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Creating a comfortable work zone
Times staffers add color to cubicles
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Obituaries clerk Meredith Pruitt won the best overall prize in The Times’ cubicle decorating contest.

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When you consider the fact that The Times newsroom was once a parking deck, it’s really not so bad.

Parking spaces were replaced by cubicles long ago, but few tell-tale signs still exist such as the wall of concrete support beams and the same rough, gray bricks covering the building’s exterior. Couple that with row after row of gray cubicle partitions, a lack of windows and the never-ending stacks of paper and you’ve got a recipe for boredom — at best.

So, in an effort to make the place where Times staffers spend so much time a bit more comfortable than an old parking lot, the newsroom had a contest.

The news staff was given two weeks to turn their desks into a home away from home. And because The Times strives for fairness, the contest was dividing into categories. The winners were:

Best overall: Meredith Pruitt, obituaries clerk

Pruitt’s job is dreary enough without the pallid partitions. To help liven up her workspace, she hung fabric with prints of birds and tree limbs and made a small window box out of foam board to create a “view.”

Pruitt said she used nature as her inspiration and tried to make the space feel more connected to the outdoors.

“I am very excited to get rid of the gray and a little something I call the ‘orange plague’ which is my sticky notes everywhere,” Pruitt said.

Though she shares her space with part-time obituaries clerk Charles Phelps, the two haven’t had any disagreements about new look. Phelps said the only thing he would change is the view from the window. Instead of a tree, he said he wouldn’t mind looking at a golf course.

Second place: Alana Swain, newsroom assistant

Swain said she spends a lot of time surfing through ideas on Pinterest, an online photo-sharing website. Since she had plenty of craft paper, lace, twine and ribbon at home she found a way to combine them and create an attractive space for herself.

“I sort of like that it was a rustic, Southern vintage kind of thing,” Swain said. “I’m always kind of attracted to that kind of thing.”

While sorting through the incoming calls and rushing to manage the busy office, Swain said it helps to have a few reminders about the good things in life. It makes her feel more settled into her work.

“I feel like it’s more bright and cheery,” Swain said. “It definitely helps to have pictures of my friends and my kitty. It gives you something to look at during the day that’s more homey, personalized. It make you feel like it’s your own space.”

Best use of color: Shannon Casas, metro editor, and Chelsea Tench, copy editor

The monochrome color pallet might be great for newsprint, but some editors felt stifled by it at their desks.

Casas “punched up” her space by adding colored fabric to the walls. She used her mouse pad as inspiration for her light blue and orange patterned space.

Tench said “matchy-matchy” colors and patterns are her nightmare so she tried to be fearless in combining colors and textures. For Tench, it’s not about what looks best but about what feels best.

“I wanted my desk to be a fun, bright, creative place to be around,” Tench said. “But also be a reflection of my style, since I’m here all the time. I think it’s important to be in a creative environment that inspires you and that’s what I tried to do with my desk.”

Messiest: Sarah Mueller, government reporter

As many a reporter before her, Mueller’s desk has managed to maintain a cluttered sophistication.

“The desk itself lends help to bring out certain characteristics of its possessors,” Mueller said. “It craves paper and acts like a magnet to attract piles of it. Also, the way the phone cord tangles up on itself adds to the stress of the very busy person sitting there. Which makes it impossible to find the time to clean it.”

To highlight the effect, Mueller attached black and white skeleton tape to the outside of her desk.

“My decorating style was really to do the least amount of time and work possible to achieve the maximum effect,” Mueller said. “Clearly the mess on my desk would have showed my personality, but not my style. Adding the skeletons allowed a fun and slightly dark side of myself to shine through.”

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