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5 Ways to Make Your Workspace Cozier—even If It's a Cubicle

July 17, 2015

The designer of our new office, Brad Sherman, shares his tips for creating a cozier, happier workplace. 

Brad Sherman Furniture Food52
Brad designed these modern farm tables for our office, and now they're in the Food52 Shop

We love our new office—did you notice?—so much that we feel like we hardly deserve it. So when Brad Sherman, our trusty office designer, shared his secrets for making a workspace this warm, welcoming, and decadent, we thought it might be helpful to apply the strategy to any office—even if you're working out of a flourescent-lit, windowless cubicle den. (We've all been there.)

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1. For a space that's "warm and comforting but also productive," start with a palate of neutrals in varying shades of monochrome. Brad painted our office's white walls in 10 shades of white and grey, the wood floors were coated in a grey finish with blue undertones, and light bulbs were selected in varying shapes and intensities. In a home office, going to this trouble on the floors and walls will allow your accents to take center stage without being too stark or impersonal.

Help, my office is a cube! If your boss won't let you paint the walls, an easy way to soften the background noise is by bringing in a lamp with cool white light—instead of relying on fluorescents. 

Food52 Polished Productive Work Space
New in the shop today, Brad's custom-designed steel coffee table pretty much goes with everything.

2. Splurge for quality where it's most needed. "Like a great pair of black pants, some essentials should be basic and high quality so they'll last and work with all your shirts (or in this case, furnishings) even as styles change." Anything that will take a lot of wear—from seating and desks to kitchen countertops—is worth investing in the first time you buy it. We work and shoot a lot in our kitchen, so Brad made sure the countertops were top-tier, and the couches we all love to sit on are from Montauk Sofa, a company he trusts.

Help, my office is a cube! While you're probably not buying furniture in this case, the same rule applies to the few supplies you really need. As anyone who's ever worked in an office building knows, a really excellent stapler that doesn't jam or a set of smooth-gliding pens goes a long way in making your day better. 

Tips for a Cozier Office Brad Sherman  Tips for a Cozier Office Food52
Shop for Brad's new farm table and benches here

3. Fill in the gaps with inexpensive pieces; i.e., mix and match. "Don't write off low-priced modern home retailers; just choose their simple pieces like side tables that won't have to go through tons of use." Look for classic, minimal shapes that won't upstage the pieces you've put more thought (and money) into. In the Food52 office, we found planters, coffee tables, and brackets for shelves from everyday hardware and furnishing stores.

Help, my office is a cube! Don't fix what isn't broken: Regular paper clips are that shape for a reason, and nobody's ever been fired for raiding a supply closet.

Office Design Brad Sherman

4. Get creative with accents. Unique wall decor, lighting fixtures, and accessories should actually be encouraged in work spaces—that's what will make it a place you want to be! The key is to forget trends and styles and just decorate your workspace with things you love. In our office, small antique doorknobs, hooks, and art sourced from local auctions lend a certain rustic character without cluttering. "It's like embellishing with your grandma's vintage jewelry even if normally you shop at Old Navy."

Help, my office is a cube! Even if you can't hang art on the wall, you can probably tape up print-outs (and then you can call it an **inspiration board**). Little comforts will go a long way in lending ambiance.

Office Design by Brad Sherman  Office Design Tips by Brad Sherman
Inspired by industrial carts he saw in Paris flea markets, Brad's new bar cart for Food52 is made from carefully blackened steel.

5. When you can't find a key piece that's just right, customize. To keep your workspace from looking like a showroom, at least one thing should be yours and only yours. Making a piece of furniture, or having one made just for you, is not always a greater expenditure than buying it from a store. "A table is an incredibly simple structure, with legs supporting a wooden surface. If you call a lumber yard for supplies and enlist a reliable designer, it will last forever and be the talking point of every dinner party."

Help, my office is a cube! Custom can also mean DIY; the workspace lighting fixtures in our office and some large frames were all crafted by Brad (tutorials coming soon!). Desktop planters, repurposed vintage frames, and simple flower arrangements will all make things feel homier. 

Office Design Tips Brad Sherman

How do you make your office feel cozier? Let us know in the comments!

Photos by Mark Weinberg

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Jo
  • J
  • Kit
  • Yasmeen
  • Reader
Amanda Sims

Written by: Amanda Sims

Professional trespasser.


Jo March 8, 2018
I was under the impression this was a cooking related site. Not Houzz.
It seems Food 52 is straying from its vision.
J March 7, 2018
Any chance you will sell the bar cart again?
Kit August 12, 2017
I've always made my cube or office a personal space. Living room lamp for far softer and prettier task lighting, vase with supermarket flowers, trailing pothos plant off the overhead, fruit bowl and fresh fruit, jar of hard candy for pick-me-ups and making friends, nice mug, framed personal photos, favorite cartoons, and artwork - small prints or the pages of a gorgeous illustrated wall calendar pinned onto the wall dividers. When not in use, play scenic videos on your second monitor. Roaring surf in summer and crackling fireplace in winter is fun. So much is simple, easy, inexpensive, and lets you make those 8 plus daily hours serene ones. Plus, it impresses coworkers and inspires them to create their own decor!
Yasmeen August 6, 2015
I love the tables and carts with the wine and cheese and bottles of liquor. Too bad I'm a public employee. :-)
Reader July 26, 2015
First the modal popup, and then the "not-working"-pics, several links to shoppings sites for 5 paragraphs of pure BS. This page sucks so hard, it could've been a joke at BBT.
kelly July 17, 2015
I love your new office-it's really perfect. Please please include a post on the whites used to paint your office. Or if you have any links on how to pick whites that would be great too! We are moving into a new work space and hoping to eventually repaint it in various whites. Thanks! Right now what makes our place feel like home is a steel sign of our logo made by a friend, framed 7" records that we released, and lots of sunlight.