8 startup-style inspirations for work space décor

Editor’s Note: Brit Morin is the creative mind behind Brit + Co., which explores the intersection of technology and the do-it-yourself lifestyle.

Story highlights

Some startups are trading up scrappy, bland decor for customized work spaces

A few DIY tricks can create a work space that reflects a company's values

Brit + Co. gave their employees $50 each for "Pimp Your Desk" contest

Office of wedding site's Lover.ly's is decorated with paper hearts that match logo

CNN  — 

Tech startups are notoriously known for being scrappy and bland when it comes to office decor. IKEA desks and chairs can be the height of style in these work spaces, and many don’t build in a budget for much decor beyond that.

Yet a new era is emerging that encourages a higher level of attention to design and do-it-yourself decor. The philosophy: Startup employees are working a minimum of 10 hours each day, so why shouldn’t they enjoy their surroundings?

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Sprucing up doesn’t have to break the budget, either. With a few DIY tricks, you can transform any plain Jane space into something conversation-worthy. Being a startup founder myself, I’ve been lucky enough to get exposed to some of the most creative and tech-savvy spaces ever, many of which reflect the personalities and business models of the companies themselves.

Take a peek at some of the creative decor ideas I’ve found. I hope they encourage you to spend some time to personalize your work space.

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    Everett Katigbak joined Pinterest in 2013, after a stint at Facebook, bringing his passion for design in startups with him. Part of his role is focused on maintaining employee happiness, so he uses interior design as a way to build a fun and creative internal culture. Because employees don’t have offices, but rather an open work space, he has incorporated a printing press and several letterpress signs into the design of the space. Even though it’s a digital company, the act of physical creation expresses Pinterest’s core philosophy.

    Brit + Co.

    Here at my own startup, we recently came up with a “Pimp Your Desk” competition and gave each employee a $50 budget to spend decorating their space. The winner? One of our mobile engineers! (This is extraordinary given the fact that we have so many creative people on the team who spend their days decorating and doing DIY projects.) Dzuy Linh, the engineer behind the blue ribbon, created a diner-themed desk. He used vinyl decals for a red and checkerboard base, then found 50s-themed objects to help accessorize. He even repurposed a straw dispenser into a pop-up pencil holder. Very clever.

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    The runner-up in our “Pimp Your Desk” competition was Misty Spinney, a production manager. A child of the ’90s, she created her own DIY Nintendo desk. The planter is made from old games, the notepad holder is made from vintage Nintendo controllers, and she used an N64 controller as a display for her pens, scissors and iPhone chargers. How cool is that?


    Though well-established LinkedIn is no longer a startup, Krista Canfield, a senior manager of corporate communications, has decorated her space in true startup style. The area includes “In” gear she has accumulated over the past five years with the company, a high-heel tape dispenser (she has a reputation for wearing fancy footwear), her team’s favorite quotes, and, a life-sized photo of LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman. A homemade version of Vincent Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” painting on the wall behind her desk was created collaboratively with her team. Each member painted a panel to make up the full-sized art piece.

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    Tech Cocktail

    Tech Cocktail is a media company and events organization for startups, entrepreneurs, and technology enthusiasts. The team recently opened up shop in downtown Las Vegas as part of the Downtown Project and worked with a local contractor to build out creative custom elements. For instance, the desks fold up for events and the legs are shaped like martini glasses to match their logo. They also have a “creativity nook” built into a closet where a large hanging roll of paper can be pulled across the table for sketching ideas. CEO Frank Gruber has a desk with a Murphy bed nearby (for late nights or guests), and a wall of “eyeballs” behind it, which visitors sign when they come through.

    Stitch Fix

    Stitch Fix is an online styling service that lets you create a style profile and then sends you clothing every month that matches your tastes. You keep whatever you like and send the rest back. It’s a lazy shopper’s dream!

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    CEO Katrina Lake has one of the most well-designed offices I’ve ever seen. Her personal office is called the “Classic” room and is inspired by the Classic Chic fashion styles that she says many Stitch Fix customers favor. The team was able to bring this room to life for under $1,000.

    Starting with a DIY hand painted wall, the team then picked a selection of playful pieces to enhance the room’s ambiance. From the chevron patterned chairs to the classic metal-framed pictures, they chose a range of items that embodies the Stitch Fix style. “Soft and approachable, we wanted this space to be both comfortable and welcoming,” Lake said. “The logo wall is another DIY project created with a projector and painters tape.”

    Hotel Tonight

    Hotel Tonight is one of my favorite travel secrets. The site (and app) sniff out incredible discounts on same-day hotel reservations. And it’s not just 2-star hotels, either. Top hotels across the country use the platform.

    CEO Sam Shank keeps his work space fresh by using a custom-made desk that he designed to match the look of the company’s favorite hotel partners. “He also built a few miniature beds using LEGOs and a 3-D scanner in the h-shaped style of Hotel Tonight’s logo, and tends to keep a bottle of bourbon around for celebratory drinks (or late nights).

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    Though not a tech startup, Tonx is a coffee startup that uses technology to spread the message of how it sources beans from the best farmers across the world. You can use its site to set up a coffee subscription, ensuring you never wake up and go to work tired again.

    Nik Bauman, CEO of Tonx, was inspired by the healthy concept of a standing desk, and set out to create one of his own. The DIY desk he came up with cost less than $200 and took just a couple of hours to construct. He used the IKEA Lack TV unit ($50), IKEA Galant A-frame desk legs ($15 each) and a base frame ($30). He spent about $5 on bolts, washers and nuts to complete the task.


    If you know anyone planning a wedding, point them in the direction of Lover.ly. It’s a tech startup that helps brides-to-be easily find design inspiration and wedding-related products. Kellee Khalil, founder and CEO, decided to decorate their office walls in a pink splash that matches their logo. The team also created DIY paper art in heart shapes for wall decor. My favorite part: A hand-made paper calendar on the walls, despite the fact that the site lives and breathes by technology.

    What creative work spaces have you seen recently that you’d like to share? I’d love to hear about them! Find me on Twitter or leave a comment below.