7 Ways to Spruce Up Your Office on a Shoestring

June 1, 2009

Tired of the same-old office decor but can’t afford a makeover? No problem: Here’s how to make your space shine without spending a bundle.


Budgets are tight everywhere. As you ponder what the recession means for your practice, freshening up your office may be the last thing on your mind. But now is exactly the time for doing the little things to separate you from your competition, and a well-kept, pleasant office is a crucial patient pleaser. What better way to get some new patients through the door and ensure your regulars are satisfied than to spruce up the place a bit? Here’s how to do it without breaking the bank:

1. Add a fresh coat of color

Schedule a DIY afternoon where you and your staff don smocks and rollers to breathe new life into those drab beige walls. A gallon of paint runs less than $25, you’ll be saving on labor costs, and it can be a fun change of pace for staff, provided you don’t try to do too much in one day. Better to pick one room at a time, starting with your reception area, or maybe just paint a few accent walls.

2. Institute a book and magazine swap

Is your office’s copy of Time analyzing President Nixon’s re-election chances this fall? Does your People magazine still proclaim Nick Nolte 1992’s Sexiest Man Alive? It might be time for an update on your reading material. But who can afford all those magazine subscriptions these days? So get creative: bring in a small bookshelf and donate books and magazines that are lying around your house. Then have your staff do the same. When someone brings in a magazine or book they can swap it out for something else on the shelf. Encourage your patients to participate as well by making a sign over the shelf that explains how it works. The swap is cheap, fun for both staff and patients, and grows the diversity of your office reading materials.

3. Grow your greenery quotient

Live plants - not the silk alternative ones gathering dust in the corner - boost morale, relieve stress, and clean the air. They also look nice and add a little life to any room. And not all plants require a full-time horticulturist. Try the low-light tolerant pothos, which is a hearty vine, or a spider plant, which looks cool and has ever-multiplying “babies” that stem off and can be easily separated and replanted. Pick up a few at the hardware store or nursery for less than $20 each.

4. Showcase artistic talent

Become the office curator and rethink the uninspired bare walls in your waiting area and exam rooms. Framed artwork doesn’t have to be relegated to the halls of a museum and certainly doesn’t have to cost a fortune. For pediatricians especially, this is an easy fix: simply round up some of your young budding artists’ work to hang in simple frames. Or consider asking others in the office if they know someone with an inner Van Gogh. You could also keep a keen eye out at second hand shops for inexpensive and tasteful paintings or posters, many of which are already framed. And you know those anatomy posters and charts you have hanging in the exam rooms - the ones with the ragged or curling edges? Try dry mounting them for a more polished look.

5. Create a kids’ corner

Even if your practice doesn’t regularly treat children, kids often come as a package deal with your adult patients, so make them welcome by turning a corner of your waiting room into a play area. Ask your staff, friends, and family to donate unwanted and unbroken toys and supplement their donations with inexpensive picture books, puzzles, and sets of blocks. Word to the wise: avoid toys that make lots of noise.

6. Pipe in some mood music

Mellow music may ease the blood pressures of patients and staff alike while creating a relaxing ambiance. If you don’t have an office sound system, dust off that old boom box in the basement (or pick one up at your favorite Big Box for $30) and plug it in for some relaxing waiting room tunes. Opt for some smooth jazz or soft rock, avoiding any offensive lyrics or jarring sounds.

7. Tie it all together with style

Stop by Target or Ikea for some low-cost finishing touches. A couple of floor lamps with softer bulbs will provide welcome relief from the harsh florescent lights and create a warmer and more welcoming waiting space. Perhaps a small area rug would brighten that old dowdy carpet. A thoughtful knickknack here and there will show a dose of personality and reflect your efforts to spruce up the space.

Abigail Beckel is managing editor for Physicians Practice. She can be reached at abigail.beckel@cmpmedica.com.

Sara Michael is an associate editor for Physicians Practice. She can be reached at sara.michael@cmpmedica.com.

This article originally appeared in the June 2009 issue of Physicians Practice.