Help me redo my office! (desk configuration and wall color especially)
May 6, 2012 9:53 AM   Subscribe

My office looks like crap, and I've never done anything to improve it. Now I have the chance for a new desk and new paint, but I don't know what to ask for! Help me not end up with something just as dreary as the current version.

I have been using my current office for 2 years. I spend about half my time there, which is mostly me working on the computer but occasionally I need to have a small group meeting or interview someone there. I have never put anything on the walls or bookshelves, in part because at first I wasn't spending much time there and in part because it took me a long time to get over the feeling that the office was my former boss's. You can see it here 1, 2, 3.

BUT! A while back I interviewed someone who will be my boss in the future, and the barely veiled incredulilty with which she viewed the place was a bit of a kick in the pants. I don't want to seem like I've got one foot out the door.

In an unrelated repair initiative, I have been offered a new desk and a new paint job. The desk will be made to my specs out of gray laminate material (seen here in someone else's office). Also, a while back I interviewed someone who will be my boss in the future, and the barely veiled incredulilty with which she viewed the place was a bit of a kick in the pants.

So far here is what I have in mind:

Right now the computer is directly opposite the door so my back is to the door, which I don't like. I'm thinking of moving the computer so the monitor is on the wall to the right of the window. the CPU can be mounted on the desk and the printer can be moved under the desk.

That's about as far as I've gotten. How much desk space should I get? (I am a "horizontal filer"/piler, although I am trying to curb these tendencies, so having some but not too much is probably desirable). Where should I put the filing cabinet and the bookshelf? Should I keep the table or replace it with one of those peninsula things like my coworker has? (I think probably no--I like the democratic aspects of having the table rather than being behind my own desk). Should I get some of those cabinet things that my coworker has? I'm not sure I need them since I mostly just work on the computer, but it might be nice to have a place to stash my coffee mug and the occasional food presents from students.

What color should I paint? Currently it's all white. My instinct is beige, which...well, that's why I'm asking you all instead of doing it myself. The carpet is kind of a standard office-carpet low-pile melange of browns. They asked me if I wanted an accent wall, which sounds appealing but mostly just makes my head hurt when I think about trying to choose a color.

What else can I do to make it a little more individual while remaining professional? Right now the sole personal effect is a picture of my son that sits on the filing cabinet. I have some stuff that can go on the walls (my diplomas and a piece or two of art that currently don't have homes in my apartment) but other ways of making it look both professional and individual would be great. Is there anything I can do to make that table and chairs a little less hideous maybe?

As you can see I would not get very far as an interior designer. I'm feeling a little paralyzed with indecision here and would love some suggestions/help.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis to Work & Money (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Wall coverings do more than paint in my opinion and can be used as accent walls. Being a piler is a bit of a problem in projecting professionalism, it screams productive but hardly professional. If your desk is part of a modular office system it may have a matching hutch with doors. You can keep your piles inside the doors when entertaining clients or VIPs. An artistic book case like a bookworm can serve as practical art. Not sure what your budget is or industry but all that needs to be taken into consideration. Is there no one on staff with an eye for design?
posted by pdxpogo at 10:54 AM on May 6, 2012

get rid of the institutional looking blinds and hang some curtains; select a colour that you like from the art that you plan to hang, and match the curtains to that. You can also let that colour be the guide to choosing the colour of your accent wall. Try to get a colour that has some zip to it - medium browns or beige are neutrals, not accents. also, if you are getting a grey desk, beige walls may make your office look dingy - grey goes better with white, in my opinion. Since the idea of colour worries you, make the accent wall the wall that you have your back to when you are sitting and working, so that it won't be staring at you the whole time you work, but will be a nice visual change whenever you take a break.

you have a window! hang a plant in it - life really brightens up the place
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 10:57 AM on May 6, 2012

I would say paint three of the walls a beige colour and paint one wall (the wall with the windows) a light teal colour. Don't leave your instincts completely if you like beige, you like beige. But, the teal will suit both the beige and "carpet low pile melange of browns."

Get some artwork with yellows and browns which you can find probably find on the Ikea website or Urban Outfitters website.

I am also a horizontal piler, but what I've noticed is that great storage items from Ikea really help out so that your desk is not extremely cluttered. For instance, you can get a letter tray or magazine file to organize papers that you need for your current work projects (or whatever).

This wooden clock from Urban Outfitters would match the walls and carpet.

This trash bin which is also from Urban Outfitters would add a pop of colour for something so simplistic.

If you can, get a square shaped brown table instead of the circular one. Purchase new chairs that are not matching (one brown, one yellow, one teal) because those chairs are kind of old looking.

Also, this might be a funky center piece for the table. It's a fish hotel from Urban Outfitters too.

I think the trick is to look for things that you can revamp and add some life to in the room. There are a lot of small ways to change this such as simply changing the trash bin to a colourful one. Or, revamping your whiteboards by doing a DIY project and adding a frame to them.

Check out Ikea and Urban Outfitters as a I mentioned. Also, if you like what I suggested and want more help with the room, don't hesitate to memail me. I love this kind of stuff!
posted by livinglearning at 11:05 AM on May 6, 2012

I was browsing Lifehacker all morning and I thought this teal looked really great in this office. If you go for an accent wall (which I think you definitely should!), teal and red would both work well. Teal goes very well with greys and beiges, and can be brightened up with green (plants!) and red.

I think in general: curtains! plants! and keep as many things off the floor as possible. So instead of your current bookcase, freestanding shelves that can be mounted to the wall. Replace the filing cabinet with something shorter and more colorful if possible.
posted by ke rose ne at 1:55 PM on May 6, 2012

I would keep the little table--it's cute and inviting. I would just replace those folding chairs. Do you have to have folding chairs? If so, I'd change them out for something more fun. If you can get new chairs, I'd keep an eye out on craigslist or somewhere for something more inviting and warm, like these or colorful like these or maybe this.

I would actually not paint beige as I think it tends to look dirty and a bit dim, and I think with the lighting in your office, I'd go with a nice white and paint an accent wall. Picking the color is definitely individual and depends on if you want to brighten the space or make it cozy. My best experience with an accent wall was picking a happy bright pea green--(maybe a little toned down from here) and it always made me happy to look at. If you like cozy, I'm liking a dark rich blue. I say go bold (but not red or orange).

Most importantly, you need plants! Snake plants, peace lilys, spider plants, dracaena, philodendron are all easy to take care of (and they clean the air too). Also, if you keep the bookshelf, you have to fill it. You need books, photo frames, baskets, plants. Good luck and tell us what you decide!
posted by biscuits at 3:49 PM on May 6, 2012

As a fellow piler, I've often looked at Ikea's Avsikt as a way to file the way I need to yet hide it away.
At $199, it's way over my budget but I do stalk the damaged good section at the local store to see if I'll get lucky.
posted by jaimystery at 4:22 PM on May 6, 2012

To address your piling tendencies and get something up on the walls in one stroke, think about hanging up some clipboards - example. I have something like this at my office and I love it - stuff's in sight but not on the work surface. The backing pattern makes a visual impact even when the boards have full-size sheets of paper on them. Covering clipboards one by one is tedious, though. See if you can get some that are already decorative, like these.
posted by lakeroon at 5:06 PM on May 6, 2012

Your office is currently really impersonal.

What do you like, value or enjoy? I think you need at least one piece of art that reflects those things. If you have time, give yourself a budget and choose a piece of art before you choose your accent wall. it doesn't have to be a sappy quote; it could be a photo (or photos) you took on vacation (or at work) blown up to 16x20 and properly framed. You can then use one or two colors in that/those pieces to inform your accent colour... Ask an artistic friend (or us!)to help identify the colour after you have the art.

If you need to choose paint colours ASAP, or want to do it all online, I suggest the Benjamin Moore website tools, which offer accent colour and complimentary colour suggestions. After perusing them, I think your new desk is probably close to "Chelsea gray" HC168 and that this combo which uses a green accent and a creamy yellow beige might be a good one for you.

Definitely get a plant or two. Here's a good, colorful list of resilient plants.

I'm also open to further consults via memail- solving your puzzles is easier than solving mine :)
posted by Heart_on_Sleeve at 5:43 PM on May 6, 2012

I am decorating a room with teal and grey; seems like a popular color combination here!

I would paint the accent wall either teal or robin's egg blue, and the other walls a pale yellow. Yellow goes well with the grey and is a cheerful and soothing color.

So, okay, grey desk, walls done. I like your idea of moving the chair so your back isn't to the door! I would put the desk along the right wall, and the chair so that it is perpendicular to the door and window, because I like to be able to look outside, but you do have that a/c unit there, so that's up to you.

Now your filing! Since you go the horizontal route (which I understand, because I lose track of stuff when it's out of my sight), try using Desktop storage that lets you file as you go. File holders and color-coded files (which can then be tranferred to a filing cabinet when you're done with them if you prefer) would work well for you, I think.

I would not go for the fish hotel, sorry! Too cramped for the fish, cleaning and feeding him without spilling the hotel would be an issue, and if you don't put a fish in it, you don't need a plastic cube decoration.
posted by misha at 6:10 PM on May 6, 2012

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