killable?

I really don't want anything obvious or stereotypical. Chicago buildings, train posters, anything having anything even remotely to do with finance, etc. Those are all out.
posted by phunniemee at 5:42 PM on January 9, 2012

I worked at a client years ago that had framed movie posters along the walls - one of the 2 partners was a movie buff, and apparently every new employee was asked what their favorite movie was (it was a small firm. maybe 50 people when i was there). It was great - Grease and Cocktail intermingled with the classics, intermingled with the Godfather movies. Could you find out more about your new colleagues and do something similar for your walls? Maybe bands/concerts if not movies - something to make it more personal. No clue where you'd find them.

My personal preference is for a tall vase of wood flowers instead of green (killable) plants, but YMMV
posted by darsh at 6:03 PM on January 9, 2012

"Mother-in-Law’s Tongue, Sansevieria laurentii"

You can't kill these things. My mother, who has a black thumb, was given one in a small ceramic pot in the shape of a toy train when she was born. It's about the size of a Dalek now (30+ years later), including the much larger pot it lives in.
posted by HopperFan at 6:07 PM on January 9, 2012

Darn it, I meant when *I* was born. If you're interested in art rentals, btw, I just found out about Artsicle - it looks pretty cool.
posted by HopperFan at 6:10 PM on January 9, 2012

Plants - get a pothos. We have a pothos in our dark little basement and it is BIG. I'm kind of afraid to let it get direct sunlight now.
posted by bibliogrrl at 6:39 PM on January 9, 2012

How about large industrial marquee letters(ok, that's finance) but any other letters that would be meaningful? One more here. Can't stop.

Seconding mother in law's tongue. Also peace lilys are easy to keep.
posted by biscuits at 6:40 PM on January 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

How about prints of a collection of one item....dice? Airline tags?
posted by biscuits at 6:50 PM on January 9, 2012

The ivy will be very hardy, as will the peace lily. Mother-in-laws tongue is impossible to kill.
posted by raisingsand at 6:53 PM on January 9, 2012

For a bit of Chicago-specific art, I love these prints of CTA Announcements
posted by Morydd at 6:59 PM on January 9, 2012

Can you have walls painted? That can go a long way to modernizing a space. Especially office spaces.

In our office we can't paint the walls, as they are covered with some weird wallpaper, but they did paint the kitchen with bright colors and it's rather lovely and cheerful.
posted by misskaz at 7:02 PM on January 9, 2012

If you like the disassembled objects, you'll probably also like these: photographs of x-rays of various common gadgets, by the Spanish photographer Max de Esteban. More pics here.

I swear I saw this in a MeFi FPP, but search did not reveal it.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 7:18 PM on January 9, 2012

You might want check out some design blogs for ideas. For example, from this blog entry, you can see suggestions to use things like wooden wig moulds, dress forms, mannequin parts, etc. as decorative "sculptures".
posted by gudrun at 7:49 PM on January 9, 2012

If your budget will support it, architectural salvage is often cool. Old doors, windows, moldings, etc. Or what about vintage neon signs?
posted by elizeh at 8:20 PM on January 9, 2012

Also, the ubiquitous line of clocks showing every time zone makes the place seem very international....
posted by elizeh at 8:22 PM on January 9, 2012

Careful with nebulous 'don't go crazy' budgets. He's probably got the budget for a trip to Ikea in mind whereas much of what is being suggested above is going to cost many, many times that. Renting art will not be cheap and plant rental services is likely to be even more costly as they are serviced.

If I were you, I'd present him with your preferred option but if he balks at cost have economy class plan B standing by. Failing that extract a number from him.

By the way, this post has inspired me to decorate my cell. Have been in post for 8 months now and other than having some stuff taped to the wall by my desk, I've got nothing in my room but bare walls but I'm going to try and remedy that in the next couple of weeks. Have fun!
posted by dmt at 3:07 AM on January 10, 2012

Large swaths of bold colors tend to also lend a little character to a space, while the simple patterns still present a clean and professional look.
posted by BevosAngryGhost at 7:00 AM on January 10, 2012

The best money-saving tip I can offer is: once you have your art, DO NOT get it custom framed. Have the frame shop cut custom mats for it, and use prelate frames from Ikea or wherever. I just did this with a gigangtic Mucha print I bought at a con, and it ended up being about $100 for the whole thing, art included, when it would have cost easily three or four times that for custom framing. Usually the frame shop will even put the matted art into the frame and attach the wire for you.
posted by nonasuch at 7:13 AM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

At my older borther's former job, they would send out the art of employees' young children to a professional framing shop. Much of it ended up looking like contemporary art, and the employees eventually took home a nicely-framed Thing their kid had done. Your co-workers might not be at the right age, but it made a great fringe benefit and conversation-starter.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:53 AM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Nothing says young + nerdy + Chicago to me like a typographic map of the city. Axis Maps has a color or B&W poster and two different letterpress prints depicting the city with only text and they're beautiful. If I had a connection to any of the cities they offer, I'd have bought one already!
posted by scottdavidsanders at 3:09 PM on January 10, 2012

« Older Dressy Dude Corduroys   |   Facebook just keeps getting creepier and creepier. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.