Livening up Your Office Walls

The Rococo Pop Wall Decals by BlikWe’ve talked about general ways to personalize your office, as well as office staples you must have (toiletry, tech and clothes), as well as a few other decor topics as well… still, one topic we haven’t covered is where to get great wall art for your office.  Readers, please chime in if you’ve had good experiences anywhere — we’d love to hear about your favorite shops!

N.B. We’d advise checking with your office manager before you do anything that might be a pain to remove or cause damage to the space (e.g., wall decals, large/multiple nail holes, heavy things on the wall).  Also — know your office!  Not all of these tips will work for every office space.

Charley Harper 2011 Wall Calendar1. A Calendar. No, it’s not exciting, but it is a cheap way to add color to your walls, with the added bonuses that the calendar is actually informative, as well as extremely easy to swap out/remove entirely.  You can get them at almost any bookstore, as well as at more indie-friendly places like Zazzle.  One tip: You may want to save the Justin Bieber/Twilight calendars for your home, and stick with landscape/photography/art calendars instead. Pictured: Charley Harper 2011 Wall Calendar, available at Amazon for$11.19.

The Tortoise by Carrie Marill2. Paintings and prints. For my $.02, almost anything goes here, with the minor exception that the pieces should look intentional — i.e., don’t tape the same poster to your wall that you had in your bedroom at college.  (At least get it framed!  Pretty please?)  I’ll also say the obvious, just for kicks: no nudes.  You may also want to avoid pieces that will make people uncomfortable.  (For example, at one point I wanted a Jenny Holzer poster for my office and am now really glad I didn’t get one, even though I still love her work.)  There are a number of great options here — from framed prints at museum stores to something more unique, like the $20 art available at 20×200 to other indie sites like 2modern, Supermarket, and more.  (Readers, help us out here — which are your favorite spots?) Similarly, the flash sample sale site One King’s Lane often has sales on office-appropriate decor (click here if you need an invite).  You can also turn personal photographs into wall art if the photo resolution is high enough.  I’ve used Mpix for 16×16 gallery wraps, with great success, but lots of sites offer this.  Again — this is wall art for the office — so you may want to keep it neutral (that beautiful sunset and city skyline you shot on your bar trip) and not personal (that picture of you and your husband kissing on your wedding day).  (Pictured: The Tortoise by Carrie Marill, available at 20×200 for $20-$2000.)

The Rococo Pop Wall Decals by Blik3. Wall Decals. I have used these (on the inside of my front door for my old apartment) and they stuck great for about 2 years, and then *mostly* removed easily when it was time to go (there were a few tiny spots where the door paint came off) — so they’re a good option for the office if you want something large, colorful, and removable. Mine were from Urban Outfitters, but you can get them from a huge number of places these days, including Etsy, children’s stores (Toys R Us, PB Teen), big stores (Walmart, JCPenney, Sears, Bed Bath & Beyond) and, if you’re lucky, you can catch a sample sale like RueLaLa or One King’s Lane having a sale. Pictured: The Rococo Pop Wall Decals by Blik, available at Velocity Art & Design for $90.


Horchow Antique Window Panels4. Three-Dimensional Art. These kinds of pieces can be more creative — window panes, pre-purchased art like the one pictured, or even shadow boxes filled with candy wrappers or other irreverent pieces.  Similarly, I remember seeing a feature in a magazine about how to turn a book into a piece of artwork by turning the pages down in an origami-like, artistic way — and then mount on the wall with plate hangers.  The downside here is that these pieces can be heavier to hang — as we noted above, please check with your office manager first!  Pictured: Antique Window Panels, available at Horchow for $695.

liberty fabric5. Hanging Fabric. If you have beautiful bolts of fabric, but nothing to do with them, you may consider stretching them over canvas and hanging the piece in your office.  I’ve seen this done recently (at the home of a friend who works for an airline company and has traveled extensively), and the pieces were really stunning.  Pictured:  Alma C Lantana fabric, available at Liberty of London from £34.95.

IKEA STOCKHOLM BLAD6. Curtains. I’ve only seen this done in VIP’s offices, to be honest (where they’ve had interior decorators come in) but in theory, there’s nothing wrong with bringing in curtains to brighten up (or darken) your space.  The Pros: Yes, you’ll need the maintenance guy at the office to come help you install the hangrods or other hardware, but when it’s time for you to go it’s just a simple hole in the wall to patch up.  The Cons:  You really, really want to avoid any “bedroom” vibe to your office — so be careful with going too childlike or boudoir-like.  Pictured:  IKEA STOCKHOLM BLAD, available at Ikea for $60.

Readers, what are your tips for wall art, and other thoughts on office decor?


  1. I’d avoid anything that says college dorm room, so wall decals are out. I also would not put any unframed posters or other frameable art up.

    You didn’t mention sports memorabilia, which is quite common where I work. I also think that it’s good to hang your diplomas on the wall, provided they are nicely framed. Other common and professional-looking items that don’t go on the wall include small plants, framed photos and knickknacks given to you by coworkers or mementos from travel.

    • I meant UNFRAMED frameable art, of course.

    • I got too many somewhat snarky comments about my diplomas at a prior place of employment (my schools were highly ranked in comparison to the norm) so I never hang them anymore. I figure people know I graduated from college and law school or I wouldn’t be here.

      • Yeah, it probably depends on whom you interact with on a daily basis and the norm at your office. If you interact with clients or others who’ll be curious about your credentials, it’s probably a good idea to hang them. I also just think that diplomas tend to look nice and professional on the wall. At my office it’s the norm to hang them so I put mine up. I don’t really know what I’d do with them if I didn’t hang them in the office, anyway.

        • What was amusing/irritating is that it WAS the norm at my office to have diplomas on walls. But I still got cr*p for it and so now they happily collect dust in my closet.

          • Sounds like your coworkers were just insecure jerks. If anything, if I went to U of Nowhere and I worked alongside a Harvard grad, I’d feel better about my U of Nowhere degree. Oh well.

        • I work at a big nonprofit legal organization in a big city, and I was advised to hang up my undergrad and law school diplomas. This is because apparently we have a problem with our clients not thinking we are as qualified as Biglaw attorneys. Thus, employees — especially people who went to big-name schools (think Ivy League, T10 kinds of graduates) — are encouraged to make our qualifications prominent.

          Also, as a recent graduate who has been on many an interview, I would say that it’s helpful to know where your interviewer went to school (by seeing it on the wall — if you have 5 interviewers in a day, it’s hard to keep track who went where for what) and makes it easier to come up with conversation topics.

          • Naijamodel :

            I worked in a legal aid org for a while and totally know what you mean! I couldn’t wait to get my license so I could stop hearing “are you a REAL lawyer?”, or “I want a REAL lawyer” when a client didn’t like what I said, lol.

    • AccountingNerd :

      Here in the south, football is big (Go Gators!), but I think some people get a little too crazy with decorating their office with Sports memorabilia. I work for the state and audit many state agencies, and I have seen so many posters of Tim Tebow on people’s walls that even I’m starting to get tired of him!

      • Go Gators!!

        (Personally, I would never put up a poster of Tim Tebow in my office – I’d get distract and stare him all day instead of doing my work!)

  2. anon - chi :

    Curtains? I think that’s very weird in a lawfirm, even if you are very senior. I absolutely would not do this as an associate.

    If you want art but don’t have a huge budget or are unsure where to find what you’d like, check out your city’s neighborhood art fairs in the warmer months. Chicago has several great ones, as I’d bet most big metropolitan areas do.

    • Ballerina girl :


    • I put up a curtain in my office window (to the hallway) because I have to pump during the day (still nursing). It’s a simple solid navy, so it’s fairly demure, but it’ll come down as soon as it’s not needed. I don’t mind the look too much, but it’s a problem when I want to close my office door to play music or keep out noise, and no one knows whether I’m available or “busy.” I guess I need a sign…

      • Blonde Lawyer :

        Could you just tie the curtain back when you are not nursing and have it closed for other reasons? My nursing coworker puts out a “do not disturb” sign when nursing. We all know what it means. She is not shy about males knowing she is pumping. It is the only way to keep them from barging in!

      • Yeah, I need to remember to do that!

      • FWIW, I think that’s different – you’re addressing a real need for privacy in the most stylish way you can. :-) I would not think it was weird if it was clear that someone had hung a curtain for privacy in this sort of situation.

  3. On topic: I have a large Ansel Adams print — I like photography, and it’s inoffensive to others.

    Off topic: Do any Toronto Corporettes have a referral for a good bra shop? I am very well endowed, so, please, no referrals for the IBTC set (man, do I wish I were a member of your group…). I will be in Toronto this weekend, so if you also have restaurant reccs, I’d love those too. Thanks!

    • perhaps there is a “shapings” in Toronto? They are in Ontario … but I use them online for shipping to the States. Other than that, I know we go to Nordstroms, but I reall finding very few my size DD+ at the Bay in Calgary and Montreal. Bon chance.

    • Secrets From Your Sister on Bloor just West of Bathurst has an amazing selection in all sizes, though they’re on the pricier end.

  4. OT post/PSA!
    Dont clean your keyboard and dust between your keys on the day you are wearing pants that are lint-magnets! :)
    Was proud of myself about how clean my keyboard was until I looked at my pants – they seem covered in white cat fur (and I don’t have a cat!).
    Time to test out Kat’s suggested emergency use of scotch tape as a lint remover. Heh.

  5. In my professional (law) office, Ix-nay on the urtains-cay. Also, no wall decals.

    Framed photos, framed art and diplomas only.

  6. I have some old law books that my dad passed down to me when he retired. (Not textbooks, but old law-related books that are nicely bound and have interesting titles.) I also have a “lady justice” statute that my parents gave to me, and a print of the Old Bailey.

    My bosses often encourage me to personalize my office more. Apart from the things I’ve mentioned and a few pictures of my kids, I’ve done very little to change my office in the two years I’ve been there. I think it’s nice that my bosses want me to feel free to make the space my own, but there always seems to be something more pressing to do than look for office decor. We don’t meet with clients in our offices (conference rooms only), so it’s something I haven’t taken the time to do for myself yet. Maybe I’ll be inspired by some ideas you ladies post!

    • Perhaps you could ask to receive wall art as a gift? If your husband has good taste he could help your kids pick out a couple nice pieces for your next birthday.

  7. I got a large pop art canvas from one king’s lane (love that website). It’s a little edgy, but the message is appropriate for work. It makes me happy to look at and instantly made my office feel less generic.

    I am a huge fan of charmingwall, a small gallery in the west village, with a large collection of inexpensive prints. They have a website. I’ve given many of their prints as gifts (including to all my bridesmaids) and there is something for everyone there.

  8. Anon for this :

    My favorite part of my office is my coffee mug, bowls, and plate. A friend and I go to one of those pottery painting places and paint. I’m a decent artist so the stuff I make looks like I bought it at a store. It is pretty enough to display on my shelves and when I’m stuck eating at the office, I use it. They are all machine washable. I think of my friends every time I use them and looking at them makes me happy.

    On my walls I have my framed diplomas and two paintings. On my other shelving unit (I have a large office) I have framed nature photographs that I have taken (I take professional quality pics.)

  9. I would agree that curtains & decals might be inappropriate (or be perceived as such by at least some), so I wouldn’t hang them.

    My question is how do you get over a completely irrational feeling that if you hang something substantial (I have a huge, matted & framed pic of the Golden Gate Bridge & a big blank spot on my wall), you’ll jinx everything & either have to move offices or get fired or god knows what . . . Any advice would be appreciated!

    • Hah, I just posted with the same irrational fear. My solution was to avoid getting a plant because people on TV always have to carry out their office plant after getting fired.

      • Ha! I can relate to this feeling! I got laid off during the great biglaw bloodbath of February 2009. I had a jade plant in my office at my old job, and it was always struggling and the branches kept falling off.

        Fast forward to my new (dream) job… my boyfriend got me a jade plant for my new office, and I was all nervous that this would somehow jinx my new job. Well, my new jade is thriving and growing and looks awesome, with all of its branches intact.

        I guess plants can tell if an office is healthy or not. :)

    • Same fear here…not sure how to get over it other than to just accept that in the scheme of things, you probably don’t want that stuff if you did get fired, and if you move offices someone should probably be assigned to help you.

    • Normally when you move offices someone moves your stuff for you, except for small personal items. I assume that if you get laid off you’d have enough time to make arrangements to take stuff home, and if you actually got flat-out fired, your wall art would be the least of your concerns although I bet the firm would deliver it to you.

      • I think the fear is not so much that I couldn’t get my huge piece of art out, it’s that if I hang it, I will be forced to…. somehow.
        As I said, it’s not rational.
        Glad I am not alone though! :)

    • I have this feeling too! I have never hung a thing on my office walls. I have candy out on my desk and one little photo of my dog from my first year of practice, in a free Lexis photo frame. I do have a couple of desk lamps that soften the look somewhat, but that is about it. It’s like I feel like I could be out of here on any given day!

      Like you, I even have appropriate wall art ready to go – just can’t take that final step …

      • I think that others might perceive this as your not feeling settled in your job, like you are constantly thinking it’s not permanent and you might move on. I would find it odd if someone had a totally undecorated office.

  10. I have an old World War II-era propaganda poster (framed), a print from an artist from my home town, and a photograph of a monument near where I used to live (not taken by me). Two of the three face my desk and I find it a huge relief to have something visually interesting to stare at when I’m thinking/zoning out instead of a white wall.

    On a related topic, I’ve always wondered how soon you should put things up after starting a new job. I’ve worried that people would think I was demonstrating an entitlement to the space too quickly or something like that (and I also have visions of being forced to cart it all out in one of those stupid file boxes people always use to clear out their office on TV after they’ve been fired). On the other hand, I don’t bat an eye at other people’s decorating soon after they start, so maybe this is excessively paranoid?

    • (The print and the photo are also framed, in case my unnecessary parenthetical to the poster implied they aren’t.)

    • I would love to hear what people have to say about this. Do you move in right away? Do you bring things in piece by piece? Do you wait a week? A month? A year?

      • At each of my jobs at some point my boss came in, noticed my bare walls, and suggested I bring in some pictures or something. I think at some point they start getting paranoid you don’t see it as a place you’re going to stay. I think it was around the three month mark I started getting those comments. Then I just brought in everything at once over the weekend.

      • In my current job I began sticking stuff up on my bulletin board right away, and then brought everything for the walls at once over the weekend a few weeks after I’d started working. A lot of my office decor is stuff I’ve slowly accumulated as gifts from colleagues, too.

      • I think this is a great question. I feel the same way as the above posters: both that it is somehow a faux pas to do it right away, and also that it looks bad if you wait too long. I usually bring in my diplomas right away and leave them sitting about, then put things up at about 6 weeks — not consciously necessarily, but that’s the way it’s worked out.

      • AccountingNerd :

        A few weeks after I started my job, everyone kept making comments about my office looking too “empty/impersonal/blah..” It started to get annoying! But, I was studying for the CPA exam, so i didn’t have time to go running around town after work looking for pictures/decorations. I did bring a picture of my fiance and put it on my bulletin board. Now I am glad I didn’t decorate it, because they did a reorganization a couple months after I started, and I got kicked to a cubicle! :(

      • AccountingNerd :

        And I should mention that I suck at decorating!

  11. I’m an avid photographer – anyone see any issues with putting up my own (taken by me, but not OF me) photographs in my office?

    • Anon for this :

      No issues at all. I have mine up and they are a conversational piece. People come in to see when I have changed them. One of the most unapproachable seniors here spent about 10 minutes in my office admiring one print. Great way to break the ice.

    • I love it when people do this – always gives you something interesting to talk about.

    • I did this (very amateur photographer) and put up a bunch of landscapes of my trips to Italy, Mexico, etc. They’re wonderful conversation pieces when someone comes in your office.

    • Fantastic to hear these responses. I’ll be ordering some prints over the weekend! (about to start a new job :)

      • I have some of mine, and they get a lot of good comments. (I got prints made of various landscapes, in a sort of ‘seasonal’ theme – spring, autumn, winter, summer.) I actually made friends with a new colleague that way, as she’s also a keen photographer.

  12. “remember seeing a feature in a magazine about how to turn a book into a piece of artwork by turning the pages down in an origami-like, artistic way — and then mount on the wall with plate hangers”

    Oooh, would love to see the link to that article!

  13. I think it is important to take a cue from others and how much “personalization” goes on. No one wants to be THAT employee with the frilly, homey office space (particularly as a female) when everyone else keeps it minimal. You should look like you’re comfortable in your work space but not nesting.

    I would definitely vote no on the huge wall decals. Can you picture partners on The Good Wife having a key strategy session in an office like that? Exactly.

  14. Anon for this one :

    Threadjack – I need career advice ladies.

    I’m in the corporate world – not a lawyer. My boss and his boss agree that I should be promoted come time next year, however I’ve been told the department head needs to approve it.

    I don’t work with the department head often – he manages about 300 people overall and he is in a different state from me. That said, my immediate boss is driving me crazy with annoying ways to make myself visible to him so he will approve my promotion. As a caveat – my boss is not well respected, and it is often told to me by others outside my area that he talks just to hear his own voice. He’s all about piping up on conference calls so people know he is there. He always responds to emails with things that have no relevance and grossly confuse the situation. He thinks he is helping his career by getting his name exposed and out there. I think (and others seem to agree) that he is making himself look like a real moron with his constant irrelevant banter.

    So…knowing that, how much do I want to take his advice? How fair is it that I am expected to make a good impression on someone who I don’t work with and is 3 levels ahead of me and has so many direct reports he can’t possibly know what they all do? Shouldn’t my boss’s boss really be going to him with concrete examples of why I should be promoted? I think it would be inappropriate for me to do this myself and cut out 2 layers of management.

    I know this is probably just how things work, but, well, it’s driving me crazy. Help!

    And to go along with some themes from weekend posts…I am not a self-entitled Gen Y employee. I have been with this company for 10 years and my last promotion was in 2005. I deserve it.

    • I think it is a fair expectation that you make a good impression on members of senior management, especially if they influence the promotion process. Visibility is important, the department manager will in some (small) ways be depending on you for the success of his department, and he will be more comfortable if he knows or has heard of you and your work.

      As far as your boss is concerned, you will need to weed out his good ideas from the not so good. It is great that he is so supportive of you, and if he thinks visibility with the department manager is the only thing standing in your way, your boss must think highly of you. There is likely some validity to the concern about being more visible, and as your boss is encouraging you, don’t think of it as cutting out 2-layers of management but that you are being given an opportunity to shine a bit. Then, just pick some of the ideas that your boss has that align with your personal style and go for it!

    • Yikes. I probably would not take your boss’s advice. If your department head doesn’t know you or know whether you’re qualified, he will either look over your HR file or contact you himself. Once you know that the paperwork has been put in to request the promotion, you could introduce yourself to him at the next opportunity if you think he doesn’t know you.

      Since your boss’s boss is also involved in this, my suggestion is to go to him/her first. Tell him that your boss is concerned that the department head doesn’t know you well enough to approve your promotion, and ask him if he thinks that’s a valid concern. Presumably your boss’s boss knows the department head well enough to have a good feel for the situation and can give you solid advice if he does think it’s a concern. I would not mention any of your concerns about your boss to your boss’s boss, though.

  15. Maine Associate :

    My mother brought me a beautiful pareo from Hawaii. It has 3 large colorful flowers on a bright blue background. I hung it on my office wall behind my desk with a few thumb tacks. It takes up a large part of the wall but will be easy to remove if I relocate. I get many compliments on it. On the adjoining walls I have my diplomas, pro bono service awards and a large calendar.

  16. ATL had a piece about a guy who offered his office wall space to local artists to display their work for free:

    Not sure if he had any takers, but it’s an interesting idea.

  17. Curtains? Wall decals? Is this a post about a professional office or your first dorm room?!

    Side note: I just made an impulse purchase (something I almsot never do) of Donald J. Pliner knee high leather boots (black) for $90 – that’s a good price, right? … right?

    • surrounded by lawyers :

      That’s an amazing price, Shayna. Pretty rational for an “impulse” buy, if I say so…but you are an accountant.

    • Creative Anon :

      Law firms and conservative offices are not the only kind of professional offices around. Wall decals and curtains are perfectly appropriate in some offices, and a less “traditional” approach to office decoration is sometimes encouraged.

      We don’t all work in the same kinds of offices, ladies. A corporette in a more business casual/creative company is still a corporette, and still works in a professional office.

      • True – but I’ve been in several creative offices (though, of course, this is just my own anecdotal experience, not an official survey) and never seen any with curtains or wall decals — also, I think both of those would be items that undermine your authority (yes, I’m paraphrasing Nice Girls Don’t Get The Corner Office)

        • Creative Anon :

          I honestly think the whole office decor subject should be taken on a case-by-case basis. Possibly the creative offices you’ve been to tend to adhere to a more conservative corporate culture – mine is a New York outpost of a Silicon Valley company, and there are decals and fabric everywhere, and there are enough of these kinds of companies now that it isn’t odd and strange that one might work in one where you have more leeway.

  18. Anonymous K :

    I don’t have anything on my walls, but my office is very small. I do have four photographs on my desk, all of family members. I know it is very non-NGDGTCO to have pictures of family in my work space, but it hasn’t seemed to have hindered my advancement at work and it is the norm for both men and women at my workplace to have these types of pictures.

    • I think there’s a differene between having a few tasteful (possibly framed) family photos and plastering your walls with pictures/fridge art/etc…. with the former indicating that you’re not a robot which is a good thing

    • I don’t think it’s non-NGDGTCO. The point of NGDGTCO was that there are certain traditionally feminine behaviors that, cumulatively, cause women to be perceived as less competent than their male peers. The point wasn’t to stop any one particular behavior (but rather to focus on cumulative patterns of behavior) or to refuse to engage in behaviors that are in line with office culture but happen to be traditionally feminine.

      • Anonymous K :

        Well, I am glad that you ladies read the book the same way I did! I only included the disclaimer because every time I mention one behavior on here that could be construed as against what the book would advise, I seem to get a few comments telling me I am not following NGDGTCO and I will never succeed at anything ever if I continue to do said behavior! (This is a little dramatic, but you know what I mean!)

    • I work in an engineering office and almost ALL of the men have pictures of their families and kids and none of the women do. Just to add to tallies we’re keeping here….

    • Even when I was in management consultancy – fairly low on the totem pole back then- all the consultants and partners who were married and had kids had pictures of said kids. The majority of them were men.

      Admittedly, I haven’t read NGDGTCO, but I’ve gathered that the general idea is to go with the flow of your workplace. If you’re in a work place where the majority decorates their office and puts up pictures of their family – go for it. If you’re in an office where the only decoration is a dead ficus… you’re going to stand out if you go at it with over the top decorating.

      • I completely agree. That is how I took it too. I think the whole point is to be very aware of the culture of your particular office and try not to stick out in negative ways.

  19. My company puts colorful, large, and expensive decals on the walls that express our company mission and reinforce our logo. Putting any other decals on the walls would surely result in a bad outcome.

  20. don’t want to heap it on, but i agree that the wall decals are not so professional . . .

Add a comment.

Questions? Check out our commenting policy. Tech problems? Please report it to the tech team.