Create An Inspiring Office Space

emily ehlers_feng shui your desk_desk from door

The other day, Boogie – AKA The Destroyer – went all seventies punk rocker on my office. She totally Sid Vicious’ed it. I had hoped she would tire eventually (she didn’t) and in the end my office was trashed.

With deadlines looming and a hooligan toddler to wrangle I had no time to spare on cleaning. So I tried to forge ahead.

In terms of work that day was… how do I put this gently?.. F***ed! I was a mess. I couldn’t think straight. I couldn’t write to save my life.

My poor unsuspecting gal pal decided to visit to give me some support and was met with a wild-eyed shadow of her former friend. I ushered her into my office for some help on a project and she took one look at it and got her Confucius face on;

“Em, no wonder you are scattered. Remember, your outer world reflects your inner world”

The airiness of the statement made me bristle at first but then resign myself to thousands-year old wisdom. Dammit. There is no denying it. It got me thinking. I needed to seriously organise my outer world in the hope that clarity on either side of the worlds lends to the other. I needed to create an inspiring office space that would help me create inspiring content.

My latest obsession

As you may have read in my previous post here I have been gobbling up all the information I can on Feng Shui lately. I love everything about this ancient philosophy. It gives my brain a bit of direction as opposed to the scrambled egg that I am usually left with when trying to decorate an interior. Get ready for a smashing Pinterest! (do you Pin too? Follow me here)

For those who are not so clear on the actual definition of this ubiquitous design philosophy, the overriding belief of Feng Shui is that spatial arrangement (predominantly of furniture and home design) effects energy. Instead of ‘energy’ though, it is referred to as “Chi”; all that lives. Chi is constantly moving in and around us.

So, feng shui is the belief that the arrangement of your environment – and the objects within it – affect chi. Chi must be able to flow smoothly through and around all the objects in your space. Practitioners of Feng Shui use a nine-part grid called a Bagua Map (I made you a free one for you to download here) as a blueprint for how spiritual areas of life (love, creativity etc) correspond with physical areas (home, desk, office).

feng shui desk emilyehlers

So, since discovering Feng Shui and having a lot of success with the effects it had on my desk I set about on an office renovation to restore balance, crack me open and invite good energy into my den. After a lot of research and rearrangement I have come up with some amazing tips and tricks if you too are feeling stifled by your space.

Below is a mix of conventional recommendations, good common sense, anecdotal learnings and a healthy dose of feng shui.

Inspiration Only Welcome

If you want to access your inner-creative genius then you need to create as inspiring an outer world as possible. On surveying my own space, I realised that it had a lot of objects that I didn’t absolutely love. There was that candle that was a bit too green, the photo frame that was a little too boring and books that I had forced myself to read. So I removed them all. I was ruthless! If it didn’t inspire me it found a new home. I then got crazy and added fairy lights just because they make me happy.

But what of those essential but nevertheless uninspiring materials like scrap paper and staplers? Hide them in things you do love! Woven baskets filled with paper, re-purposed jars for my pens, decorated wooden chests for my SD cards. Get creative!

emily ehlers_feng shui your desk_reputation

Clear the clutter

It is the old Chinese belief that clutter disturbs the chi of a room. Remember, energy likes to flow smoothly and easily. This is a theme that does not just show up in ancient Chinese philosophy; in India clutter interrupts prana and it is even mentioned in the Bible (“My confusion is continually before me” [Psalm 44:15]). A few tips;

  • Keep paper organised and filed. Make sure you have a space for incoming papers! Schedule time to go through this (every morning for example)
  • Try to avoid too many tabs open on your computer. If you are constantly distracted by posts to read then create a bookmark of ‘articles to read later’ or “blog resources” and set aside time to read them later.
  • As a rule of thumb your desk should be 50% clear at all times.
  • Have a clutter box (I have one in most rooms in the house). When things magically appear in your office that don’t belong there, at the end of the day put them all in the clutter box. This way, your office will be clean and fresh for the next day and you can sort out the strays at a later time.

For more amazing advice check out this article from Life Hacker with some stellar tips on organising your office.

Make It A Jungle

Include as many live plants in your office as possible. For one thing plants are natural air-purifiers. This is perfect for an office which is typically full of stale air and electronics (I’ll explain more in the next point).

Check this list from Lifehacker on the top desk friendly plants for Australian offices. Now, something that is very at odds with my wildlife warrior personality – I am a ruthless killer of plants. I should be arrested. If you join me in this morbid talent then see this awesome list from iVillage of indoor plants that are hard to kill.

Additionally, there have been plenty of studies of late that show that having plants in your office increase productivity and overall happiness.

emily ehlers_feng shui your desk_love

Get A Himalayan Salt Lamp

These suckers cost about $25, look gorgeous and they are natural ionizers.

As I mentioned in this article over here about reconnecting with nature, electronics emit positive ions which are bad for you. They have been linked to depression, insomnia and a host of other mental and physical problems. You want to neutralize those postive ions with negative ions. Negative ions come from flowing water, fresh air and… you guessed it… Himalayan Salt lamps.

So, while plants do a damn fine job of purifying the air, you can’t go past a himalayan salt lamp.

Find Your “Work Tie”

If you work from home the transition from structure to self-defined timetables can wig you out. So you need to find that trigger that gets you into work-brain. My husband worked from home for a while and he would sit there at the dining table with his full business get up on – suit, cuff links, tie and shoes. He made me feel stuffy. So one day I quizzed him on it. He replied that his tie was his signal that he was at work – if he stayed in his jeans and t-shirt he couldn’t focus. As if the context was all wrong. He felt strong and confident in his suit. He felt playful and lazy in his jeans.

It works. So how do you want to feel when you are working? For me, comfort is key. Enter happy pants. But I also like to feel creative and silly. I like to be feeling happy when I write articles about… being happy! So I have found that when I am writing I love to wear my flower crown. It puts me in a good mood and I write accordingly.


Vision Board

Visualisation has to be the easiest and most enjoyable tool that you can use to improve
your life. Basically, the purpose of visualisation is to dream while you are awake. That’s. It. It is all about the Law of Attraction, you see. The notion that what you think you attract. What you think, you become.

I have my vision board in my office and before I sit down for work I meditate for 20 minutes then turn around and have a good look at it. It reminds me about exactly what I am working towards and who I am working for. When I look at my vision board from a year ago about 85% has manifested in my life. I am not saying that by sticking a pretty picture of a beachside cottage you are magically going to be given the keys to your dream home, but it certainly focuses and opens you to the possibilities. It keeps you motivated. It keeps you aware.

And because I love a good analogy as much as the next person, look at it this way; If
you went bird-watching in the hope of seeing a specific bird but you had no idea what
it looked like it would be awfully hard to find it, even if it landed right in front of you.

When you are crystal clear on what you want from life opportunities, people and ideas just seem to find you. [click here to tweet this]

Moral of the story: CREATE A VISION BOARD!

If you don’t know where to start, subscribe to my good vibes newsletter here to get my free eBook which contains a whole chapter of how-to’s and worksheets that guide you through the process of creating your own vision board.

Vision board

Words and Themes

AH, this old chestnut. I love it. I wrote all about choosing themes for your life here. After choosing these I displayed these write above my computer screen as my touchstones. Every time I decide to do something I check it fits with my overall plan – these words. It is like an aerial photo, reminds you of the whole picture not just want you can see in front of you.

Place your desk in the Commanding Position

The Commanding Position in Feng Shui is always the spot in the corner farthest from and not directly in front of the door. A commanding position has a strong backing i.e. a wall not a window. (This can be manipulated though – read the next point).

Watch out for Sha Chi

Sha Chi is translated to the killing or attacking of energy and is created from sharp edges oriented in the wrong direction. When you have a sharp angle at your back it is considered a poison arrow – and it weakens your energy. (note; this was about the moment that I cast a suspicious eye behind me at hte rather sharp bookcase edge slicing down my spine. Chi-killin’ bastardo – there has been a traitor in the midst).

A great way to protect yourself from Sha Chi is to create a mountain at your back. Buy a big, strong plant, with a stable base, and place it behind you. Not only does it create good energy but also absorbs the bad. It should have a smooth trunk and you can place crystals in the base for added manifestation powers.

Jug of Water on the desk

I have a beautiful antique water jug that my step-mother-in-law bought me. It is the most beautiful blue glass and has a retro gold pattern all over of it. It makes me happy every time I look at it (refer point #1) and it reminds me to drink my water all day. Win win.

Here Fishy Fishy!

Back to Feng Shui; fish attract the energy of wealth and abundance. Aquariums create harmony with the energy or wealth which is strengthened due to the fact they unite the five elements; water, wood (plants), earth (sand or stones), metal (aquarium structure) and fire (the red and golden colours of the fish). You could also place some crystals in your tank (quartz and agate don’t affect the pH).


Note: Goldfish and Siamese Fighting Fish are Sustainability Best Choice fish. They are almost exclusively bred in captivity and therefore do not threaten wild populations. However they must never be released into the wild (by choice or down the loo) as they have a significant detrimental effect on native fish populations due to parasites and their predatory behaviour.

Love your pen!

I don’t know why but whenever I write with Bic biros (specifically blue ones) my writing is nicer. Words seem to flow. It’s curly and crazy. Fountain pens, however, make my writing scratchy and unwelcoming. Similar to drawing – I NEED a 2B, 4B and 7B in my life at all times otherwise my illustrations just flop.

Do not underestimate the importance of your little friend. Choose a pen or pencil that enhances your writing and feels like a bit of luxury.


What about you? What is your number one decorating tip for an awesome office?
Hit me in the comments below!

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  • The ones of these I do already have helped me so much that I’m sure you’re other suggestions will as well. I especially love the idea of a “work tie” I’ll try it out tomorrow (I think I might go with my quartz crystal necklace and lipstick 🙂

  • Thanks for the great tips! I agree, the way you organise your office space is very important to your overall condition when you spend time in that place. This is why I am very surprised at companies, that maintain a gray, cold environments in their office, they completely destroy employee productivity and motivation, and they make working there very unpleasant and draining. I also agree, that the office space needs to be clean and organised, otherwise people get distracted easily and they spend way too much time looking for things around the mess.