The American Cool

A look at the style icons, brands, and attitudes that define the American man

Interior Decorating For A College Professor

Instead of doing a clothing kit for the stylish professor (which I’m sure I’ll get to at some point), I decided to try my hand at a little freestyle interior decorating. The vision I have of the ideal college professor’s office is far from what I currently see in academia. Those ugly black cloth-bound books on incredible esoteric topics (“Sales and Marketing of Peanut-Based Snack Foods, 1993 – 1997″) fill the shelves of boring offices with standard-issue desks and chairs and carpeting that fails to reflect any kind of contemporary style, but instead tells us what was on sale when the building was erected.

My ideal office is rooted in the offices of great professors of the Ivy League and respected schools in England and parts of Europe, not the utilitarian space-savers found in budget-conscious schools today. You won’t get the university to pick up the tab here, but you might just create an environment that will have students actually wanting to come to your office hours. Read below for details on everything in the graphic:

1. Omersa Abercrombie & Fitch Rhinoceros Ottoman/Footstool. There’s really no functional reason why, but I’ve always found these interesting. Ever since I saw a picture of Edie Sedgwick balancing on top of one of these rhinos I’ve wanted to own one. You can occasionally find one on eBay selling for under $1,000. Don’t underestimate the value of a good conversation piece.

2. Vintage cloth pull-down map. These are the types of maps you might remember if you went to school between 1930 and 2005. Now teachers just hook computers up to a projector and can show their students maps of just about anywhere in the world. Back in the good ol’ days, they had to choose their backs carefully, because the school could only afford a select number of them. I prefer the maps that are really out of date and show a bunch of countries that don’t exist anymore. Look for names like Nystrom and Denoyer-Geppert. You should be able to find something nice for under $100 on “the Bay”.

3. Old World Globe Bar. This one isn’t for office hours. After the students have all left for the day you need a sneaky way to unwind, especially if you’re stuck on a dry campus. If you tell your colleagues about this they’ll probably be inviting themselves over at about the same time every night. $150 – $400

4. Traditional bookcase. Forget about that junk shelf that was already in your office. Chances are that old thing is too beat up to use in your garage. Add some old school charm with a bookshelf made with wood. You’ll probably only find laminate wood if you’re buying new and not looking to spend thousands, but keep your eyes peeled and you might find something nice on Craigslist or at a local yard sale. $500 – $1,000.

5. Easton Press 100 Greatest Books collection. You need something to fill those bookcases. Remember how I was ranting about those ugly esoteric books? These books are the real deal. Leather-bound and classics. They’ll look great on your bookshelf, and they’ll provide inspiration no matter what your specialty. The whole set can be found for $3,000 – $4,500 on eBay, but you can find individual books from Easton Press for under $40 apiece.

6. Beige geometric rug. You need something to cover up that ugly carpet. There are some decent rugs on Overstock with contemporary patterns but traditional colors. It kind of has that “retro cool” look but you know it won’t be out of place 20 years from now. $213.

7. Thomas Jefferson bust. I know, I’m all about the conversation pieces. This would look great on your desk or on the bookshelf. You don’t have to go with Thomas Jefferson — there are busts of just about every great politician or thinker. Maybe you’ll decide to be ironic and get a Richard Nixon or Gerald Ford bust. They make those as well. $20 – $200, depending on size and material.

8. Mahogany desk. I found this one on etsy. It’s got that mid-20th century cool look that fits right in with this office. You might have to scour Craigslist or other etsy listings to find one that’s right for you. $950 with shipping.

9. 1960s IBM School Clock. These take me back to my youth. I probably wasted a total of six months of my life staring at one of these. They have now been re-issued at the astronomically-high price of $235 on a site called Schoolhouse Electric, but if you look around you can probably find a still-working original for far less than that. I saved one from a campus building that was torn down a decade ago.

10. Manchester Swivel chair. Those black plastic mesh ergonomic chairs just won’t look right in this office, but you still need something comfortable. The chair listed is from Pottery Barn and retails for $700. I bet with some searching you can find something just as good for considerably less.

11. Fiddleleaf Fig tree. You need something living and green in your office. This ficus does not require a lot of maintenance and won’t shed leaves all over the place like some plants. Have it on your desk until it reaches a height where you can put it on the floor and it won’t look like you dropped it there and forgot to pick it up. These are $8 on Amazon, but you can probably find suitable alternatives at Home Depot/Lowes.

12. Apple Macbook. If you’re going to be on a college campus, you have to have a Macbook. I think that’s actually a law now in 34 states. These can handle the workload of just about all college professors and they are a lot sleeker than those cumbersome and ugly pc desktops. $1,000 – $2,500, depending on model and options.

13. Herman Miller Eames Lounge and Ottoman. This would be that giant thing at the bottom of the graphic. It’s my favorite piece of furniture of all-time, and one of the most aesthetically pleasing objects created in the 20th century. Designed by the Eames brothers for Herman Miller, this iconic piece sells for between $2,000 and $5,000, depending on condition. You can buy it new or in vintage condition. Don’t let your students use this. Sit back and relax and make them use one of those college-issue chairs.

Tagged as: college professor, eames lounge, interior decorating, office

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