12 Cheap Ways to Make Your Office Look Awesome


Whether at work or home, our offices have a way of becoming the catch-all areas of our busy lives. Littered with old projects, out-of-date electronics, and boxes of last year's Girl Scout cookies, it's easy for an office to end up looking less like a professional workspace and more like an oversized hall closet. (See also: 10 Cheap Ways to Make Your Apartment Look Awesome)

But if you want to dial in little more style, here are 12 ways to make your office look awesome.

1. Ditch the Corporate Art

Queue the collective eye-roll. Prepackaged corporate art (you know the stuff — three people rowing a canoe at sunrise with the "teamwork" caption) probably works against the very morale you're trying to build. Awesome offices are authentic offices, not motivational billboards.

2. Add a Few Surprises

Your office should reflect your personality. Mix in some vintage touches, a kitschy accessory, an antique, or something handmade. When well done, blending these accents into your office décor can take your space out of the mundane, add a bit of humor, and communicate who you are and what you love.

3. Tidy Up

It's not the sexiest option, but cleaning and organizing your workspace is the most basic way to improve its aesthetics and — even better — it's free. Clear the clutter and then clean primary surfaces like the floors, windows, and your desk. It'll set the stage for more refinements later.

4. Flick Off the Fluorescents

Is there anything worse than overhead fluorescent lighting? It saps our color, exhausts our eyes, and can even reduce our productivity. Shop around for a table lamp or two (even if you use compact fluorescent bulbs, the effect will be softer and more welcoming) and add window treatments that maximize natural light. While you're at it, explore other ways to create a more productive workspace.

5. Blow Up a Close Up

Need some tasteful but inexpensive art ideas for your office? Why not photograph the detail of a flower, the emblem of a vintage car, or the subtle pattern of a leaf? If you're not talented behind the lens, search online and download a digital photo with the appropriate Creative Commons license. Make it your own by cropping, zooming, or adding custom effects.

6. Add Texture

Texture is the unsung component of good interior design. Even in offices, it can add visual interest and dimension. Accent pillows, upholstery, window treatments, and rugs are all great ways to work rich and varied textures into your workspace.

7. Untangle and Wrangle Cords

Is your computer area turning into a dusty and tangled nest of cables, cords, wires, and plugs? If so, it's time to get organized. Label each with plastic bread bag tags, wrap with Velcro strips, and run cords along the backside of a desk using eye hooks or clips. Or, explore other methods to control the web of wires.

8. Live in Color

Aren't we all tired of Office Beige and Daily Grind Gray? There's no rule that dictates your workspace can't be colorful. Mix in vibrant greens, oranges, yellow, or blues — just be sure to keep colors complementary to avoid overload.

9. Get Dramatic

Displaying art can be a bit tricky; most people don't go big enough. Grounding your space with a single large statement piece can be more attractive than dotting the walls with several smaller prints, photos, or paintings. Go for something grand that fits the scale of your office and reflects your personality and taste. Complement with one or two smaller pieces, but err on the minimalist side.

10. Embrace the Printed Word

There's more than one way to create compelling art. Enlarge and print a favorite poem, quote, or excerpt from a book. Matted and framed, it can become an unexpected and unique art piece. Choose a subject matter that relates to your business; a childcare enterprise might have a page from The Little Prince, or a landscape design service might feature a quote from the father of American landscape architecture, Frederick Law Olmsted.

11. Chalk It Up

We've all seen chalkboard spray paint used in kitchens and kids' rooms, but what about your office? A chalkboard is a quick way to take a note while you're on the phone and it's more stylish than a startlingly white whiteboard.

12. Get Shady

Our offices are often furnished with cast-offs from other rooms. But when it comes to letting the light shine in, you need to be a bit more intentional. We spend long hours at our desks, so it helps to choose window treatments that take full advantage of good views, maximize natural light, and minimize glare. Explore honeycomb shades, plantation shutters, sheers, or Roman shades; these options allow you to adjust lighting as-needed and won't weigh your room down like heavy drapery can. If you're handy with a needle and thread, you can even make your own custom curtains.

Remember, the key to an awesome office isn't a mystery: just avoid clichés, spice it up (elegantly) with your own personality, add a surprise or two, and minimize the clutter. With a few simple steps, you can change not only your workspace, but the quality of work you do in it.

Do you have an awesome office? What advice do you have for those stuck in drab digs?

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Guest's picture

My home office doesn't have empty walls for any kind of art. I like the idea though to blow up a leave or flower. My main issue is #3, that one I have to work on. Hard.
Thanks for other awesome tips!