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Free your inner cubicle monkey

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We focus so much energy turning a house into a home, we sometimes forget to aim our decorating genius in another notable direction: the office cubicle.

Home often expresses who we are, filled as it is with accumulated treasures and trinkets. But skip on over to the office cubicle -- or, for that matter, an office with actual walls -- and it can be a different story.

Some offices "are so dated. It's wallpaper from the '70s, falling-apart furniture and stacks of files -- generally, an overall mess," says Sayeh Pezeshki, a designer who blogs about decor at The Office Stylist.

Considering how much time many people spend at work, "Your work space should be cheery and it should be fun, and it should be personal to you," says Sabrina Soto, designer host of HGTV's The High/Low Project.

A soothing environment cuts down on work stress, designers believe.

"It really does affect the way that you work and the way that you feel," says Pezeshki.

And, she says, "You don't have to spend a lot of money" doing it.

Bob Richter, an interior designer and cast member of PBS's treasure-hunting series Market Warriors, visits flea markets wherever he travels, returning home with one-of-a-kind mementos.

"I feel like a cubicle or a small office should feel like a small apartment," says Richter, who lives in a small New York City apartment. "Things have to be tidy but there also has to be an opportunity to store things easily."

Richter suggests combing flea markets for unusual boxes and baskets for storing supplies on an office desk. He uses old metal coffee tins and vintage ceramic planters for holding pens and other supplies.

"There's a nostalgic vibe to these items," Richter says.

Soto suggests using lacquered boxes or stylish fiberboard boxes.

Good lighting, an attractive memo board, and at least one living plant or cut flowers are also essential for cultivating good cubicle ambiance.

Bring a desk lamp from home for task lighting; it'll cheer up the space.

Bring in low-water, low-light plants -- at least one. Two plants that are good at surviving indoor light are pothos and heartleaf philodendron. Peace lilies also crave low light and are excellent at cleaning indoor air.

"Keep one on your desk," says Richter. "It feels like there's life there."

For the memo board, Richter suggests framing a section of cork, dry-erase board or good-quality plywood painted with chalkboard paint. Frame it in a vintage frame -- it's a tenth the price of a new frame, he says -- or float the memo board inside the cubicle wall's frame.

Soto likes to paint her frames in bright colours, as does Pezeshki, who's all in for the bling. Her own office -- not a cubicle -- is painted black, purple and metallic silver. Its silver accents include a gallery wall of ornate frames and a large floor lamp.

"It's very glam, because I'm very glam," says Pezeshki. "I like shiny things and blingy things."

That's the important thing: to decorate your cubicle according to your own personality, the three designers say.

If you like sports, use memorabilia. If you're a movie fan, go that route.

"For me, a place I want to be is a place surrounded by the things I love," says Richter. "I think (the office cubicle) is an area where you can let your personality do the talking."

 

-- The Associated Press

More tips:

 

-- Keep it tasteful, says Richter, and check with your human resources manager before turning a cubicle into a fully furnished room. "There's a fine line between personalizing your desk and going overboard," he says.

 

-- Ditch the sticky notes and the hanging calendar, which add clutter, Soto says. Lean a small dry-erase board against one wall and jot down notes there. Use an electronic calendar.

 

-- Hang an attractive fabric along the cubicle walls, attaching it with decorative push-pins. Hang framed artwork. "Anything to make the cubicle walls look like normal walls," Soto says.

 

-- Cover bookshelves and cabinets with printed contact paper. "It instantly pulls together the look," Pezeshki says. Pick five or six things sitting on your desk and replace them -- pencil holder, frames, tape dispenser -- with the look you want.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 2, 2013 E2

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