Hip to be Square

by Cait

I don’t know how many of you work in a cubicle every day, but for me 40+ hours a week in at a drab desk with standard-issue tan cube walls makes me just a little bit crazy. It also makes me a little bit jealous of all of those full-time bloggers, freelancers, business owners and telecommuters. I had to stop reading Apartment Therapy because I couldn’t take seeing one more pretty office. My little cube just couldn’t compete.

It’s not like I haven’t tried to dress the place up a bit. I added fun accessories to my desk, changed my computer background to something cheerful, considered getting a plant for my desk (and then a faux plant, after I killed all the real plants in our house). It worked for a while, but then one day when they were working on the front office building at work I walked out of my window-less cube in the back of the warehouse to see this:

did someone order a pallet o’ West Elm?

Yes, that is a pallet of West Elm Parsons Desks. There was also a smaller stack of tables. It might have been the most beautiful thing I had ever seen if I wasn’t so busy being jealous and enraged.

I tried to forget about it. I tried to focus on working, and spend my time away from work making our house into the kind of inspiring space you see splashed across decorating magazines and blog house tours. I tried to tell myself I didn’t even want a Parsons desk (“Where would I even put things? There’s hardly any drawer space!”) That worked for a while, too. Work was work, a place where I put on blinders and tried to pretend I didn’t spend almost every waking second thinking about paint colors, fabric swatches, furniture and design boards. A coworker and I dubbed the recently completed front office building Swankyville, and I vowed never to go there. Even after hearing the rumors about coffee that wasn’t 40 cents a cup . And especially after learning that my ID badge won’t even open the door to Swankyville!

Finally one day I had a reason to go over to Swankyville. After having my coworker use his badge to let me in, I sat waiting for my interview. I allowed myself to look around at the warehouse-chic breakroom, with its matte black ceiling, dark furniture, and stainless appliances. Just for a second I imagined myself working in the surrounding offices and far nicer cubicles. I even snapped a terrible iPhone picture (which it came out horribly blurry, thanks to the glare from the freaking atrium with picnic tables and the idea of being caught being that girl who takes pictures of the breakroom).

I spy with my little eye, a lot of West Elm furniture.

Since the photo came out so poorly, I threw together a quick design board with the furniture (and vases, which are not pictured) they used.


West Elm Overlapping Squares Bar Stool; West Elm Scoop-back Bar Stool; West Elm Klismos Dining ChairWest Elm Round Dining Table with Cutout LegsWest Elm Hive Vase

Back over in… whatever the opposite of Swankyville is, I looked around my cube. Maybe I don’t have West Elm furniture, maybe I won’t be working in Swankyville, and security sure as heck won’t let me in the building with much else to spruce the place up with (they give my paper bag the stink eye daily), but I can probably at least pull off CB2 chic. Even if I am on more of an Ikea, Target and Amazon kind of budget.

Aladdin To-Go Tumbler Clear; Ceramic Greek Coffee Cup; Black & Decker 5 Cup Coffee Maker; Tape Dispenser; Red Swingline; San Fran Tumbler

I have tried to deck my desk out with fun pops of color to keep me sane during the work week. A few of them have been on my desk since I started this job over two years ago, like the ceramic Greek coffee cup, my red Swingline, and my cassette tape dispenser. I added a plastic tumbler (similar to the San Fran one, though mine actually has leaves on it) as a  pen cup. My mom gave me a heart-shaped box made from recycled magazines, and I thought it would be a cheerful reminder of home, so I use it as paper clip holder. Up until a recent company email preventing us from having coffee makers I had this Black & Decker 5 cup on my desk, which got me through a lot of overtime last year. Since I have to bring (or buy) coffee now, I thought an Aladdin tumbler like this one would be nice for the tail end of summer and iced coffee (I haven’t actually decided which one I want yet, I might just buy whatever I find at HomeGoods).

Other than the things pictured, I just try to pick up things I think are cute (and usually cheap). I have a little Florida license plate with my name on it, the VW that popped out of one of my car’s center caps a few years ago, some pins with funny sayings, a small yellow desk fan.

What do you keep on your desk (at home, or the office)? Anything other than basic office supplies?

PS- I’m sure this post sounds like I hate my job. That isn’t true. I’m thankful to have a steady income, and a job where I get to use some of the skills I went to school for. Is this the job I want to work the rest of my life? No. But I do feel fortunate to have a job, even if it’s one that makes me want to strive for more.

11 Responses to “Hip to be Square”

  1. Is it bad that at the job I was so ironically laid off from, I didn’t want to take anything of “mine” up there that I would have to spend time packing up in the small chance that I did get laid off or fired?

    Funny how that works.

    But anyways, I love those accessories and really might have to buy that tape dispenser for our office at home!!

    You might check out See Jane Work for some cute stuff too. It’s a little pricey, but not too bad, but maybe there are a few ideas there that you can DIY!

    • Thanks for the comment, Samantha!

      I totally understand that sentiment. For me it mostly comes from the fact that we moved buildings a while back and some coworkers had pretty elaborate cubes set up. I do try to stick to things that I will either throw away or that fit into a small box whenever it comes time for me to leave. I also paired things down when I thought I might move to Swankyville (mostly just took the coffee maker home, and threw away some things cluttering up my drawers).

      I’ll definitely have to check our See Jane Work, thanks for the suggestion!

  2. This post is amazing, and feels like my life. I have tan cube walls that I stare at 40+ hours a week. Here are the things currently sitting on my desk: A 3″x3″ piece of granite remnant from our kitchen to act as a paperweight (really a reminder of the projects I wish I was doing at home), I have a couple fabric swatches pinned to the wall for my outdoor cushion project, an empty hypertufa pot I made from Martha Stewarts tutorial (used to have an orchid in it – ok- it has had like ten different orchids in it until I realized I might be commiting an act of “planticide”), stainless steel tube that I practiced welding on people think it is supposed to be “modern art”…hahah…right…just my crappy welding. Other than those “personal effects” I have the typical desk items i.e. – dust, pens, pencils, too much paper, computer and phone…
    I am also thankful to have a steady job with a good company, but seriously in need of a cube makeover and pop of inspiration to get me through the long weeks!
    Side note – I am impressed at how active you keep your blog considering your full time job. I have been so busy lately that my blog is nearly dead. You have renewed my motivation to push forward, thanks for the kick in the butt ;)
    Now back to those tan cube walls :p

    • I’m glad I’m not the only one, Rocky! I love the idea of the granite and fabric swatches. And my desk definitely has dust, too! Haha

      Our blog has taken quite a few unscheduled breaks due to our jobs (and Robert’s school, which is back in session now) and life over the past few months, but we try!

  3. Wow, you have no idea how I relate to this blog post. While I’m fortunate enough to have a small office instead of a cubicle, it’s filled with old blah “traditional” office furniture and accessories. When I took this job, I did some sprucing up — but it’s not enough. I take small breaks throughout the day to scour blogs for home decorating inspiration and DIY tips. Then, I envy the people who are able to do it all day long. While I’d love to decorate my office to suit my tastes, I, like you, don’t want to work this job forever. And like Samantha said in her comment, I’d hate to bring all my stuff, only to turn around and have to take it down in a moment’s notice. There’s only two of us in our office. Too quiet — and I miss having other co-workers to talk to when your frustrated or stuck. So, I end up daydreaming about the million different things I wish I could be doing. So glad I’m not alone! I, too, am thankful for my job and for the steady income it provides.I guess I’m just a dreamer, and I love change! Your blog encourages me to keep up with mine. You prove that us hard-working women are able to do blogs and tackle DIY projects in our spare time. I, like you, even have a husband in school! Thanks for this post!

    • You’re so welcome, Courney! I’m happy to know that I’m not alone, too! I’m also glad to hear that our blog is encouraging! I look so often to other blogs for some inspiration and a reminder that I am not alone, that not everyone has the luxury of being able DIY & blog all day. I sometimes forget that I might be able to provide that for others. Thank you for the reminder!

  4. I moved into my new office (and new job) just 2 months ago. Would you believe that I haven’t thought about decorating it one bit yet? *L* Guess I’m too busy with our little old house to think about sprucing up yet another place :o)
    It’s a big office to boot with lots of old-fashioned …ahem, traditional office furniture but since it’s a corner office it has good light and great views so that helps a lot. I only brought in a family picture and one of my pieces of art with me. Maybe later this year …. you know, in case we get done with our at-home to-do-list sooner than anticipated :o)~

    • Haha too funny, Micha! I started my job right before we bought our house, so I had a little while to try and think about how to make it less drab. I haven’t done much to my cubicle since we bought the house, though.

  5. Haha!! Swankyville!! I seriously died! I know this sounds so lame but I refused to decorate my old desk, it made it feel like I’d actually be there longer than I wanted. I’m not always the wisest of folks! I LOVE the tape dispenser though!

    • Haha I don’t think that sounds lame! I contemplated not decorating my cube for a while, but then I figured I needed a few basic supplies anyhow, they might as well be something I like. Glad you got a kick out of Swankyville and the tape dispenser!


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