I spent much of my corporate life in cubicles, thinking that was just how offices were supposed to look. Then came the great day when I opened up my own law practice.
I went a little bananas. My new office was in the former county library building, and had the strange dimensions to show for it. I not only had custom curtains made, but I also paid for matching carpet, and painted the walls and wainscoting my own un-crafty self. I ended up with a seafoam, white, and pink color scheme, complete with throw pillows to match the cabbage roses on the upholstered wing chairs, and a pink cushion for my rocking chair.
Take that, corporate Murika! I bought silk flowers for the hearth, filled a basket with stuffed animals, and put an actual green plant (that was still thriving twenty years on) in the window. I hung decorative quilts on the walls along with a six-foot-wide paper fan of a Japanese tiger. I even commissioned a small stained glass window for the transom space–three doves, because doves symbolize peace.
The sheer delight I took in my workspace was shocking to me, because I’m no Martha Stewart. I figured as a self-employed attorney, how I kitted out the work place would say a lot about the extent to which I valued my work and my clients. Then too, my clients–all of whom were dealing with some sort of trauma–deserved at least comfy chairs and a few cheerful colors when they came to see me.
And lo and behold, as far back as the work of psychologist Abraham Maslow (meaning SEVENTY YEARS ago), we have studies to prove that pretty makes us happier with the tasks we’re performing, more upbeat generally, and better able to stick to the job. Ugly makes us cranky, easily distracted, and whiny.
The economic impacts of that finding are profound. Think of all the boring offices you’ve worked in, all the drab waiting rooms you’ve endured, all the classrooms that nearly put you to sleep because they were so blah. Think of the public housing developments and underfunded schools… The entire neighborhoods that haven’t so much as a pot of flowers growing on a street corner.
We regard beauty as an extra, an indulgence, a frolic, but the research says otherwise: It’s an essential nutrient for contentment and productivity.
My take-away from this topic will be to make an affirmative gesture in support of those who create beauty, but I’m also curious: Where is the greatest beauty in your life? If you had unlimited resources, where would you add to the beauty in your community?
To one commenter, I’ll send a $50 e-gift card for 1800-FLOWERS. (And while you’re here on the website, please recall that A Lady of True Honor is already available on the web store, and the Deals page has been updated for February.)