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.

    • Anonymous :

      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. :)

    • Chicago K :

      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 …

      • Anonymous :

        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.)

      • That WWII print wouldn’t happen to be “Keep Calm and Carry On”? I love that print and have been meaning to get one!

    • 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?

      • associate :

        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 :)

      • L from Oz :

        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!

    • I found this! I’m going to look for thrift store books and try this.

    • Agreed! After reading Kat’s article, I immediately went digging though the comments to find something about the book art. Interesting idea! I think it would be something very different and artistic, yet because it uses old books it wouldn’t look too kooky in a semi-conservative office. (At least I hope not).

      I will be trying this.

  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.

      • I agree with Eponine. Boss’s boss is the best person to provide a double-check of expectations.

  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.

      • surrounded by lawyers :

        …or so I gather.

        That was meant as a compliment to your shopping skills, hope it came across that way!

      • Totally came across as a compliment – thank you! And thanks for the reassurance – I hit “buy” and I started having (apparently unnecessary) doubts…

    • 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 know what you mean.
          I’m beginning to hate that book, and I’ve never actually read it, lol.
          It just seems to come up every day on this site.

    • 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 . . .

  21. Ugh! am I the only lawyer in nyc who sits in a cubicle? I work for an accounting firm and don’t see getting an office anytime soon. Every job I held before this one I had an actual office, and I’m wondering if I have a right to be upset, or am I just being whiny?

    • Anonymous :

      I share an office at my nonprofit job. It just depends on the layout of your firm, I think. So long as you’re not being treated differently from other colleagues at your level, I don’t think you should be upset.

  22. Anonymous :

    DC Corporettes, try the Claude Taylor gallery shop on Connecticut Ave NW between Q and R streets. He’s a photographer and has a ton of great prints available, framed or unframed, in various sizes. I have no affiliation with his store, I just like his work.

    • Oh yeah, I used to walk by there on my way to/from work – some really neat stuff. And he’s always going on new trips and bringing back photos from new locations.

  23. What about something like this:

    I have ceiling tiles. Could I tuck in a few garlands like that to make vertical “stripes” on one wall? Too “party bead-y”? I’m not allowed to paint, and the neutral walls are so bor-ing. I love color on walls!

    • Are you allowed to put up colourful, framed posters/prints? I’d rather go with that, as the garlands does seem a bit – party/college dorm room – to me.

      • Yeah, I think you’re right… Prints is probably the right answer here. Maybe I can put a cloth on the top of my ugly metal file cabinet and use that space.

  24. Slight threadjack:

    Since Anonymous K, above, brought up family photos – what does everyone think of having photos of one’s parents/siblings/family you grew up with?

    My story: Young, unmarried, no kids. I’m an only child and grew up being very close to my parents. My mom died shortly after I graduated college, so since then it’s just been my dad and I.

    What are the corporettes’ thoughts on this? I have a lovely portrait of my mother from when she was about my age and a set of photos from my college graduation (me and both parents) and my law school graduation (me and dad).

    I seem to remember a discussion about this from forever ago (when the Corporette readership was still rather small) and most people recommended against it for fear of seeming young and immature. I’m wondering if this is still the concensus.

    • I’ve noticed several professionals in my industry (non-law) with such photos. I thought it reflected positively, showing that they came from positive and supportive roots. All have been older than me (36) so perhaps there isn’t the same fear. In one instance, the coworker had a photo of her mom who was going through cancer. It helped when I would go into her office to remind me not to be too upset over the small things at that moment and have a little patience if she didn’t seem as responsive as normal. I

      n some ways, seeing a coworker in the context of family makes them seem more human–whether the family is the one they were given or created.

    • Anonymous :

      I have pictures of my parents and me on my bulletin board. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. I probably wouldn’t put super cute, posed, matchy-matchy family photos up, but a candid shot or two is fine. Then again, I also have pictures of my dog, so I might be the wrong person to ask.

      I wouldn’t put up a ton of photos, but I think two or three photos of whomever you’d like are fine.

      • This. I think two or three family (or s.o., or close friends) photos are fine – more than that and you are pushing it, regardless of who is in the photos.

        • i have always had (since law school, at least) a pic of my mum & da from his law school graduation year (’75?)– it’s the two of them sitting in front of an xmas tree with a statue with a plackette that says “sue the bastards.” i look so much like my mom that i’ve gotten some confused questions, but mostly no one’s commented.

    • surrounded by lawyers :

      JessC, I am like you–although I lost my Dad instead of my Mom. The other factors in my personal life are the same as yours, though I do have siblings.

      I have photos discretely placed, in my office, of my Dad carrying me on his shoulders when I was a tyke, and of my Mom and Dad happy together at a dinner party. More prominently displayed is a picture of my sister with the family dog.

      I wasn’t here for the earlier conversation you mention, but I certainly don’t think anyone judges me poorly for these photos–and I work with all men, if that matters. I think within reason, people should have pictures in their offices that inspire them to do good work and be good people. Family is family, and I don’t see why it should make a difference whether it’s your parents or your kids, or whether they are still alive or not.

    • I wouldn’t think this is inappropriate.
      Especially a graduation picture — it sounds lovely & marks a special occasion as well as a professional accomplishment.
      I wouldn’t think twice about you putting up your mom’s portrait either, personally, but maybe you can display it at home so as to avoid worrying about it (or to avoid any conversations that may become unconfortable for either you or your co-workers).
      Losing a parent is never easy, but can be especially hard when you’re younger. I am sorry for your loss.

      • I’ve got a photo of my grandparents and me from college graduation in my office and anyone who doesn’t like it can bite me. Seriously, I think such photos are an indication that you love your family and came from a good background, so I’m not sure how they could hurt.

        • ITA.

          I have a photo of my father and I from my law school graduation that is probably going to be a staple on my desk. It means a LOT to me, and that’s that.

    • I think that two or three photos of whoever makes you happy is appropriate. My mom is sick and if it would make me happy to remember her via photo, that is what I would do.

      However, I think more than two or three family photos would be overkill – regards of whether they are parents or children. I would do matching/similar “grown-up” frames though, so they kind of “blend in” to people other than you.

    • Anonymous K :

      I was totally unclear, but I’m youngish (in my 20’s) as well, and my “family photos” are also of the family I grew up with (parents, sister, sister’s kids). So, I’m glad you asked and I’m glad that the answers regarding this seem to be positive!

      • Love the idea of an old photo of your mom. I have a photo of my grandparents and my mom from when she was 4 behind my phone to remind me where I came from .

      • I have one picture each of my two nieces and one of my nephew on my bulletin board . . . I am one of the only associates here without children, so it is a good conversation piece.

        I also have a photo of my da sitting at a desk during the vietnam war. He was a sniper, so it is humourous to me — he sent it to my mum to try to convince her he was “safe” at war.

  25. I have zero decoration in my office, apart from a couple of orchids, only one of which is in bloom at a time. Honestly, I just can’t be bothered (I’ve rented my apartment furnished, and have not been decorating it either). Most people in my office decorate their offices with all manners of kitchy memorabilia, posters, photos etc. Would my colleagues be getting a negative impression of me for keeping my office walls bare?

    • As long as it looks like someone is at work there I can’t see why anyone would judge you for it

    • i'm nobody :

      some definitely would. i’ve heard from more senior colleagues and also read that bare walls convey detachment or a lack of commitment to the employer. on some level, a lot of people truly believe this.

      • I’ve heard the lack of commitment comments as well, in addition to people just thinking you’re unbearably boring.

        • LOL!!

          Although the “boring” judgment is probably unfair… I think people DO think that.

    • Anonymous :

      I’d just find it a bit odd and think you’re sort of boring. If you’re junior, I’d also think you were planning to move on from the job fairly quickly. Since the office culture seems to be to decorate, I think you should try to find a few simple items you like and put them up, or if you can’t be bothered with hanging things up, get some photos and a tchotchke or two to put on your shelves.

    • I got comments a few days after I moved into my office that it wasn’t decorated enough yet. I don’t normally do pictures of my family (that’s just not the type of family I come from) and don’t have a diploma up either. I work for a government agency and some people have diplomas up and some don’t. I’m just too cheap to get mine framed.

  26. COLOR ........... :

    My office is located amongst the other managment offices for my division. These other managers are great guys, but they are alpha males and as a consequence the atmosphere around here is very charged/aggressive. Finally, after seven years of struggling to “be calm” (in order to do my work!!!) while surrounded by this intense energy, I said I wanted to paint my office. Blue. Nice, calm, sky blue. I told them flat out WHY, and of course they joked about it and called me “high maintenance” (which I am NOT!). But I prevailed, my office walls were painted a beautiful, calm color which I selected, and then I hung some etchings on the walls and installed some nice soft light. It is WONDERFUL and now my office is like an oasis (a productive oasis). The guys still joke about it, but you know what? They respect me more for having taken this on and stood my ground, so we are all happier now!

  27. What about a decorative clock on the wall. That could be cool…although only if it didn’t make me feel like my life was slowly ticking away while I sat at my desk…hmmm…

  28. Actually, Ikea also has a few wall decal options that are really fun. And certainly less expensive than $90 a pop!

  29. Oh! How I long for actual walls! I am a cubicle-dweller and this thread is leaving me envious. I don’t even have the wall space to hang my diplomas and certifications that are required for my job.

    • Backtowork :

      Cubicles are somewhat inhumane, don’t you think?

      • hence the bumper sticker, “how do you expect me to think out of the box when i work in a cube?”

        • Also in a cube. One that is open on three sides to everyone. Nowhere to hang college or graduate school diplomas, so they are still unframed.

          In my industry, cubes are the norm until you get to the very top. Does anyone have suggestions for making cubicle life more bearable? I have a lamp and a pretty mouse pad. A plant would be nice, perhaps … there’s just such little real estate in the cube, both on the desk top and inside the drawers. Everything always feels cluttered.

  30. Parisienne :

    I found the most perfect law office decor by accident when I was buying furniture for my house at Ethan Allen. I spotted a stunning framed panorama of London viewed from the Thames, circa 1765. It is quite large and fills a big wall. It is in my line of vision as I work, and I can never get tired of it, especially St. Paul’s Cathedral in the center and a zillion boats in the foreground.

  31. sigh, I had accumulated a nice collection of framed office art from second-hand shops etc over the last decade and new job is in a cubicle. I love the job and it’s better in every other way but heavy stuff just can’t be hung. So it’s blank, as I can’t yet figure out what will work and not look cheap/crappy.

    On a related note, a friend of mine used to have a picture of himself in the office in a bathing suit, which I thought was funny but would never ever do. He went to a top school, was a swimmer, and truly just doesn’t care.. he’s married and cute and secure. Funny though can you imagine a lady doing this?

    • Backtowork :

      Okay, here’s a really bizarre one: a partner I worked for once had an erotic photo of his wife in lingerie proudly displayed in his office. Can you say inappropriate?

      • Now that’s just awkward…

        • I have a friend who is getting those kind of photos taken for her husband. Just can’t figure out what he’s going to do with them. Hopefully they won’t show up in his office …

      • anonymous :

        Ewwww. One can only guess what “work” he was doing on his computer in addition to the actual work.

  32. Pjbhawaii :

    As you walk in my office door and look at the back wall, you see a full-wall window that overlooks Honolulu Harbor, so I see small and big boats, a few palm trees in the park below, clouds, or rain, or sunsets (depending on the time of year.) Also surfers and body borders if the South Shore is swelling.
    This wall requires no decorating . . . just reverence.

    On the side wall, I’ve place a nice mirror that picks up the view from the window.

    And I framed a Hermes scarf that looks like it belongs there and placed it on the wall facing the mirror.

    I like my office. It allows for daydreaming . . . and getting behind on projects.

    However, I framed a beautiful Hermes scarf that I received for Christmas last year, and it looks super.

  33. Threadjack: Help! Tell me I’m (going to do) doing the right thing!

    Currently, I’m a year out of law school, but, even with a clerkship and top 10% grades, there weren’t a lot of opportunities. About 2 months ago, I took an independant contractor position with a friend who has been solo-ing for about 2 years. I’ve been helping him out and REALLY enjoying it- the work is fun, since he’s closer to a peer, I’m not stuck feeling (as much) like the little girl following around the old guy, I get to call myself a partner, and I get to set my own hours and work from home.

    The downside: It’s independant contractor work; I get the hours that there are (which there haven’t been quite as much of as I would like), and I get paid when the client pays.

    In theory, once the clients pay, I’m making a lot more than my peers at big law (i.e., at least half again), while billing a lot fewer hours (around 130/month). In reality, though, the money’s slow to come in, and I worry. A Lot. (Ex: for Aug, I billed what would come to me as about 4K; I’ve only seen less than 900 of that now, though I hope its coming- I only worked about half of the month then). I’ve not been able to pull in any of my own clients yet; I’m trying, but I’m not the sales person type. (Although it has only been 2 months.)

    Anyhow, I got an offer yesterday from a gov’t agency. It’s for 6 months on contract at 30/hour (about 62K/yr), with a good “in” for a permanant job after (but no guarantees). I could still work part time for my friend (evenings and weekends) while I do this, but it would be tough. The job sounds stable but boring; I wouldn’t get to go to court or anything like that (I’d like to go to court), and it’s not in a field that I’m interested in.

    Now, I live in Tennessee-62K is pretty good money here. Added to my husband’s salary, we’d be sitting pretty (most big law jobs in the area appear to be paying a little bit more than that, and the small firms a little bit less). But it’s not enough to get my husband out of his job, which is the goal. Plus, no security after 6 months, not a lot of room for growth, and not the type of work I want to do. Contrast my current job, which is risky, unpredictable, but has great potential and is interesting and exciting.

    I think I know what I’m going to do, but I’d really like to hear opinions.

    • Anonymous :

      I guess it comes down to a question of how risk-averse you are. Building up a business is risky but can pay off substantially. What you’re dealing with is what any small businesswoman would deal with. OTOH, government work is stable, but with the economy it’s entirely possible a hiring freeze or something could prevent you from getting the permanent job.

      I think the first thing I’d do in your situation is explore the possibility of doing both. You say the government job is a 6-mo contract. Could you take that contract, and also keep your private clients for 6 months? It’d be a crazy 6 months, but in the end you’d be better equipped to decide which is the better long-term career path. If that’s not a possibility, I think there’s probably just as much risk involved in the government job (between the possibility of not getting a permanent offer and the possibility of hating the work) and if you can afford to, I’d stay with your current job.

    • Ballerina girl :

      For what it’s worth, I think you should take a big chance and stick with your current job. Lawyers are too risk averse. You don’t get anywhere in life without taking a chance.

      • Ballerina girl :

        Also, check this article out for some inspiration:

  34. By the way, on the curtains, if that does interest anyone, there are curtain rods you can buy that don’t need installation – they’re spring-loaded so they just squeeze and then press against the sides of the window. So no holes or help needed!

  35. I have my undergrad degree, my law degree and my wall license (not sure if all states do this, but our state gives out a really nice printed license with our name and date of the swearing in ceremony from our supreme court. It is a little bigger than my undergrad degree.) My dad had them all framed in matching frames and mats for me for my law school graduation. I also have a framed picture my daughter painted, and one my son painted, 2 calenders (one functional–3 month displayed and one regular calendar more for decoration), another framed print, a few framed pictures of my kids, and a lady of justice statue. I also have a tiffany style desk lamp.

    I get lots of compliments on my office and we never have clients in our offices, so I don’t worry that it looks too personal, ect. It seems like in our office everyone puts up whatever they like, since its really only our co-workers who see it.

    I started decorating pretty quickly, because the walls just looked so bare!

  36. Backtowork :

    I need things on my office wall that I will not get tired of looking at every day, all day. My favorite wall decoration ever was an antique Amish crib quilt that I framed between two pieces of plexiglass. The muted colors and geometric pattern were so pleasing to look at, and put me into a zen-like state on stressed out days.
    In my current office, I have some framed watercolors in bright-ish colors that I picked up on my travels in Asia (also helpful in reaching that zen-like state). I guess I need a calming influence, since nothing else that happens in my office is calming!
    How do people feel about displaying diplomas on walls?

    • I think it depends on what others do in your office. Where I work (big law) no one has their diplomas up. One first year started to and his officemate politely warned him that it probably wasn’t a great idea. But, I think there are other offices where it’s the norm–I would think particularly in smaller firms.

  37. My walls are decorated with things that make me laugh. If I am going to be stuck looking at these things for untold hours day in and day out, I need something to keep my sanity.

    Also, I keep a ‘wall of shame’ of opposing counsel/parties that have done and gotten themselves in the news. Usually not in the most positive of lights.

    Laughter, not drapery, will make the work day and work experience more tolerable.

    • I knew there was a reason I liked you namby. I too have a wall of shame with crazy letters and transcripts from opposing counsel.

  38. I am a big fan of World Market and Pier 1 for fairly inexpensive wall hangings. I have two antique-looking maps of London and Paris, which I purchased from World Market on sale, and I also have a dimensional mosaic piece that is abstract and colorful. Behind my desk, I have my law license and my law degree framed in black frames and linen matting. Although it seems more common for partners to have wall art than associates, people often compliment the pictures, and it makes me more content to have personalized my office a bit.

  39. Would it be inappropriate to hang a decorative mirror? I have a beautiful mirror surrounded by stained glass, and it doesn’t match the new decor in my apartment. Also, it would be nice to have a mirror in my office… thoughts?

  40. Anonymous :

    What about framed travel postcards? I tacked several onto my cubicle wall and we have an entire wall at home with these . Should be great conversation starters and they are neither overtly feminine/masculine (if that’s a concern).

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