Men of style allow that sense of pulled-togetherness to effortlessly seep into every aspect of their lives. For some, it’s second nature. For the rest of us, a little guidance is always appreciated. Seeing that we spend a fair amount of our waking lives working, our workspace, especially our desk, presents the perfect opportunity to add some understated style to the professional space. Here are our top five quick and simple ways to bring some basic elements of modern design and style to our desks.
Grab a tray - This is a design secret that does double duty for both function and decor. A tray is a catch-all for keys, loose change and the sandwich card from the deli where you grab lunch. Trays take clutter and make it look deliberate. Trays say, “I meant to do that.” Trays create order; they’re your landing pad, the place where you throw down your essentials (and yeah, random stuff too) when you walk in the door. There are trays for all tastes and budgets, from square leather trivets to more grounding pieces made of metal or even concrete. Control the chaos. Just don’t overcrowd.
Abide by the zero plastic rule - An office, from the most buttoned-up law firm to the most casual start-up, is still an artificial environment. When you think about it, we’re sitting under unnatural light making unnatural repetitive motions. And office supplies, especially the kind that are mass-produced and handed out to every employee on their first day, tend to be cheap plastic trinkets with little personality and zero style. Try to see how many objects (that are still necessary to your work function) you can have on your desk that aren’t made of plastic. That dime-a-dozen pencil cup can probably go. Replace it with a glass tumbler, and enjoy the added bonus of it being easier to find that specific pen you’re looking for when the vessel is see-through. Consider objects made of masculine materials like wood, marble, concrete or matte brass. Mixing up your textures adds an air of sophistication. It shows you’re paying attention.
Maximize your space - Tom Gimbel, founder and CEO of Chicago-based recruiting firm LaSalle Network, stands six feet four inches tall. When he designed his own corner office, he had a permanent standing desk custom built to accommodate his needs. But Gimbel was also sure to put in a smaller circular table on the other side of his office with two chairs as a counterbalance to his workstation. It was a way to create a space for employees and clients to feel welcome without being intimidated. We may not all have our own corner office (not yet anyway) but we can always start small. Set up your desk with efficiency and comfort in mind. You don’t have to keep the phone and the drawer unit in the same place they were on your first day of work. Is something not feeling right? Move stuff around. You’re the boss of this domain.
The shape of things – This one’s subtle, but those with a keen eye for modern décor can pick up the trick. Traditionally, objects in the design world that are round and curved are said to have a ‘feminine’ shape (think circular glass coffee tables and oval mirrors) whereas pieces with straight lines and right angles have ‘masculine’ shapes (like framed posters, art books and rectangular trays). To achieve a sense of balance in any well-designed environment, the two elements should co-exist. It doesn’t have to be an even split, but having it all one way or the other feels off. Think about it: how would you feel if you walked into a room and everything in it was round. It would be weird, right? Same with a desk or office where every last object is square and sharp. It’s too cold, too controlled. You need to allow the eye to break up the environment by disrupting the space with different shapes. If you’re more inclined to masculine shapes, we get it. It could be as simple as having a smartly designed reusable water bottle or some other cylindrical shape in your field of vision. If you have more square footage to get creative, a popular solution for a rounded shape that still has a masculine quality is a globe. Globes add a sense of destiny and adventure to a room, and come in a variety of sizes. Vintage globes are plentiful in antique stores or on eBay. You can even find globes of the moon.
Think twice about plants - A little greenery at your workspace can definitely be an upgrade, providing that you can take care of it for the long-haul. But if your office has no natural light and your thumb is more black than green, maybe re-think things. Plants are a fantastic addition to the workspace; they clean the air and add a touch of life to an otherwise sterile environment. But if you can’t care for it, the last thing you want in full view of everyone is something on your desk that is slowly dying. Don’t let it become a metaphor for your ability (or inability) to take care of something. Now, if you are game for some green but aren’t sure where to start, go for hard-to-kill starter plants like a succulent or a small fern. Both plants are low-maintenance and require a quick once-a-week water. Place them in indirect sunlight, and get the kind of pot with a hole in the bottom that sits in a shallow dish. When the water seeps through to the bottom of the dish, that’s how you know it’s had enough to drink.
Upgrading the design in your workspace is simple if you know how to get started. Not only will it add balance to your day and tamper down at least a little bit of the chaos, it shows that you’re paying attention to the little things. You may not have full run of the office, but if you start with the place where you have immediate control (your desk) you’ll see that these simple modern design ideas work out just fine.