Literature in Workspace: Incorporating Bookish Elements into Office Designs

Fusing the Timeless Allure of Books with Modern Office Aesthetics

Wilbur Greene
Oct 4, 2023
8 min read

In the age of open offices, ergonomic chairs, and remote work, the design of our workspaces has never been more in focus. Our surroundings, after all, play a significant role in our productivity, creativity, and overall well-being. One trend that's been gaining traction is the melding of the traditional and the contemporary by infusing workspace designs with elements reminiscent of literature and books.

While some might envision an office as a place of strict professionalism, devoid of the whimsy and wonder of novels and tales, others see an opportunity to blend the two worlds. After all, stories have the power to inspire, motivate, and transport us to different realms. Why not bring that magic into the place where we spend a significant portion of our days? The idea isn't merely about stacking books on a shelf but about integrating the very essence of literature – its depth, its character, its boundless imagination – into the fabric of our working environments. In this piece, we'll explore how literary elements can be artfully woven into office designs, making spaces that not only function efficiently but also inspire and uplift their occupants.

The Psychological Impact of Literary Spaces

In a world dominated by technology and digital screens, the tactile, warm presence of books and literary-inspired designs can be a breath of fresh air. This isn't merely an aesthetic choice; there's a deeper psychological play at work. Literature has always been a source of escape, inspiration, and learning. When these elements seep into our workspace, the effects can be profoundly positive.

Firstly, being surrounded by bookish designs can serve as a constant reminder of the vast world of knowledge and creativity that exists outside the confines of our daily tasks. This can be a potent source of motivation, fostering a mindset of continuous learning and innovation. When one feels connected to centuries of thinkers, writers, and innovators, it can elevate one's approach to even the most mundane tasks.

Moreover, literary spaces have a grounding effect. Just as reading can be a form of escape, a literary environment can act as a calming anchor, offering a reprieve from the high-paced, often stressful nature of office life. The mere sight of book spines, famous literary quotes on walls, or artwork inspired by classic novels can provide moments of reflection and peace.

Key Elements of a Literary Workspace

Office designs have evolved from the drab, grey cubicles of the 20th century to vibrant, open spaces that inspire and engage. But nothing quite matches the quiet elegance and charm of integrating literary elements. Here's how you can transform your office into a writer's dream.

Bookshelves and Libraries

Adding greenery with your bookshelves can be a welcoming touch.

Whether they stretch grandly from floor to ceiling or wrap cosily around a quiet corner, bookshelves bring a sense of character and warmth to any space. But it's not just about aesthetics. In an office setting, these shelves serve as reservoirs of knowledge, sparking curiosity and promoting continuous learning.

Imagine taking a break from your screen, reaching out for a random book, and diving into a new world for a few minutes. It's rejuvenating. Furthermore, rotating libraries can add dynamism to the workspace. By encouraging employees to bring in books from home and take others in exchange, it creates a sense of community and shared learning. Communal book exchanges can become monthly events, where employees discuss favourite reads, share recommendations, and bond over literary classics and the latest bestsellers.

Literary Art and Decor

Hachette UK's London Office

Stepping into a workspace adorned with literary art is like diving into the pages of a favourite book. Artworks inspired by literary classics, elegant portraits of iconic authors, and thought-provoking quotes framed on the walls can set the mood, invoking a sense of nostalgia and inspiration. But it's not just about the visuals on the wall; it's about creating an ambiance.

Imagine a vintage typewriter stationed at a communal spot, waiting for anyone to type a spontaneous note, or classic quills that transport one back to the bygone era of handwritten letters. By adding book-related artefacts, you're not just decorating a space; you're telling a story, invoking curiosity, and inviting conversation. Such decor elements serve as conversation starters, bridging gaps between employees of different departments and backgrounds, all while celebrating the timeless beauty of literature. Whether it's a snippet from Shakespeare that motivates or an old typewriter that reminds one of the evolution of storytelling, literary art and decor breathe life and soul into the modern workspace.

Reading Nooks and Corners

Co-working spaces on Greyfriars Rd, Reading, UK

In today's workspaces, a serene reading nook can serve as an oasis. These cosy corners, adorned with plush cushions, ambient lighting, and a selection of intriguing books, offer employees a respite from their desks. It's a place where one can curl up, momentarily escape the office chatter, and delve into another world or simply gather their thoughts.

Having such designated quiet areas not only promotes the habit of reading but also underscores the importance of taking mental breaks. These nooks become a hub for relaxation, introspection, and even informal brainstorming. They remind employees that amidst deadlines and deliverables, there's a space that values slowing down, reflecting, and recharging. After all, some of the best ideas come when you're nestled in a comfy chair, lost in thought or the pages of a book.

Thematic Room Designs

Classic Literature Rooms

Office designs that transport you to another era? Yes, please! By taking cues from classic literature periods such as Gothic, Renaissance, or Romantic, conference rooms can be transformed into portals to bygone epochs. Imagine walking into a meeting in a room adorned with Gothic arches, or brainstorming amidst Renaissance art. Such settings not only offer aesthetic pleasure but also immerse employees in a rich tapestry of cultural history, fostering a deeper appreciation for literary traditions.

Genre-based Spaces

Let your workspace's design tell a story! Genre-specific areas can spice up the office landscape. Think of lounges echoing the enigmatic aura of mystery novels, breakout areas sprinkled with the whimsy of fantasy tales, or brainstorming pods that resonate with futuristic vibes of sci-fi works. These genre-inspired designs can not only inspire creativity but also offer employees a playful escape from the monotony, even if just for a brief moment.

Author-inspired Cabins

For a truly unique touch, why not design spaces reflecting the essence of famous authors or replicating their own writing rooms? Perhaps a cabin mimicking Virginia Woolf's writing shed or a workspace radiating the vibrant energy of Mark Twain's study. By immersing oneself in an environment reminiscent of these literary giants, one might just find the inspiration needed for that next big project or idea. After all, if the space was good enough for them, who's to say it won't spark brilliance in today's creative minds?

Literature-based Collaborative Activities

Book Clubs and Reading Sessions

There's no better way to foster a sense of community than gathering around a good book. Setting up book clubs within the office can offer employees not only a respite from the daily grind but also a platform to exchange ideas, develop critical thinking, and bond over shared (or differing!) literary tastes. Such reading sessions, whether they cover fiction, non-fiction, or industry-related texts, become melting pots of diverse perspectives. It's here that Jane from accounting, who adores historical novels, might debate with Ravi from marketing, a die-hard sci-fi fan, about character arcs. The result? Richer conversations, better team dynamics, and a workforce that values continuous learning.

Writing Workshops

Pen mightier than the keyboard, anyone? While we're surrounded by digital communications, the age-old art of writing – crafting narratives, penning thoughts, or simply jotting down ideas – still holds a charm. Hosting writing workshops can tap into this charm, allowing employees to hone their communication skills. And who better to guide them than authors themselves? Inviting writers for interactive sessions can be immensely beneficial. They can shed light on the nuances of storytelling, helping employees articulate better, be it in reports, emails, or presentations. Moreover, these workshops can unlock latent creativity, ensuring that the office isn't just a space of logic and numbers but also of imagination and stories.

Case Studies: Companies Embracing Literary Designs

Publishing Houses

Where better to witness a seamless marriage of work and literature than at a publishing house? Given their innate connection to books, many publishing companies revel in environments that celebrate literary heritage. From vintage Penguin Classics posters adorning the walls to alcoves named after iconic authors, their spaces often exude a deep reverence for the written word. Furthermore, it's not uncommon to find communal reading areas with a selection of upcoming releases, allowing employees to immerse themselves in the latest narratives, ensuring they’re always in tune with the heart of their industry.

Tech Companies

Surprisingly, it's not just the old-world charm of publishing houses that have succumbed to the allure of literature. Even the high-tech corridors of Silicon Valley aren't immune. Companies like Google and Apple, known for their modernist aesthetics, have found ways to pay homage to literary classics. For instance, meeting rooms named after iconic science fiction authors or bookshelf-lined lounges where coders can take a break with Asimov or Bradbury. These tech giants recognize that even in a digital age, the wisdom and creativity of literature can inspire innovation.

Startups and Co-working Spaces

In the bustling world of startups and co-working spaces, where agility and innovation are king, literary elements provide a grounding balance. These modern workspaces, catering to a diverse clientele, often adopt thematic designs to make areas distinct. It’s here you might stumble upon a J.K. Rowling room with floating candles or a Hemingway-inspired cafe serving cocktails from the 1920s. By weaving literature into their design, these spaces not only offer a visual treat but also foster a culture that values depth, history, and storytelling amidst the fast-paced startup hustle.

Challenges and Considerations

Incorporating literary elements into workspace designs, while charming, is not without its challenges. Here's what to be mindful of:

Balancing Functionality with Design: As enchanting as a wall-to-wall bookshelf might seem, one must remember the primary function of a workspace – work. Offices need to be spaces that foster productivity, collaboration, and innovation. A room that's too reminiscent of a 19th-century library, while atmospheric, may not be conducive to a tech brainstorming session. The design should enhance the work experience, not hinder it. For instance, while a vintage typewriter can be a lovely decorative piece, it shouldn't replace a functional keyboard.

Ensuring Spaces are Inclusive: Literature, by its very nature, is vast and varied. What resonates with one might not with another. An office dominated by Shakespearean sonnets could feel alienating to someone whose literary preferences lean towards contemporary Afrofuturism or Latin American magic realism. It's vital to ensure that the literary elements chosen reflect the diverse tastes and backgrounds of the people working there. Perhaps a rotating theme, curated bookshelves, or spaces that allow employees to share their favourite quotes can make the literary decor more inclusive and dynamic

Embracing literature within office aesthetics is more than a nod to nostalgia. It's an acknowledgment of the profound impact stories have on the human psyche. By infusing workspaces with literary elements, companies not only enrich the physical environment but also foster a culture that values introspection, creativity, and a connection to the broader tapestry of human experience.

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