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At work, don't settle for drab

  • This cubicle has been dressed up with a bold fabric pattern and black-and-white patterned contact paper. It's also outfitted with framed photos, trave...

    Associated Press

    This cubicle has been dressed up with a bold fabric pattern and black-and-white patterned contact paper. It's also outfitted with framed photos, travel mementos, items picked up at a flea market and inexpensive boxes for organization and graphic appeal. It cost an hour's time and less than $50 to decorate.

  • Following the advice of several interior designers, this cubicle at a Thornton, Colo., business was styled using a bold fabric pattern on the facing c...

    Associated Press

    Following the advice of several interior designers, this cubicle at a Thornton, Colo., business was styled using a bold fabric pattern on the facing cubicle wall and black-and-white patterned contact paper on an upper cabinet and various accessories.

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By Jennifer Forker
Associated Press
Published:
  • This cubicle has been dressed up with a bold fabric pattern and black-and-white patterned contact paper. It's also outfitted with framed photos, trave...

    Associated Press

    This cubicle has been dressed up with a bold fabric pattern and black-and-white patterned contact paper. It's also outfitted with framed photos, travel mementos, items picked up at a flea market and inexpensive boxes for organization and graphic appeal. It cost an hour's time and less than $50 to decorate.

  • Following the advice of several interior designers, this cubicle at a Thornton, Colo., business was styled using a bold fabric pattern on the facing c...

    Associated Press

    Following the advice of several interior designers, this cubicle at a Thornton, Colo., business was styled using a bold fabric pattern on the facing cubicle wall and black-and-white patterned contact paper on an upper cabinet and various accessories.

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," said Sayeh Pezeshki, a designer who blogs about decor at The Office Stylist.
"Your work space should be cheery and it should be fun, and it should be personal to you," said 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," Pezeshki said. "You don't have to spend a lot of money."
Bob Richter, an interior designer and cast member of PBS' 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," said 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 said.
Soto suggests using lacquered boxes or stylish fiberboard boxes, like those sold at The Container Store.
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 one or two low-water, low-light plants. 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," Richter said. "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 said.
It's important 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," Richter said. "I think (the office cubicle) is an area where you can let your personality do the talking."

Decorator tips
Keep it tasteful. Richter suggests checking 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 said.
Ditch sticky notes, hanging calendar. They add clutter, Soto said. Lean a small dry-erase board against one wall and jot down notes there. Use an electronic calendar.
Hang framed artwork.
Cover bookshelves and cabinets. Use printed contact paper. Pick five or six things currently sitting on your desk and replace them -- pencil holder, frames, tape dispenser -- with the look you want.
Add silver accents. And paint whatever you can, Pezeshki advises, including the metal "in/out" box for papers.

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