Decorating an office yet staying compliant with its lease can be a tricky balancing act. You want the space to stand out and reflect your brand, conveying to clients and employees alike your distinct work culture immediately upon walking through the doors.
Yet you also must weigh inevitable design restrictions. Painting walls, re-installing floors, and even hanging wall art may be off-limits according to the terms of your lease — leaving your ideas for decorating office space stifled.
With up to 80 percent of an office space's costs revolving around the lease, it's no surprise people have questions on how to decorate a business office economically and within the terms of their contract. We've put forward the trendiest leased-office design tips and tricks today, all to take your space from conventional to eye-catching.
1. On-Brand Artwork
Adding artwork is one of the surest ways of decorating an office space. It is also one of the most cost-effective, with technology and more websites and platforms than ever dedicated to inexpensive, custom office art.
Consider traditional canvas or framed pieces first. A handful of large, framed oils and watercolors are decorative staples in leased offices, adding color and personality to its likely plain walls. Hang these along stretches of main walls, or in central spots of break and meeting rooms where they can directly contribute to a more inviting ambiance. To keep things cohesive, look for multi-piece collections of framed artwork you can purchase in bulk and sprinkle throughout the office.
For something more contemporary, consider digital artwork like transfers and wall prints. Transfers are a particularly great way to incorporate branded artwork into the space, as you can use logos, photography, and brand-centric colors. Transfers can be added to canvas or paper, framed or left minimalist, blown up to cover the entirety of a wall or mixed and matched in a decorative collage.
Finally, add further aesthetic layers with pieces like figurines, statues, vases, ornaments, and other decorative items. Place these throughout the entire office, on end tables, coffee tables, conference areas, and more. Encourage your employees to do the same, whether they sit at individual cubicles or shared desk spaces.
Adding these eclectic decorative items in addition to wall art create what's called a "resimercial" look — a leading business design trend where offices are decorated to feel more comfortable through homey touches.
Just remember to keep things on-brand. From featured images to overall colors schemes, you don't want art to clash or create conflicting messages regarding what you're about. Use art to communicate your brand and business values, not distract from them.
2. Plants and Natural Elements
Decorating your office with plants and other nature-inclusive detailing is one of the most diverse and cost-effective ways to make a leased office your own.
These decorative additions have psychological benefits, too. Plant life throughout an office not only reduces employee stress, but it simultaneously boosts creativity, productivity, and reported levels of happiness. Greenery has even been shown to reduce the likelihood an employee will take more two to three sick days a year if their desk or primary workspace is located near pockets of plant life.
Plants are also part of a growing green trend in office design — one that's as literal as it is figurative. Many leased offices are finding creative ways to incorporate clean-air plants throughout their floor plants. They also look to pot them in "upcycled" or "recycled" pots or plantings, with refurbished items matching other art pieces and office decorations. The finished product is one that is as welcoming and calming as it is good for the environment.
Use a mix of plant and pot types when decorating an office space. For example, incorporate both standing and hanging plants with various ferns and shrubs suited for the indoors. Research the kinds of plants that grow best in your office's natural indoor conditions, with easy-to-maintain sunlight and temperature preferences.
Other popular plant-based office decorations include things like terrariums, air plants, and even vines — real or synthetic — draped from walls like artwork or used as an original office partition.
Like other things on this list, the eye is attracted to visual diversity. Think differences in colors, sizes, and locations when it comes to decorating your office with plants. Place green life in similarly eclectic containers or pots. You'll be on your way to enhancing your leased office — and feeling like a proud plant parent — in no time.
3. Rugs and Carpet Tiles
Wall-to-wall carpets and floor coverings may not be the best option to place in a newly leased space. They are expensive to install and difficult to keep clean — plus you might have to rip them out anyway once your lease is up.
Many lessees aren't partial to the carpet colors or textures that currently make up their selected space. Likewise, solid floors — like hardwood, tile, and concrete — often add ambiance and character to your office but dramatically increase noise levels. Sound waves travel and bounce around more efficiently with these floor types, then compound if your leased office has high ceilings or an open floor plan. The pros and cons of each floor type can make the other seem innately appealing, yet your lease often won't allow you to make a change.
To solve this, opt for rugs or patches of carpet tile to break up a monotonous office floorspace. Rugs and carpet tiles have the added bonus of creating structure and lending a large office more of a formal, designated layout. Plus, they are both sound-absorbing.
You can use solid stretches of carpet tiles to create paths or walkways, which is a great way to help break up open-concept offices. Likewise, rugs placed in strategic areas — such as in informal meeting rooms, collaborative workspaces or the break room — can center the space and make it feel more comfortable.
Keep an eye out for patterns and textures. Rugs can be complementary or eye-catching depending on how you pair them with their surroundings. For example, drab concrete floors of converted warehouses can be made to pop with on-brand, color complementary rugs. Natural fibers can soften hardwoods and accentuate the chairs, sofas, and artwork surrounding them. Rugs of various sizes can lend your office a cozier, homier feel.
4. Colored Partitions and Furniture
Dividers or partitions have become staples in many businesses. This is due to the reigning popularity of open-concept offices, which dominate today's business building scene due to their collaborative ambiance, maximization of natural lighting, and team-oriented, innovative nature.
Indeed, you'd be hard-pressed to find an office space today that doesn't contain some sort of open-concept architectural element. Yet that doesn't mean these kinds of designs are without flaw — particularly when it comes to employee privacy, efficiency, and stimulant-reducing productivity.
Enter office partitions. With individual worker cubicles decreasing in prevalence and wide, unobstructed floor plans becoming the office expectation, dividers are an essential — and practical — decorative inclusion.
They're as much about form as function. Mobile partitions can be used to designate or divide office departments, increase spatial flexibility, reduce noise levels, and create more dynamic and space-maximizing conference or meeting spots, planned or impromptu. Partitions also come in numerous heights, so you can pick sizes that work best with other office furniture.
The first rule for how to decorate your office space with partitions centers on colors. Opt for dividers with muted, earthy, or softened tones matching your current brand colors. Mix and match shades to give a professionally designed feel, and make sure partitions are relatively lightweight and mobile. After all, the whole point is to provide you with a more flexible, adaptive, and eye-catching use of your leased space without needing additional expensive rooms.
What's more, partitions are a great way to lend employees privacy or more isolated workspaces when they crave them. They are also vastly cheaper and more contemporary than traditional, multi-roomed offices or businesses littered with stationary cubicles.
5. Eclectic Furnishings
Gone are the days when ergonomic chairs and stationary desks did the trick. Office furnishings of today are more expansive, imaginative, and multi-functional than ever. You have the chance to put a true decorative staple on your leased office regardless of how long it's yours with furniture that identifies your work culture.
Examine furniture design periods or trends you like. Partial to mid-century modern? A fan of industrial-fashioned leathers and metals? Enjoy antiques mixed with bright, contemporary flares? Use a design trend as your guiding eye when starting to select furniture.
Begin by taking a look front-house. What kinds of couches or lounge chairs would you like arranged in a reception area, if you have one? This is the first part of your office a visitor or client will see, and it carries plenty of decorative and branding potential alongside comfort and practicality. You want the furnishings within it to present an immediate atmosphere, one aligned with the personality of your brand.
Next, determine your suite of work-related furniture. This includes but isn't limited to desks, tables, chairs, and other seating or surfaces options in your employees' main work areas plus those equipped in meeting and break areas. Like the reception area, employee furniture should convey a cultivated work atmosphere while matching the daily tasks and responsibilities of your workforce. It does no one any good if you include the coolest array of work chairs yet cram people together at shared tables, or design dynamic work pods but lack relevant technological outfittings.
It's increasingly uncommon for offices to house linear rows of identical cubicles. You have so much more decorative freedom today to furnish your leased office with unique workstations. Whether that be standing desks, work pods, shared tables, or even unassigned office seating, use furnishings that give your office character without distracting from its core functions.
If it fits your brand, you can also consider adding a few extra lighthearted pieces into break rooms, like foosball or pool tables. Just be cautious about dedicating too much space to these kinds of additions. If it doesn't fit your industry or doesn't match your targeted branding and work culture, forget it.
Last but not least, consider the furniture's finishings. Throw pillows on couches, geometric shelving, custom end tables, and more round out your leased office to give it true decorative personality.
Most people imagine office lighting as row after row of rectangular fluorescent ceiling lights. These installations became the building-lighting default in the late 1970s — alongside other outdated trends like parallel rows of high-walled cubicles. Yet they are easily one of the least flattering and energy inefficient lighting choices around today — and one you can creatively hack even in a leased office.
Recent lighting trends in office spaces have shifted to highlighting standing lamps. Regardless of your renter's contract, you can add these pieces into your space. There are dozens of styles in existence, from Scandinavian minimalist to antique, stained-glass "Tiffany" style lamps. Tower lamps are ultra-sleek and contemporary, industrial lamps work well in urban, open-concept offices, and arching floor lamps break the stick-straight vertical lamp mold.
The boldest offices even fuse lighting into signs, artwork, and office furniture itself, using neon accents for a fun decorating twist.
7. Creative Filing and Storage
Storage within an office takes many shapes, yet all businesses need it. Leased commercial spaces will likely come with some built-in storage already, be those mounted cabinets or corner storage closets. Decorating an office space's filing and storage can go far beyond these options, though.
Think of all the ways you store items at home. From shelves and bookcases to baskets, bins, drawers, and display cabinets, you're familiar with multiple residential storage solutions — just in a different capacity.
Why not begin to merge these over to the office innovatively? Creative filing and storage options abound. What's more, you can get bargain deals on storage furniture at many outlet stores and online. Or for real brand-aesthetic alignment, you can commission custom cabinets and shelving units from a local business or craftsperson.
There are dozens of unique filing and storage systems to pick from. From sleek hanging or geometric shelves to quirky bookcases, display cabinets, drawer units, and stacked bin kits — even recycled lockers — use shelving in an off-beat way to decorate your office. You'll find you're simultaneously maximizing space and solving filing pain points, too.
8. Think Mobile
At the end of the day, a leased office is still liable to the terms and conditions of its contract. Most of its significant infrastructure cannot be changed.
Yet there's simply no reason to see a rented commercial property as static or lifeless. In fact, treating it so could have the opposite effect — stifling employees' spirit, reducing productivity, and turning off clients or customers.
With this in mind, keep as much of your leased office designs geared towards the flexible. Mobile furniture, partitions, and workspaces are the hot trend of the moment and the likely work norm of the future. Be preemptive about this with your leased office space today by designing work areas that are open and reconfigurable.
A mobile mindset of decorating your leased office space carries the added bonus of staying well within your lease parameters. No clunky installations or heavy, difficult refurbishments that go out of style in a few years — or that you'll have to get rid of come the end of your lease.
9. Stick to a Color Scheme
Color psychology is a significant — and scientifically backed — decorative element in your office space. The colors you choose for your space have the ability to transform the moods of those within it, for better or worse. Choose yours critically and cohesively early on with the following knowledge.
According to color psychology, perceiving different shades stimulates different psychological states in humans. It is considered a "ubiquitous perceptual stimulus" and can influence everything from attraction and fatigue to food and beverage purchases.
Blues and greens evoke a sense of calmness and thoughtfulness in most individuals. These cool shades have the interesting effect of making most people focus inward, as well. This introspective-inducing property could be useful in quieter parts of the offices, like focus rooms, or in departments where individuals need to work in controlled, composed atmospheres.
On the other hand, feelings of energy, drive, and excitement are stimulated by warm colors. Reds and oranges are bold color choices in offices, grabbing attention and creating upbeat energy. Yellows strike a psychological middle ground, stimulating creativity while also possessing a similar calming property for most people.
Pick a color scheme of four to five complementary shades, and use it as the guiding eye for selecting rugs, furniture, curtains, pillows, chairs, cushions, shelves, storage and artwork. If permitted in your lease, paint accent walls with one or two colors from your palette. Add surprising, stimulating splashes in unexpected places. Color detailing alone has the capability to transform your office from a space where people clock in and clock out to a space where people are energized, efficient, and feeling at home.
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