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Published: Sunday, 7/21/2002

Their little corner of the world: Personal touches brighten office cubicles

BY ANN WEBER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Amy Campbell decorated her office at AAA of Northwest Ohio with photographs of her two children and Campbell Soup memorabilia. Amy Campbell decorated her office at AAA of Northwest Ohio with photographs of her two children and Campbell Soup memorabilia.
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Dozens of people fit quite comfortably into Det. Ann Smith's little cubicle at the Toledo Police Division's Northwest District Station.

Her family, her friends, her fellow hoofers from the Manhattan Dance Co. in Maumee. A couple of Broadway stars. New York City firefighters.

And still there's room for a few stuffed animals, a dance competition trophy, and a pot of plastic daisies that twirl and bob to “In The Mood” at the push of a button.

This small, three-sided box is more than just a place to work. It's a slice of her life - just as many other offices and cubicles throughout the area reflect the lives and loves of their occupants. Some people erect a firm wall between job and home; others, like Detective Smith, use their workspace to express their individuality and tack up reminders of what matters to them most.

Office planners and decorators advise a light touch, however.

“Less is more,” said Meredith Herschel, interior designer with Commercial Interiors and director of the International Interior Design Association in Toledo. Limit the array to a couple of things that are important to you, such as a photo of the family in a tasteful frame, she suggested. That also will help contain clutter, she pointed out.

And Jennifer Hrosko, an interior designer for Navigating Business Space in Northwood, noted that the workplace “is not supposed to be your home. It's supposed to be a professional environment.”

Some business owners set protocols for workspaces. Some won't allow employees to tack anything on the walls of the office or cubicle, she said.

Ms. Hrosko said in her work she sees more of the decor “don'ts” than the “do's.” Standouts include a cubicle that held a doll collection; another was draped with Christmas lights.

The message to the boss can be that you don't take your job seriously, Ms. Hrokso said. “People have to analyze what is appropriate.”

Detective Smith said that her pictures, posters, and other odds and ends spirit her away at times from the grim assignments in the personal assault unit.

She's happy to take visitors along - back to her daughter's baccalaureate, her granddaughter's first dance recital, a July day at Round Lake with her brother and nieces, a trip to Universal Studios in Los Angeles, a solemn pilgrimage to Ground Zero in New York City.

“It's kind of an escape,” she said. “It takes my mind off some of the cases I deal with.”

Downtown, at the law firm of Spengler Nathanson, attorney Stasia Hanson decorates her office with artwork created by her daughter Julia, 12.

“It really brightens up the office, and it's just fun,” Mrs. Hanson said. “It makes it more homey.”

Her workplace gallery includes a life-sized, craft-paper figure of Julia, at about the age of 6, that they made together in a class at the Toledo Museum of Art. She also framed a couple of Julia's self-portraits for the walls and uses an assortment of the young artist's ceramic pots to hold paper clips and pencils on her desk.

Mrs. Hanson has a shelf of traditional family photos as well, including one of husband Paul and their golden retriever Ziggy, but it is Julia's artwork that catches co-workers' eyes.

“They like it. It's fun to look at, and the reactions are generally always positive,” Mrs. Hanson said.

At McKinley Elementary School, students who are sent to the principal's office may think they've stumbled upon a shrine to Cleveland athletics.

Principal John Korenowsky grew up on the south side of Cleveland and has been rooting for the Indians and Browns since his dad started taking him to games around the age of 4. In his office is an assortment of poster-size pictures; a Browns helmet that former center Mike Baab autographed when he spoke to McKinley students two years ago; a framed ticket from the Indians' first playoff game in 1995, against the Boston Red Sox, and the program from the first game at the Browns' new stadium (Sept. 12, 1999; Browns vs. Steelers). The surface of his bulletin board is covered with Indians and Browns logo wrapping paper, serving as background for badges, pennants, and school papers.

He also has devoted some room to golf, including autographs and posters he has acquired during 13 years of working at the Jamie Farr Kroger Classic and souvenirs from pro-am events he has played in.

Mr. Korenowsky claims a few Cleveland converts at McKinley, as well as rivals. “The kids razz me at times,” he said. But they also know how to butter up the principal. Mr. Korenowsky said when he sees a student wearing Browns or Indians gear, “I tell them, `You get an A for the day.'”

Leslie Cheeseman and Amy Campbell share a cubicle and a decorating style at AAA Northwest Ohio on West Central Avenue.

On Mrs. Campbell's side, daughter Madison, 4, and son Colton, 7 months, are the stars.

She takes a moment to count the photos on the walls and desktop - 19 in all. “It helps people smile and laugh because they get to see something fun,” said Mrs. Campbell, group membership sales representative.

She also has a collection of Campbell's Soup merchandise, including a lunchbox, Campbell's Kids Beenie Babies, and a recipe holder that she uses for business cards.

Miss Cheeseman, senior renewal specialist, calls the cheerful collection on her side “my window on my world. People can see me and I can see my family and friends and little knick-knacks.”

She has pictures of her brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, and two dogs. She has AAA promotional items such as buttons and key chains. She has a white bulletin board on which she writes sales figures and sticks smiley face and Winnie the Pooh window clings. She has a little bunny pin and a ring in the shape of a spider.

A cardboard butterfly hangs from the light; a Styrofoam airplane sits on the desk. A Post-It note declares that “Going to work isn't that bad ... It's having to stay there that stinks.”

“You need things,” Miss Cheeseman said. “People come by and they'll go, `Are these your dogs, or is this your family, or where did you get this?'”

The pictures, trinkets, and doo-dads lift her spirits. “They're little things that make me smile,” she added.

And if AAA has any restrictions on how employees can decorate their space, she doesn't know of them.

“I think if there were, I'd be in trouble by now,” Miss Cheeseman added.



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