New Year, New Office!

New Year, New Office!

by Maggie Jordan and Yuri Tomikawa

Tips from therapist-decorators on how to spruce up your space.


Your office is likely one of the spaces you spend the most time in, and not only does it impact your own mental health, but the physical environment can also set the tone for sessions with clients.

If you’re thinking about making changes to your space, here’s inspiration from some of Zencare’s most beautiful offices!

1. Combine West Elm sofas with Home Goods paintings

For me, designing my office was intensely personal and rewarding.

I walked into the store knowing that the design aesthetic I wanted for my office was mid-century modern: clean, sophisticated and functional. But I was worried that it could be experienced as somewhat overly formal and cold.

In order to add warmth, I added texture, prints, and color. For the wall art, I was inspired by mindfulness practice and the psychological benefit of connecting with nature’s simple yet extraordinary gifts. The floral prints were created by artist Christine Tong. I found them on one of my discovery missions to TJ Maxx and Home Goods!
I wanted my aesthetic to be inviting, uncluttered, clean, and streamlined so that the focus is on feeling comfortable and the work that goes on within the walls, rather than being distracted by items in the space.

I didn’t want the space to be too barren or personality-less either, so I chose some accent pillows that are interesting and some art that seems to spark conversation.

I am not terribly good at interior decorating, but given that this is my business, I felt strongly that I wanted it to have a cohesive and calming feel. I looked at a lot of websites, such as West Elm and CB2, both of which have mid-century modern styles, and I tried as much as I could to copy some of the rooms I liked. I invested in the couch (from West Elm) and the rest is IKEA, clearance aisles at Home Goods, and Amazon!

 Amy Funkenstein, MD

2. Frame an inspirational quote

When I opened my practice five years ago, it was truly important to me that my patients feel a sense of peaceful strength as they walk through the door. I first made sure to select an office with fantastic natural light, and decorated with pastel colors including beige and blue to complete the calming aesthetic. I scoured the internet to find the right decor, and when I contemplated which inspirational quotes to have on my walls, I wanted to incorporate language that demonstrates empowerment and determination.

Treatment is about improvement, and improvement is about believing in yourself. My wish is always that my patients feel more hopeful and inspired when they leave my office, and I believe that the decoration in the space significantly contributes to that.
My goal for the office is to provide a welcoming vibe for all my clients. The quotes I use are not just phrases I want my clients to live by, but ones I want to live by as well.

I use lavender essential oils for a relaxing smell and pillows and blankets for more warmth and connection. I’m only drawn to accessories that I feel genuinely connected to, hence all the owl and elephant accents — I’m obsessed with them!

My inspiration comes from wanting my clients to feel the sacredness of this space. If I don’t honor this space for what it provides, both energetically and emotionally, I wouldn’t expect my clients to do that either.

I truly love my space and all that it does.

Erica Gebhart, LICSW

3. Balance design vision with goals as a practitioner

Since I was starting from scratch when decorating my office, I began by taking detailed measurements and selecting a sofa, as it is both the most central piece and the most costly.

Next, I gathered items from my home that reflect my personal design aesthetic, which is eclectic and wabi-sabi. I then tried to balance out my idealistic vision with my goals as a practitioner and limitations of the space. For example, I love artwork and plants, but I had to pare these down or risk overstimulating my clients; I had dreams of having toys, art supplies, and a sand tray, but this would mean giving up space for family therapy; I’m passionate about old, distressed furniture, but couldn’t find any pieces that would offer my clients a comfortable seat.

Intention and balance are central components to my therapeutic approach. I think the space reflects those values to my clients while providing a bright and inviting atmosphere.
The Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health was most heavy influenced by the design and style of our founder, Megan Andelloux. The space is set up to be interactive and offer many opportunities for self-directed learning. The pillows and many other objects in the center are intended to both make the space welcoming and inviting, and to introduce educationally relevant topics that can be hard to talk about.

Many of our organ pillows were made by hand and given to the center, and many others were donated by Giant Microbes or I <3 Guts, companies that make educationally focused pillows. We chose the ones that relate to sexual health whether because they’re organs (breast tissue, prostate, rectum, etc.) or because they’re STIs (we have HIV, herpes, gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, and more!).

I think the aesthetic speaks to my values as a therapist because I want people to feel welcome, to value lifelong learning, and to expect to talk about things much more openly and comfortably than is often possible in other spaces.

Kira Manser, LCSW

4. Add a splash of green

I chose this plant because I wanted to experience nature and life in my office for both myself and my patients. My office is in the heart of a city and so I want it to be a calm space that patients find refuge in during a busy day.

I also love how this plants grows and changes. My patients regularly comment on how it transforms over time. It loves the sun and is easy to maintain — I don’t do much other than water it once a week and place it next to a window!

I like a modern and simple aesthetic. One large plant makes a statement without interfering. The space feels alive and full of optimism, which is what I hope my patients feel, too.

Lauren Becker, PsyD

5. Throw paint onto a big canvas

I draw my inspiration from my mother, who is an artist and taught art all of my life in the public schools. I still love to paint, embroider, felt, and knit. I’m probably most influenced by painters like Mark Rothko, Richard Diebenkorn, Franz Kline, and Jasper Johns.

For art tools, I just head over to Blick for canvas and some acrylic paint. I don’t do anything fancy like stretch my own canvas, and usually use the house paints instead of the expensive acrylics. I do like acrylic because it’s quick to dry and I can cover mistakes. You can also add depth to paintings by layering on the paint.

I decided to decorate with my own paintings for convenience and practicality! I can create something that fits the aesthetic quickly and it’s relaxing. We have other artists’ work in the offices, and I’m always looking for more ways to make the space a calm and interesting place to be. I also have a large painting by my mother in the entry and various prints by local and national artists in the common areas.

Our design sense is modern and bright, and in the dark of winter, I like that people might feel uplifted by the space.

Stephanie Hartselle, MD

6. Make the decoration practical

I have a passion for office decor. My offices are typically furnished and decorated with secondhand items. I like to create art out of items people don’t have a use for. I also try to make the items in my office functional. I have larger pieces on the wall to help with the acoustic.s

The Mandala in this picture is actually a tapestry I stretched on a canvas. I also have it padded with sound absorbing foam, since our walls can be a bit thin. I call my style “Up-cycle Chic”!