My last day at my last corporate job was gray, literally and figuratively. It was the end of October, and there was very little natural light coming through the windows. My boss, who suffered from stress headaches, required us to keep the overhead lights off, so I stepped from light pool to light pool to hug my coworkers goodbye.
I was excited to manage my husband’s art studio, to peel out of this world and live a more bohemian life. But walking out of the building alone, my heels clicking for the last time on the hard stone floor, I was surprised by my heavy heart. I wondered whether I would miss The Office.
All I brought home were my leftover office supplies. Being a practical gal, I boxed up everything in my desk that still worked: stacks of yellow sticky notes, a box of army green hanging file folders, branded notebooks from all-hands meetings. A thick handful of slightly used Bic pens and #2 pencils. Screen wipes. My everyday world.
I had no desire to pick through it when I got home that night, so I jammed it under the bed. I’d know what I needed after checking out the studio the next morning.
Typically, when you start a new job, the office manager grabs her key, trots over to a big ugly file cabinet and opens it up. “Let’s see…” she murmurs as she starts piling the Post-its and cheap notebooks in your outstretched arms.
But my husband works in wood and multimedia sculptures, and his studio is not an office. There were no supplies. There were saws, screwdrivers, drills, paint cans, screens, paint brushes, stacks of wood and hundreds of other random objects, but there wasn’t even a chair for me to sit on. “Do you want to sit in my spot?” he asked, pointing to what was a beautiful wooden desk basically turned into a handsome collage of personal objects with a ripped, 40-year-old chair in front of it. “Sure,” I said, noticing with a bit of distaste that both his printer and computer were covered with sawdust.
“Let’s get whatever you need,” he said. “I want you to set yourself up the way you want to be.”
I could see I needed…everything. And that’s when my world went from grey to technicolor.
I was one of those kids who volunteered to run the ditto machine so I could sniff the damp, violet paper. Who took calligraphy classes during recess. Who loved back-to-school supply shopping because I got to start over.
I was gonna enjoy throwing away that box under my bed.
Here’s what I found (some of which I also bought!):
The Pen/Paper Combo
I thought about going minimalist with a classic fountain pen ($132) and pristine Muji notebook set ($4). Although they were so sleek and pretty, I couldn’t possibly justify spending that much money on something I would probably lose. Plus, I needed something a little spicier after years in drab environments.
I finally settled, happily, on the combination that makes my heart go pitter-pat: Sharpies, ultra fine point ($20/24 pack), in every color. I particularly love the ‘80s Glam ($4/5 pack) colors. And then the Poppin initialed gold collection notebook ($13) spoke to me, and you know what it said? YOU ARE THE BOSS. And I said, “I am. Thank you for noticing.”
I stuck my pens in these perfectly-sized, sweet four-inch milkglass refrigerator dishes ($6 and up), and every day they make me happy. (That said, I wouldn’t kick this elegant wooden desktop organizer from Germany ($36) off my desktop, and I covet this bronze Anthropologie holder ($48) as well.)
I like my mugs at home to match (I’m half German), but at work, anything goes. I almost think it’s a crime to buy a new mug when there are so many wonderful one-offs on ebay, like this vintage rooster ($9), this hilariously outdated hardware joke ($5), this ‘80s rainbow ($8) or my new favorite mug, Big Boss ($15).
I did, however, end up with Pantone ($16), after falling in love with #337C, Duck Egg Blue.
If you want something a little cozier and have a knitter in the family – you reading this, Lindsay? 😉 – you could beg or barter your way into a couple of mug cozies.
The Paper Tray
I would trade in the family minivan for this beautiful brass letter holder. (That lid – so smart!) Since it’s not for sale, I love how this acrylic set ($33) manages to look both modern and vintage. Poppin offers shiny, pretty trays in nearly every size and color ($6-$24), but I ended up with a hand-me-down from my husband: These enamel artist palettes ($19) are perfect for oversized papers, and I love the way they look.
There are so many beautiful, quirky office accessories! Kate Spade has an amazing acrylic and gold set; I especially love the stapler ($28) and paper clips ($12). I found this beautiful Ebay vintage letter holder ($20), a handsome custom stamp ($40) from Paper Source for return addresses, some funny and certainly true sticky notes ($5) and always, the gorgeous Snow & Graham calendar ($27).
I’ve coated multiple spots in the studio with chalkboard paint, and this is the best box of chalk I’ve found. (We used to be able to buy it from drygoodsny.com, but they seem to be out. Boo.) I need a little greenery on my desk, so I try to buy flowers every week. I’ve also been eyeing this sweet little airplant terrarium ($24), and I might even splurge on getting some beautiful small orchids ($30) delivered along with my groceries in the new year.
I’m also a sucker for temporary tattoos and the funny little boost I get from putting them on. I work right next door to Tattly.com, so I always have a mini-stock handy. I give them out to children and art buyers! I wear them for brainstorms! My favorites are here, here, here and here (all $5/2). And of course I wear our custom TueNight tatts.
I don’t miss The Office; I’ve made my own now. And Sharpies didn’t save my life or anything – they just helped crank my brain in a moment when I needed cranking. Having the opportunity to put myself and my space together from scratch was such a delicious luxury, and that feeling of ownership and creativity started me out right in my new world.
It’s like back-to-school all over again.