A Lesson in Artwork: Choosing the Right Decor For Your Office

by Sara Browning
It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words, and when it comes to decorating an office, professionals want those words to speak positively about the environment in which they conduct business. Unfortunately, some people struggle immensely trying to choose the right color, wall hanging or sculpture to create an atmosphere which fits their personality, adheres to a sense of professionalism and helps clients feel relaxed and welcomed. With so many facets of decorating to consider— size, color, texture and type of business—and the wide array of artists from which to choose, advice from professionals is priceless. Marianne J. Bibo-Russel, owner of Bibo Gallerie in Peoria with nearly 50 years of decorating experience, and Gabriel Johnson, gallery store manager of the Peoria Art Guild, have put together a list of tips to help turn a decorating challenge into a simple and pleasurable lesson in art.

First Impressions

First impressions mean the world when it comes to office decoration. The artwork a person sees first has the ability to influence his opinion about a business as well as its employees. Businessmen and women should therefore place their best wall hangings on their “visual wall”—the first wall a person sees when he enters a room. In order to make a positive first impression, a person should think seriously about what type of impression he wants to create and then find an image that helps make that impression. Unless a company is part of a large corporation with its own interior designer, artwork hung in doorways or near entrances should create a welcoming atmosphere and fit the company style.

Colors That Fit

Company style and color go hand in hand when decorating an office. Businessmen and women should choose colors which adhere to the company environment and fit their personality. For example, a decorator for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital might not use bright reds or yellows because these colors would excite a sick patient. Instead, serene blues and shades of purple would create a more calming atmosphere. “Surround yourself with colors that fit the company, make you feel at home and make those around you feel welcomed and relaxed,” says Marianne. “Colors, while adhering to professional standards, should also fit you.”

According to Gabriel, colors in abstract paintings fit nicely in office buildings with a clean and modern feel. A doctor’s waiting room would be the perfect place for a pastel portrait of an abstract landscape. Patients could visualize being a part of the scenery, and the soft colors would help patients feel at ease. At the same time, a person should choose a landscape portrait with his favorite colors. For instance, a doctor who loves to play golf in his spare time might choose an abstract portrait with green hills or valleys. In so doing, he, too, is able to benefit from his work environment.

Don’t Limit Yourself

When decorating with wall hangings, portraits by Picasso and Matisse used to be the rule of thumb. Yet office workers need not limit themselves to the classics. “Some people believe that in order to be a savvy decorator, they need to use famous artists,” says Marianne. “But individuals can use artists that are popular in their age group or their favorite artists and be just as successful.” And successful doesn’t have to mean expensive. According to Marianne, many art stores sell posters of famous paintings for just forty-five dollars without the frame. This allows purchasers to change their wall hangings frequently for less money. “In my age, you had to spend a fortune for fine art,” Marianne says. “But nowadays, you can make frequent changes with different posters by switching the posters and using the same frame. Today, it’s decorative art rather than fine art, and everyone can afford it.”

Mixed Media

In addition to portraits, chunky vases, ceramics, felt pieces and sculptures can help create an office that’s appealing to you and your co-workers. These accessories are what Marianne refers to as “the jewelry of the room.” “Artwork doesn’t have to be framed,” says Marianne. “Mixed media can add a great deal more interest to any office.” Mixing different types of artwork also allows decorators more room for fun and creativity. Marianne’s daughter creates brightly-colored birds in cages from scraps of metal. The birds are small enough to be hung from the wall in their cages or displayed separately on an office desk or shelf—the perfect wildlife display to help create a cheery atmosphere on a Monday morning.

What’s more, office contractors are catering to smaller pieces of artwork with built-in nooks and small shelves in workspaces— great places to display small wood, metal, ceramic or glass sculptures. According to Gabriel, the type of artwork you choose should derive in large part from personal taste and the overall feeling you wish to convey. “It’s amazing how just a few pieces can add to the overall ambiance of a place,” he says. “The more comfortable you feel in your work environment, the more conducive your space will be to increasing productivity.”

Businessmen and women can maintain a high level of productivity in a corporate or office setting not only by creating a comfortable atmosphere, but also by ensuring their workspace is functional. “You don’t want to overcrowd your office with small décor,” says Gabriel. “Groupings of smaller pieces in one or two spaces of an office allow a person to make a statement with decor without overwhelming clients or coworkers.”

Quality Artwork, Less Expense

However people choose to decorate their office, many people believe creating a professional look costs a fortune and therefore tend to shy away from décor all together. The good news is that people today don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars to purchase quality artwork. For instance, when decorating with wall hangings, businessmen and women may purchase a reproduction of a portrait by a famous artist for a fraction of the price they would pay for an original. Marianne, for example, often decorates for her clients using reproductions of portraits created by famous artists, such as Carol Gregg, who is known widely for her watercolor prints of western themes.

In addition, the Peoria Art Guild offers its twenty-five-year-old art rental program that provides “art as a renewable resource” for commercial and residential clients. Individuals may rent art on loan for their offices and trade in the artwork for different pieces every six months, allowing workers access to different types of art and enabling them to change their working environment and try new approaches, so they never tire of the same look. With a variety of sizes and prices to choose from, rental pieces include everything from photography, oils and prints, to watercolors, pastels, acrylics, mixed media and more! Clients simply schedule an appointment with the art rental manager to discuss the type of art desired. Next, clients are allowed to look through the wide array of artwork offered in the gallery’s art preparation room. Once clients have selected their pieces, the Art Guild sends a representative to hang the art on the office walls.

According to Gabriel, corporate clients pay an annual fee, and rental costs usually range between five to ten percent of the retail price of the piece. Billing is done every two months, and should they choose to keep the artwork, clients are allowed to apply the first six months rent to the purchase price of the piece.

Creating Your Own Look

In days past, individuals wanted the same decorative look as their neighbors or close friends; however, people today strive to create their own looks. “Over the years, central Illinois has become more knowledgeable about different decorating options,” says Marianne. “People are more ready to experiment with different artwork to fill different spaces.” When working with tall ceilings, for example, Marianne suggests hanging one or two large pieces of décor rather than several small pieces to fill the entire space. For smaller spaces, using materials such as metal, wood, fabrics and glass can create texture and add depth to rooms. Finally, always decorate with colors you enjoy and images you love, and everything else will fall into place. Says Gabriel: “Art doesn’t have to be intimidating. You don’t have to have an art degree. Just go with what you like.”

Marianne agrees and says, “My father was a CPA and did taxes at an antique desk I have. When I look at my desk, I see my father, and I love that! I surround myself with the things I love most.”

When decorating for yourself, have the courage to let you be you without worrying about what others will think. If you love your décor, you will enjoy it for a long time.

For more information about the Peoria Art Guild’s art rental program, contact Gabriel Johnson at 309-637-2787 or gjohnson@peoriaartguild.org. IBI

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