Liz Rivera – Desk Makeover

We love to hear from customers. Liz Rivera wrote about her mini office makeover. Here’s what she had to say and a few pictures.

In general, the office I work in has a utilitarian vibe. I prefer bright colors and elegant pens, but as a newbie I didn’t question the office decor (blank walls, Bic pens, and desks). One day I looked up and realized I’d been doing my brainstorming in front of the same blank wall for 16 months. No wonder I often felt so blah!

Although decorating your workspace might seem trivial to some (most of my co-workers), there’s nothing silly about creating a space that inspires you and helps you perform at your best. If you’re the first to forge new territory and bring a little sparkle to your workspace be sure to check with your boss and anyone you share common work areas with if they are ok with you changing things up a bit. (Be prepared to spark some copycats a few weeks after your desk revamp; imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and previously skeptical co-workers copying you means you’re right and should get promoted.)

Of course, professionalism is always a must. However, professional does not equal personality-less, it simply means you have to bring your aesthetic to the office in an appropriate way. Keep things simple and classic and limit extremely bright or flashy items. If you’re unsure whether something is office appropriate ask yourself, do I need this? or does this help me work better? or does this have sequins? And limit yourself to 1-2 decorative items on your desk.

If decorating your workspace seems daunting think of one item you can replace or need and find one that you love and matches your desk, then choose matching items to systematically upgrade your workspace. I needed to conquer my growing pile of reference materials, and I loved the deep plum of the See Jane Work magazine holders. The faux leather and rich color exude professionalism and provide a place for the magazines I often reference and can also be used to tuck away simple folders with reference sheets.

Pick a primary color that you want to decorate with and choose a complementing color to give your workspace a bit of edge. My primary color choice was plum, but I was at a loss as to how to incorporate a matching, but surprising pop of color. Neutrals and soft colors all match, but they can be a bit run of the mill and the stark white wall behind my desk was yawn inducing enough. (Coffee can only do so much!) Unusual pairings give a sense of vibrancy and energy to a workspace. One way to discover unique complementary colors is to go to a hardware store and look at paint chips. Grab a handful of colors that you like without thinking if they traditionally go together. The more unusual your selections the better. Then lay them out and mix them up until you find a pairing you like. My favorite pairings tend to be the most unexpected, such as red and turquoise, purple and yellow, and of course, plum and orange. Of course everything on my desk couldn’t be plum or orange so I chose white as a crisp neutral.

Next I replaced my dull every-day work horses. Almost everything you use on a daily basis can be replaced with a luxurious, beautiful or fun version. I opted for clean lines and unfussy patterns to give my desk an organized and stylish look. My favorite upgrade was from a green plastic stapler to the sleek (and shiny!) Ace stapler. It looks like something my grandpa would have had on his desk in the 60′s and I love it.

Another way to update your look is to downsize. The more of your desk you can see the less cluttered it will look. Remove any items you don’t use on a daily basis and opt for vertical storage instead of horizontal. The plastic in-tray I was using to (ineffectively) hold my files was replaced with the Ivory Stratford Desktop Sorter and matching plum file folders. I also downsized from a bulky pencil cup to the Emma tray and went from about 15 pens to six. Orange and burgundy Le Pens are fun for notes to myself and co-workers, and my bevy of black Bic pens was replaced with one—the Seven Year Pen. It’s modern, eco-friendly (it really lasts 7 years!) and I really only need one pen (although admittedly a few of my Bic pens did get stashed in my top desk drawer as backups.)

Taking the time to make your workspace beautiful and efficient is time well spent. You’ll feel and work better and will more than likely catch the eye of your boss in a good way. As my boss likes to say, “clean desk, clean mind.” I agree. Make your workspace work for you on every level and you’ll find yourself employee of the month faster than you think.

Can’t spot the See Jane Work Letter Tray? I used it to replace the phonebook that raised my monitor to eye level. Function + beauty= no neck pain!

List of items used:

1. Susy Jack Grid Calendar

2. Le Pens

3. Semikolon Slim 2″ 3-Ring Binder

4. See Jane Work Plum Magazine Holders

5. Susy Jack Note Cube

6. See Jane Work Basic Letter Tray

7. Ivory Stratford Desktop Sorter

8. Emma Tray and Letter Opener

9. White Slim Calculator

10. Glasses-The Seven Year Pen

11. Pewter Stamp Holder

12. Ace Pilot Stapler

13. Dotted-Fabric Thumbtacks


Liz Rivera is a freelance writer and novelist living in Los Angles. She is currently working on a screenplay and protecting her new stapler from jealous co-workers.

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5 Responses to Liz Rivera – Desk Makeover

  1. Brandy says:

    Very interesting post! This is one of those things that a lot of people would love to do but might not go through with on the grounds of frivolity or perceived “pointlessness,” so kudos to Liz for actually going for it, naysayers be damned! I’m going to steal more than a few ideas from her :) It would have been really great to see some larger photos of the before and after, though. Thanks, Liz and SJW!

  2. Chris Cookson says:

    Fun article! I like how she used some of the items in unconventional ways. Her desk was the typical office nightmare. Just some color really helped. Thanks!

  3. Jimmy Jones says:

    I think it is important to make your office environment comfortable and free of stress and clutter.

    Any moderation to your office that brightens up your work and provides you with a clearer state of mind in which to perform at your best.

    Thanks for the blog!

    Jimmy Jones | Office King

  4. Evelyn Jeanne Shaw says:

    Impressive publish! STICK WITH IT!

  5. Jamie says:

    Cute makeover. Mine is way more cluttered though. But I got some help from this to clean up my office space. Now I want to makeover my desk again!