WORKING STIFF – By Darren Garnick
The Boston Herald (April 19, 2006)
My first lesson about freedom of expression in the workplace came in
1993 in the form of a skyscraper built with McDonalds soda cups.
Mickey D’s, which was located next to my office, offered “Jurassic
Park” movie cups and the imposing tower included at least 15
duplicates of each dinosaur.
At the time, I was dumping at least 60 percent of my salary into Diet
Cokes, a vice previously unrelated to my obsession with the Michael
Crichton novel starring velociraptors. Curiously, my boss failed to
appreciate the convergence of my two greatest loves. He fired off a
memo labeling my cup collection as “unprofessional” and requested that
it be dismantled.
I haven’t reminisced about those Jurassic cups – which remained
undisturbed by the way – for more than a decade. But the tender
McMemories were just rekindled with the publication of “Cube Chic,” a
how-to office decoration book promising to transform your workspace
“from drab to fab.”
To author Kelley L. Moore, a Seattle event planner and “lifestyle
expert,” nothing is more depressing than the blank slate of a grey
cubicle. Her book includes examples of 22 different fantasy-themed
cubes with advice on where to buy the materials and how to piece them
together. Themes include sports, music, travel and retro pop culture.
Just one problem: Will your immediate supervisors and their
supervisors freak out when you cover your workspace with glitter or
Astroturf? Will they appreciate the Studio 54 disco ball suspended
from the ceiling?
Employers say they value creativity and individuality, but more often
than not, those ideals clash with corporate sensibilities.
“I just hope HR directors will allow people to express their
personalities,” says Moore, 37, who also produces design and style
segments for Seattle’s KING5 News. “I can’t say I’m going to
revolutionize corporate America. But I do hope this will inspire
people to revisit their policies and think about letting their workers
“Transforming your workspace can get you to think more creatively and
be more productive,” she adds.
Making the argument that your cubicle is second only to your bedroom
in terms of the amount of hours spent there, Moore says it is long
overdue for “neglected” office space to get a makeover.
Her whimsical design ideas convey a blend of college dorm room décor,
children’s birthday parties, high school dances and theme restaurants.
The Safari Cube, for example, features leopard print vinyl covering
the desk, faux fur trimming the edges of the walls and a plastic
banana tree outside the entrance. Mosquito netting is optional.
Summoning the spirit of Antarctica, the Ice Cube includes a white
plastic-fringed table skirt, penguin figurines and jars of
The Sci-Fi Cube focuses on alien masks, robot toys and a chalkboard
saturated with unsolved scientific equations. The set-up is ideal for
those who want to experience their own “Good Will Hunting” moment and
discover which co-worker is an untapped genius.
Moore recommends using Velcro to attach all objects to the cube
surface, making the décor easily reversible if your mood or company
culture requires change. Her designs are also often tongue-in-cheek.
It’s highly unlikely that the Pub Cube or Casino Cube would be
duplicated in a real office environment – given that building shrines
to alcohol and gambling are not bright career moves.
“Sometimes you need to take things over the top to get people
thinking, to get them to see that a major transformation can take
place,” she says.
“The world of design is also now much more affordable,” Moore adds.
“You don’t need a Herman Miller chair. You can get lots of cool modern
design pieces for $19.99 at IKEA or Target.”
Or for 99 cents at McDonalds. “Cube Chic” has inspired me. Maybe some
day I’ll bring back the soda cups.
Darren Garnick’s “Working Stiff” column runs every Wednesday in the
Boston Herald. Story tips from the workplace are welcomed via email at