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Archives for December 2010

The History of Office Cubicles: From Concept to Pop Culture Icon

Who would have thought that when office cubicles were devised 40-plus years ago, they’d become a pop culture icon? Certainly not their creator. In fact, the current day cubicle is not at all how the originator had intended. Curious to learn more about the modular phenomenon much of the working world calls home for 8 hours a day? Read on for a complete history of the office cubicle.

Offices of Yore


Typical 1960's Office

Back in the 1960’s, wide open office spaces were the norm. Every employee could be seen by their fellow coworkers, and worse, by their supervisor or boss. A quick glance through an open office environment could result in the witnessing of every sneeze, wedgie-pick and personal phone call. Concentration was a challenge, privacy was nonexistent and the resulting vibe was chaotic at best.

Enter the Inventor


Action Office Inventor, Robert Propst

Seeing a need for morale-boosting aesthetic changes, Robert Propst, a talented inventor with over 120 patents on designs and systems for offices and other industries, devised a setup called the Action Office. With this design, short partition walls set at 90- or 120-degree angles allowed workers to face away from their coworkers, helping to give them a feeling of privacy and comfort, without concealing them completely. When Herman Miller, the office furniture company that Propst worked for at the time, released the Action Office, the working world went crazy for it.

If it Ain’t Broke…

From Awesome to Not So Awesome...

From Awesome to Not So Awesome...

As is the culture of our nation, what started out as the answer to employees’ prayers was finagled and “made better” until we ended up with something that barely resembled what was once intended. Yes, somewhere along the line, the partition walls became taller, doors were installed on some models, walls closed tighter together and windows were replaced by fabric solidity. Employees went from being in an approachable and “team player” position to being closed off from the rest of the office, the energy of their coworkers hidden and dulled. Workers began to feel trapped and smothered, and productivity began to wane.

Maze of Glory

Maze of Cubicles

Maze of Cubicles

Despite the fact that a nearly perfect office structure had been invented and employees could have been happy and fulfilled, the cubicle as we know it continued to evolve. The partitions found their way into maze-like structures, resembling an obstacle course fit for a mouse. During all this morphing, poor Mr. Propst was said to have been so disappointed that he called the cubes of new, “monolithic insanity.”

Modern-day Action Offices are still sold by Herman Miller, but since they cost more than the traditional cubicle system, it’s no surprise that Action Offices are passed up in favor of the new cubes in most cases.

The Future of Cubicles


While it’s hard to predict what might happen in the world of office furniture, we can only hope that employers will weigh the benefits of the original Action Office design, where employees can rid themselves of that “caged animal” feeling and once again thrive in an office environment where employee interaction and energy are key to productivity and employee satisfaction. Until then, modern cubicles with light colored walls and windows are a good choice, and Arnolds Office Furniture is happy to help match you up with a comfortable and affordable open cubicle.

Choosing Environmentally Friendly Office Cubicle Decorations: A Gift Guide

If you work in a green office or are buying a gift for someone who does, rejoice. More than ever, companies have responded to the green movement by offering environmentally friendly knickknacks, decorations and supplies that are long on style, but short on earthly impact. Here, a list of 8 great green decorations for your office cubicle and beyond.

Water Yourself Daily

Sawgrass Green Hydration Vessel, $29.95

Sawgrass Green Hydration Vessel, $29.95

This gorgeous water bottle will liven up any green office space in a flash. Designed to mimic the organic beauty of blown glass, this BSP-free bottle by KOR looks like a luminous green crystal sculpture. It's also ergonomic and easy to use, with a regulated flow that minimizes spills and splashes. Added bonus: Sales benefit The Wetlands Initiative.


GreenSmart’s Neogreene Laptop Sleeve, $19.95

GreenSmart’s Neogreene Laptop Sleeve, $24.95

A sleek and smart laptop sleeve that's good for the environment is the perfect gift idea for the treehugger in your life. This sleeve, by GreenSmart, uses 25% less petroleum and 25% less energy than similar sleeves and is made without toxic adhesives like VOCs, chlorine and formaldehyde. What's more, this sleeve is waterproof, light, durable and stylish. Plus, at only $24.95, it's a fantastic deal!

Smooth Sounds

AON Box Speakers, $14

AON Box Speakers, $19.95

Add a punch of color to an otherwise boring workspace with these collapsible box speakers by AON. Not only are these great looking, but the speaker boxes' outer housing and packaging are made with 100% Renewable Resources. They are totally transportable and are compatible with all iPod devices, Mp3 players, mutlitmedia cell phones, portable DVD players and portable gaming devices. Definitely a gift that keeps on giving.

Scribble and Share

Tag Business Cards, $14

Tag Business Cards, $14

Inspired by a businessman who ran out of his own cards at a dinner party, these business cards do their part to save Mother Earth by cutting down on waste. How many times have you ordered cards only to take a promotion or new job and end up with hundreds of leftovers? The Tag Business Cards by Up to You eliminate such waste and provide a quirky, memorable way to share your information.

Note To Self: Stay Green

EcoSystem Advisor Notebook, $10-$19

EcoSystem Advisor Notebook, $10-$19

A beautiful and practical way to brighten up any office cubicle, the EcoSystem Advisor notebook helps you and yours keep life's hectic schedules in check and provides space for note-taking, fact logging and more. Available in weekly and monthly formats, with several cheerful colors to choose from.

Beachy Keen

Beachworld Biosphere, $59.99

Beachworld Biosphere, $59.99

Bring a bit of the Hawaiian Islands into your life with this Zen-like biosphere by Beachworld. This little undersea "community" features tiny Hawaiian shrimp that are entirely sustained in their own little ecosystem by  heat and light. This is the perfect gift for those who appreciate that there are greater things in the world than themselve (plus, it's gorgeous, too!).

Roll with It

Bamboo Roller Pen, $40

Bamboo Roller Pen, $40

Bamboo is definitely one of the "it" materials for green flooring, cabinetry, desks and other home and office items, but it also makes for a beautiful gift, in the form of a roller pen. Let your green groupie show his or her affinity for saving the planet by toting around this practical statement of their commitment. Added bonus: With your purchase of the Bamboo Tornado pen, Retro 51 will make a donation to the Arbor Day Foundation to rescue 250 square feet of rainforest and the habitat it protects.

Clock It

Slate Wall Clock, $95

Slate Wall Clock, $95

Assuming the boss is okay with a new wall fixture, this slate wall clock, made from used schoolroom chalkboards and reclaimed Douglas fir trim, makes for one striking statement. Greenies will love that these pieces are all handmade in Wisconsin and that each carries their own history and personality.

While gift-giving can get tricky, these products are all sure to please. Happy Holidays!

Your Go-To Guide for Choosing Environmentally Friendly Office Furniture


When it comes to outfitting your office space, is being green important to you? Sustainable, recycled and reclaimed furniture and materials are the cornerstones to creating a green office environment (and doing it in style). Here, your go-to guide for choosing environmentally friendly office furniture.

Types of green furniture

The most common types of green furniture usually feature metal, wood, recycled plastic, aluminum or steel. All of these components are either recyclable or sustainable. You may also lessen your company’s environmental imprint by reclaiming furniture, which includes purchasing the pre-owned office furniture that Arnolds specializes in.

In addition to the composition of the furniture, the way its finished is also something to consider. Some finishes contain Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC), which can be harmful by giving off a gas that causes high levels of indoor pollution.

Should my furniture be certified?

Ideally, your new eco-friendly office furniture should boast a certification proclaiming that it has been properly evaluated for its ecological impact and has passed with flying colors. Certifications come from the following organizations:

* Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Certification – Awarded to furniture made from sustainably harvested wood

* Green Guard Certification – Awarded to furniture that is made from non-toxic finishing materials

* Cradle to Cradle (C2C) Certification – Indicates that the furniture is made from safe materials that are completely recyclable

Keep in mind, you can still set up a green office without purchasing new eco-friendly furniture. Reclaimed or reused items may not have one of these certifications, but are still helping you do your part by being products that are already “in the system."


Other considerations

Complementary materials – For more green options, look for materials like bamboo and cork, which are sustainably grown and harvested.

Buy local – Choosing furniture that is locally made cuts down on both the shipping cost and carbon footprint involved in transporting your purchase …plus you’re supporting local business. Call that a win-win-win!

Go high quality – When budgeting for furniture, plan to spend a little more to get furniture that is of good quality and will last. Having these items long-term will save on waste - and your bottom line.

Multi-tasking rules – If you’ve got a lunch table that can double as a conference table, you can save green both in your wallet and on the planet. Try to use other items in multi-purposing ways for big eco-impact and savings.

If making your office green (or greener) is a priority, we have you covered. Stay tuned for more ideas on greening up your workspace, as well as trends and ideas.

Decorating Your Cubicle for the Holidays

Decorating your cubicle for the holidays can really liven up your workspace (and your mood). For extra fun, make it a yearly tradition to have a competition between departments or employees for the best-dressed holiday cubicle. Need some inspiration? Read on.

Let There Be Lights!


Sometimes all it takes is a strand (or, many strands) of lights to get in the holiday spirit. Your boss may not love the electric bill, but your coworkers will sure love the display.

Your Job: What a Gift!


Even the dullest job can seem more exciting when it's all wrapped up in paper and bows. And besides, in these times, even having a job is a gift in itself.

Santa's Workshop


It's hard not to picture shelves full of toys and the smell of Mrs. Claus' cookies when you look at this Santa's Workshop replica. Instead of a desk and computer, think of trains, dolls and Etch-a-Sketches.

Elf Yourself


Even if the "list" you're working from is of the accounts payable variety instead of  Naughty and Nice, it's hard not to feel a little elfin magic when you step into this cube. Maybe some of that magic will make your workload shrink, too?

There's Snow Place Like Your Cube


This decor choice provides tons of excitement. First, all the snow, trees and wildlife figurines evoke feelings of a Winter Wonderland. Second, if you have two computer screens as in this photo, you can put "snow" on top of them to make "eyebrows." Add the brilliant blue eyeball-esque screensavers and voila, you've got an instant Santa face. Brilliant!

Wrap Star


Although the chair might not be particularly comfortable to work in, you can't go wrong with wrapping every square inch of your cube to make it look like your favorite gift. Add a few lights and smaller wrapped presents for extra flair (and don't forget the gift tags)!

Green Tree


What a fabulous idea for the office that's all about Mother Earth. Recycled ornaments, pop-up calendars and business card garland are the stars of this tree. What do you have lying around your office that could make for stellar holiday decor? (Just watch the height of your tree. Having one that's so tall you have to pop a ceiling panel might not be the best choice, since letting in drafts is so not green.)

Chalet We Celebrate the Holidays?


If you've got coworkers that love the holidays too, band together to make a little string of skiing chalets, complete with pointed roofs. Don't forget the icicle lights and "snowy" rooftops for that instant Wow! factor.

The Village People


If there is a Christmas village somewhere, this is what it looks like. Cute little brick bungalows topped with fluffy snow and trimmed with all the holiday decor one can stomach (giant lighted candy canes, anyone?) So cute and sure to win the office holiday decorating contest.

How Sweet it Is


Take care of your decorating needs and sweet tooth all in one. By using very inexpensive supplies, you can create your own gingerbread wonderland. Just be prepared for you coworkers to stop by for a treat (or steal a candy off your trimwork!)

Did you get inspired by these pictures? Have you decorated your own cubicle for the holidays? We'd love to see your pictures. Send them in and we'll post them to our blog!

5 Types of Office Design (And What They Say About Your Business)

Office design is something every company has to address, and the style you choose can ultimately say a lot about your business. Take a look to see what your design style choice says about you:



Clean lines. Sleek finishes. Contemporary furnishings. Your office is a high-style showplace and you love it. Your employees feel proud of their workplace and each cubicle, conference room and waiting area is dressed to the nines in beautiful office furniture, artwork and paintings.

Having a modernistic style to your office shows that your business is bold, forward thinking, open to reinvention, and fine with taking risks. You care about your employees and want their surroundings to be comfortable and stylish. You strive to impress your customers or potential business partners and know that a stylish space is a great way to do this.



Rich wood desks with matching credenzas, leather chairs and minimal décor is your approach. A tailored look suits you well, with a place for everything. Storage is key to your minimalist approach, so hutches, bookshelves and filing pedestals are carefully arranged around the centerpiece of a fine wood desk.

Your classic style exudes sophistication, attention to detail and a business steeped in tradition. You have a solid plan for your business’ future, are confident in reaching those goals and are interested in forming lasting relationships with customers and clients.



You’re a bare bones kind of operation…and you make no bones about it! Building a profitable business is more important to you than a fancy desk and a waiting room full of fine art. Instead, your office boasts basic workstations, no-frills filing and a conference room that doubles as a break area.

Low-budget businesses value the ideal of getting their people in place to start making money right away, rather than dealing with the logistics of pricey desks and chairs. If it were up to you, a card table and chairs would suffice, but this doesn’t always mean you’re cheap…you’d just rather sink your resources into digging up more customer contacts, sending your leaders on client-wooing trips and providing top quality print and web materials. This type of business philosophy will enable you to go far. That is, until your employees demand a more comfortable chair!



The more technology the better, in your eyes. Every desk and cubicle must be outfitted for power and data, and your conference room resembles the media department of the local Target. Video screens, laptops and smart phones can be found in every nook and cranny of your office space, and your people all know how to use them well.

A technology-focused business is social media savvy, and does a lot of communicating online and over video conferencing. Your group has a young, can-do vibe and the growth possibilities are limitless. You know how to reach current and potential customers and how to keep each office member in contact with the right people at the right time. As long as you remember to form personal relationships with your customers and clients, you’re poised to be a business superstar!



Taking care of Mother Earth is a top priority in your company. Using sustainable materials, natural flooring and recycled or re-used office furniture are just some of the ways you green up your office. There is a recycling bin at every turn and your conference room has a lights-off rule unless there is a meeting in progress.

Plants, bamboo and other natural décor reminds employees to be environmentally conscious and your customers take note of this and appreciate your efforts. You may even inspire them to become more responsible, and they’ll remember you for that. Your caring vibe transcends into the way you do business and each customer and employee feels valued and part of something bigger than them.

So, which design style does your business employ? Are you a mix of these themes? We’d love to hear from you!

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