How to Pick a Style and Stick With It: The Traditional Office vs. The Modern Office

by / ⠀Startup Advice / June 14, 2012

Any businessman or businesswoman knows that 40 hours a week is a lot—a whole lot. As an owner or manager, it is important to do everything you can to not only keep your business up and running successfully, but to keep your employees motivated. The work that your employees do is extremely important to the success of your company, and one easy way to show your appreciation is to spend time on the office décor.

According to a Sirota Suvey Intelligence, “85% of employee morale sharply decreases after their first 6 months on the job.” In other words, if you plan to keep your employees at their highest level of productivity for more than 6 months, keeping their spirits up is going to be a struggle. Office décor will give your employees the feeling that they are working for a company that cares, is progressing, and is up on the latest trends, which will help keep employees prideful in their work.

Knowing where to start when it comes to decorating an office can be stressful. There are different tips for home offices, personal offices, corporate offices, and community offices. The biggest thing to remember when decorating your office is theme. Figure out the message you want to send to clients and the type of work and attitude you want your employees to hold when they come into the office. For example, ask yourself: Do you want your employees energetic, creative, and interactive? Or do you want your employees poised, professional, and calm? If you are not an extremist and want a little bit of both, consider going with one theme but toning it down. For example, instead of having bright colors and stainless steel furniture across your office—pick one or the other.

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Know Your Style: How to Know What the Right Theme is for Your Company

The way you choose to decorate your office really depends upon the type of business you are running. The following table explains the trendiest office decorating themes within each different office setting:

Conservative Industries

  • Banking
  • Legal Services
  • Accounting Firms
  • Insurance Agencies


  • Neutral Colors – light green, beige, grey
  • Traditional furniture – leather couches, bookcases, dark woods, floor lamps
  • Pictures of landscapes or famous paintings on the walls
  • Plants are very appropriate for this type of office and usually go well with the rest of the décor
Creative Industries

  • Advertising Agency
  • Design Studio
  • Media Production
  • Visual energy – bold and bright colors; orange, yellow, or red
  • Modern furniture – lots of glass, metal or stainless steel tables and chairs, white or blue leather chairs
  • Abstract art on the walls
  • A sculpture works better than plants as a floor decoration

In many cases, it is best to stick with one style and not mix and match. The five tips below break down the different décor features and the reasons why your office will benefit:

  1. Color – You do not want your office to be obnoxious and full of bright, clashing colorful walls, but white walls are not the alternative. Either paint your office a pale, more neutral color, or use accent certain walls with bold color. Once you find a color scheme you like, you can buy your furniture and accent pieces to match.
  1. Plants – Plants are a great way to break up the corners of an office and bring a little bit of the outside in. If you are worried about a plant wilting, being messy, or being neglected, there is nothing wrong with a fake plant. A fake plant will still catch your employees’ eye and help keep things visually interesting in the office.
  1. Mirrors – If you have a tight space, adding a mirror will open up the room. If you have a dark space, hanging mirrors high on the wall often creates the feeling of a window. Mirrors look nice can be inexpensive; however you have to be careful where you place the mirror. Two mirrors facing one another could cause headaches for some employees or customers, and you do not want anyone having to stare at themselves while they work—this would create a huge distraction. The best thing to do is hang one mirror in a hallway, or high enough so that no one will be bothered while sitting down.
  1. Furniture – Office furniture makes a huge difference when it comes to the look and feel of your office. Your office furniture should be new and up to date
  1. Wall Decorations – Hanging pictures on the wall is a great way to break up your color (especially if you went with bolder tones) and give employees and clients something to look at when they walk into the room. The type of pictures you hang in your office depends on the type of feel you are working towards. Landscapes are very popular for a more traditional office, while abstract paintings are great for a modern look. If you have office awards or plaques, hanging them on the wall is a great way to get your office looking sharp and get people talking.

Quick Tips to Office Décor

  • Be sure to purchase high-quality paint when it comes time to paint your office. You want the paint to last a long time because painting an office can be disruptive to your company, and if you are doing enough painting it may be enough to keep employees home for the day (or week!)
  • Keep in mind that this is the general office décor found in these types of offices. If you are an accounting firm, but prefer the style of an advertising agency, there is no rule book that says you can’t add in a little bit of bold color to your walls.
  • If you are afraid you won’t be able to stick with one color scheme or with one style, there are plenty of designers available to help. A great outlet for you to consider would be IKEA, a department store with offices already set up. You can simply go to the store, find an office you like, and buy all the decorations that created it!

Do you think that you have a definite office décor? What helped you make your decisions when designing your new space? Let us know in the comments!

Amanda DiSilvestro is a writer on topics ranging from social media to office copiers.

About The Author

Matt Wilson

Matt Wilson is Co-Founder of Under30Experiences, a travel company for young people ages 21-35. He is the original Co-founder of Under30CEO (Acquired 2016). Matt is the Host of the Live Different Podcast and has 50+ Five Star iTunes Ratings on Health, Fitness, Business and Travel. He brings a unique, uncensored approach to his interviews and writing. His work is published on, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, Huffington Post, Reuters, and many others. Matt hosts yoga and fitness retreats in his free time and buys all his food from an organic farm in the jungle of Costa Rica where he lives. He is a shareholder of the Green Bay Packers.


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