Decorate my data mine!
February 13, 2015 6:11 PM   Subscribe

For the next few months, I'll be spending a good deal of my time wrangling data and doing statistical analyses in a tiny ground floor room, one wall lined with file drawers. I have no windows. What can I do to make it pleasant? What is your favorite thing about your office?

A desk lamp, for sure, but any specific recommendations (my taste tends to run modern)? What is the best kind of light bulb to use? Previous Asks were pre-incandescent phase-out, and I get the sense that things may have changed.

Your favorite tea? Hot water pitcher? This and this were really helpful, but I'd love more links and inspiration. Your favorite stapler? I have the worst brown thumb of anyone I know, but I remain hopeful that I'll go through some sort of metamorphosis and gain the ability to sustain life, so a plant's not off the table. What little things did you do to improve your office?
posted by MrBobinski to Work & Money (16 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Breville Tea Maker, life changing. Even just for heating to the right temp for bagged teas, it's the best, and also for making a big pot and keeping it warm but not burning, and being so easy to keep clean. It's expensive but the marathon coders who are tea drinkers that I know will swear by it, and I know I swear by mine.

As for light, I've been enjoying the Cree brand LED bulbs during this Seattle winter, you can get them at Home Depot. They have a weird coating and look a bit odd (not as odd as the spiral CFLs) but the light they give out is constant and pleasant and they don't get very hot. Good for any normal lamp. Be sure to put light on the wall behind your monitor to help with eyestrain.

Plants are hard with no windows but I really like my marimo, which I haven't killed yet! Not sure that it gives the same benefits as a regular plant, though.
posted by Mizu at 6:28 PM on February 13, 2015 [4 favorites]

I used to work on the second floor of a soap factory, and the whole floor was windowless: "the mushroom farm." But they had all this glorious South American art on the walls to make it cheerful, molas and retablos and embroidered garments. So some nice folk art?
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 8:25 PM on February 13, 2015

Apparently photos of nature have been shown to have a relaxing effect, so I'd put up some photos of lovely scenes. In a space that small, smell can also do a lot to set the tone, so I'd use a diffuser or otherwise try to introduce some comforting scents. Also, a space heater, slippers (if privacy allows), and/or a small throw blanket can help take the chill off under-heated or over-air-conditioned spaces and make things feel cozier.
posted by Yellow Silver Maple at 9:08 PM on February 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

Do you have to access the file cabinets often? I was thinking a fabric or blanket covering over the top of them in whatever color you want - either to energize or calm you. And I can't believe I'm going to say this, but fake silk plants can be quite well made, so something to consider.
posted by dawg-proud at 9:24 PM on February 13, 2015

Best answer: Cut flowers, regularly replaced - absolutely critical for me. They're often prettier and always less guilt inducing than a plant as I can't keep them alive either.

Some sort of covering for my office chair - I lay a large cushion cover on the seat which makes it a little more comfortable and also removes the feel of being in a generic primary coloured computer chair.

Decent cutlery and crockery. I keep my own complete set, and have a really nice mug of my own, which at least adds some grace to the indignity of occasionally eating at my desk.

Having one of those programs which adjust the hue of a computer screen (f.lux, Twilight etc) made an immense difference to me. It relieves the unchanging light of a windowless office, and my eyes feel less strained at the end of the day.

Getting a footrest and switching from a mouse/ touchpad to an old fashioned trackball also made my work significantly more comfortable but these may be specific to my ergonomic needs.

If you have the space and especially if you sometimes need to work on paper, I'd strongly suggest trying to fit in a separate workspace, even if it's just the other side of your desk, or a floor cushion or a standing space by your filing cabinets or something. It makes a huge difference to me to move away from my usual spot once in a while, and leads to better quality work.
posted by tavegyl at 3:06 AM on February 14, 2015 [3 favorites]

Essential oils and diffuser.
posted by elf27 at 3:27 AM on February 14, 2015

Three thoughts (though my office culture or policies would not allow these things):
  • colorful afghan or quilt, for use or just admiration
  • desk top running water fountain (supposedly the brain likes the look and sound of running water)
  • LEGO(R) set with moving parts and the little people (for the humor, color, stress relief and personal expression)

posted by forthright at 5:02 AM on February 14, 2015 [2 favorites]

CACTUS. I got some. They make me happy and they live forever with only mild attention.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:57 AM on February 14, 2015

Seconding the water fountain. Or really anything that's gently moving. A room that's absolutely still drives me crazy. I have a small balancing toy on my desk.
posted by Monochrome at 6:56 AM on February 14, 2015

Best stapler - get a vintage Swingline, those things are tanks. I've got one on my desk still going strong after 50+ years.

I love these Le Creuset mugs, which really retain heat well and come in a variety of cheerful but tasteful colors.

Seconding a footrest; my work space can be cold so I have a heated one.

I'm a fan of small fountains as well -example, but if that is not possible then there are also liquid motion toys, of which there are a ton in a lot of different sizes. I think my favorite are sand pictures (if you click on any of the examples, there is usually a video showing what they look like in motion).

The MoMA store has some interesting modern lamps, many of which are very expensive. Here is one nice one, that is actually at the lower end of the price range. If you don't want to pay those prices this still may give you some ideas and then you can look for less expensive knockoffs.
posted by gudrun at 8:00 AM on February 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

Once when I was working in a windowless office, I put up a picture that looked like a window with a nice view outside. Yeah, hokey, I know, but it did make me feel better.

Also, consider taking a multivitamin with vitamin D.
posted by islandeady at 9:18 AM on February 14, 2015 [3 favorites]

Light and air are what I would want, desperately, in that setting. I think it might even be worth getting a light therapy box, in addition to general and task lighting. For decorating ideas, check out Apartment Therapy.
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:34 AM on February 14, 2015

Some great stuff over here.
posted by jourman2 at 12:22 PM on February 14, 2015

Best answer: A desk lamp or even 2, so you can vary the lighting. Maybe some frames with magnetic backs to cheer up the file cabinets. Definitely a good nature print, as well as a print of some art you love. A footrest of sme sort really makes my back happier. And some music & headphones. A small fan because moving air is nicer. Something that smells nice, maybe a balsam pillow, flowers, or a jar of cardamom (my favorite aromatherapy). I have a gmail background that changes as the day changes, and I find it nice to keep in touch with actual time.

Also, can you find a way to make a standup station so you can vary between sitting & standing? Even if it's a box you can put the keyboard/ mouse on, and a 2nd monitor that's elevated. Working with data can be consuming, and I forget to move for a while, which causes my body to get stiff & sore. Set an alarm to remind yourself to stand up, stretch, take a short walk.
posted by theora55 at 2:57 PM on February 14, 2015

Response by poster: This is great everyone! Thanks. dawg-proud, other people will need to be accessing the file cabinets, so I can't cover them, but that's okay. They fill the whole wall, so I'm convincing myself that it give the office a nice industrial look. On my list:

Tea maker (level of fancy-ness to be determined)
Cree LED bulbs
A task lamp and desk lamp, one behind the monitor (thanks for reminding me to look at MoMA, gudrun)
Marimo and cut flowers, for a treat
A good mug
f.lux (thanks for reminding me to install this on my work computers, tavegyl)
A tiny fan
Set up a second workstation (I think the desk is wide enough that this will work well)
posted by MrBobinski at 5:12 PM on February 14, 2015

Buy a pack of magnetic paper and print out stuff to decorate the file cabinets. Art, photos, comic strips, your data plots, whatever.
posted by aimedwander at 1:31 PM on February 15, 2015

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