Let's play house! In an office!
January 17, 2016 1:04 PM   Subscribe

I'm getting a new office and want to spruce it up! All the suggestions for cool looking office decor is for home offices. Can you help me find some inspiration for design for an office in a boring, typical, corporate office building?

I'm getting a new office and want to make it my own. Assume the space is a typical, corporate, ugly office with terrible lighting and bad carpet. I've been looking for some fun office design/supplies to bring in to spruce up the place, but all the pinterest/web searches lead to home offices. These are fine, but I can't really wallpaper the walls, and the furniture is pretty much pre-determined. Any suggestions for sites or other inspiration to spruce up a corporate, work office? DIY and cheap alternatives welcome, but also happy to look at the pricey stuff for inspiration.
posted by Toddles to Work & Money (10 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Artistic picture frames with pix of your favorite people/things from outside the office.
posted by zagyzebra at 1:11 PM on January 17, 2016

I have the full set of LaQ mini dinosaurs on my desk at my new job. They've been very popular.
posted by phunniemee at 1:14 PM on January 17, 2016

Whenever I've had a real doors-and-walls office, I've brought in lamps and made long curtain-like wall hangings from interesting fabric, which is simple enough to do with iron-on hem tape and wooden dowels, which you can hang on Command hooks if picture hooks aren't allowed.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:27 PM on January 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Here's what I've done, and I genuinely like my office. I get compliments on how comfortable and homey it seems:
  • Buy an area rug, and lay it out over the awful office carpeting. They make double stick tape specifically designed to keep it in place.
  • Find a couple of really big posters of things you like, but that are office appropriate--a favorite old movie, a place you've visited, your favorite piece of art--and frame them really nicely, and then hang them on the wall.
  • Take the lightbulbs out of the overhead fluorescent lighting. Then bring in floor lamps and task lighting that is more your taste. Not only will it make the office look better; it will also prevent eyestrain and headaches and genuinely make you feel better while you work.
  • Make sure the furniture is squeaky clean. Get those Clorox wipes or the equivalent, and wipe everything down thoroughly. If you have to use other people's furniture, you at least want it to be clean and sanitary. Wipe everything down regularly. Plus, you can make it smell lemony fresh.
  • If you have any extra space, or can get rid of a piece of furniture you don't need, bring in a comfortable chair, a side table, a little bookcase, or some other small piece of furniture you really like.
  • Bring in a couple of throw pillows, maybe an afghan if you have a small couch or a visitor's chair to throw it over. Make your existing furniture more comfortable.
  • Replace your standard issue office supplies--pencil holder, mouse pad, bulletin board, etc.--with your own versions that are nicer and match your decor.
  • Accent with (tasteful, unobtrusive) photos of family and friends or places you love. Maybe a beloved pet (though you don't want to go overboard with animal stuff; people are weird about it). If you have a couple of small knick knacks or souvenirs you love, that works. And a few small toys (though again, don't go overboard) wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.
  • Plants make a huge difference. And there are lots of plants that are designed for minimal or no natural light, if you don't have good window access.
Try to keep everything to a single color scheme and style so that it fits together. It'll all start looking stylish. Basically, whatever you can do that is within the realm of reasonable office decor, but as non-office-like as possible. Then you won't be the weird lady with the beaded curtain in your office (and yes, we have one of those, and people think it's strange), but you'll be comfortable at work.
posted by decathecting at 2:33 PM on January 17, 2016 [8 favorites]

^^^I'd really like to see this office. It sounds awesome. Seconding everything.
posted by kevinbelt at 4:54 PM on January 17, 2016

Here's what you DON'T want to do:
- Make your office "cozy" with little green plants that are struggling to survive
- Display commonplace knickknacks because they're "fun"
- Display memorabilia of any kind, especially sports-related (but maybe that's just me)

Here's what you DO want to do:
- Work with what you've got. (I'm sorry, but rugs on top of office carpet say to me, "I don't want to be here")
- Even if you have to spend your own money, get a single, significant piece of art that YOU like (something you can look at, if only for a moment, that takes you out of yourself and reminds you that life is more than your job) The more understated the better
- Maintain clear surfaces. People who boast about "working in layers" to excuse their mess... cluttered desk = cluttered mind
- Maybe a single lamp, as decathecting suggests, but don't go overboard. Again, you don't want to send the message that you'd rather be somewhere else
posted by Short Attention Sp at 5:05 PM on January 17, 2016

Buy some art from local artists! Chances are good that there's someone in your city who's style fits your taste, and it's more personal than just buying something from a decor store.

Short square flower vases look great as pen/ supply storage. You can even spraypaint the inside so it's got some colour(but doesn't look DIY or weird).

An interesting pen tray and business card holder can also be nice too. Poppin makes really nice simple ones but in tons of interesting colours. They're also well priced for their durability.

But if you have some cash to spend on desk stuff... oh boy, Grovemade is pretty much the most beautiful stuff you can get for a plain office.
posted by InkDrinker at 5:22 PM on January 17, 2016

Short Attention Sp, I'm genuinely curious about your perspective that certain kinds of decorations make you think that a person doesn't want to be in their office. I've chosen to arrange my office the way I do precisely because I like my job (maybe a little too much), and so I spend a ton of time in my office. I probably spend more of my waking hours in my office than I do anywhere else, including my home. So I want to treat it with care, and make it a pleasant place to be so that I can enjoy my time at work as much as possible.

I get why it might be an issue if someone decorated their entire office in the theme of a single hobby that has nothing to do with the job, such that it appears that the hobby is more important than the job. Or if they replaced all of their office furniture with floor pillows and beanbag chairs, that would be unprofessional in most workplaces. I guess I just don't get how a rug you get for $50 on Craigslist or turning on lamps so that the overhead lights don't cause glare and eyestrain give a similar impression.

And I'm not trying to derail the thread; I do think it would be helpful for the OP to hear from someone who is anti-decorating so that s/he knows the worst case scenario about what others may be thinking. I'm not worried about my office, because like me, almost all of my coworkers work 60+ hours a week, so most of us have put a decent amount of effort into making our offices a lot more comfortable and pleasant. Most people have rugs over the dirty carpet, and most people have decorations of various kinds. But I recognize that different offices are different, so I think OP may want to hear from someone who apparently works in an environment where a rug or too many lamps or fun knick knacks would be judged harshly.
posted by decathecting at 6:02 PM on January 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

A halogen torchiere lamp will do wonders to warm up the light just enough. (But they might be hard to find these days, try craigslist - I think fluorescent bulbs may have taken over the torchiere market, alas).

Also, plants. But only if you can keep them looking nice. Ficus trees or Pathos plants work best. Don't get orchids, or take them home when they're not blooming. Good quality fake orchids are nice though if somebody will dust them.

Rugs are great (maybe a runner?) but beware fringe - the cleaning services are not careful with their vacuums, and destroyed the fringe on mine before I noticed and took it home.

Maybe also a very softly ticking clock.

If you do the art route, don't do big self-created collages of the kiddies - stick with professional looking art.
posted by bluesky78987 at 12:23 PM on January 18, 2016

I really enjoyed having pet seamonkeys at my desk at my last office job. I got them a full-spectrum light to help their algae food grow.
posted by Jacqueline at 12:45 PM on January 18, 2016

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