In any workspace, creating an inspirational environment that delivers the right message to you and your clients may be the key to success

A great space can improve your physical, emotional and yes, even your financial health. For almost a year now, I’ve been sharing tips on beautifying and simplifying your space to impact the first two. Today I want to focus on the third.


In today’s competitive economic climate, setting yourself and your space apart is very important. Whether you are a small-business owner, a large corporation or an employee with your own cubicle, creating an environment that inspires you and your clients is going to help your future success.

I have two quick tips that are easy to implement, no matter how big or small your space is. By pure coincidence, both are drawn from commercial projects involving hallways. Hallways can lead you places!

Tip 1: Inspiring statements make a statement. I’ve done several columns recently on the company-wide refresh of Y. Hata & Co.’s spaces. You saw the employee lounge, two lunchrooms and the receiving areas. In this photo, you see the impact that a simple hallway can have.

Here we put on a fresh coat of paint, edited and decluttered furniture and other things, and added a takeoff on Gandhi’s famous statement. “Be the change YOU want to see” runs down the hallway in big, bold die-cut letters, with the “O” in YOU a mirror hung at eye level to send a message to employees at all levels: Look toward yourself to make a difference here.

What can you do? There are many stores around town where you can find inspirational messages to place in a lunch-room, hallway, bathroom or at the reception desk. Or find a message you like on the Internet, blow it up and put it in a picture frame. Let your employees and customers know that improvement is a way of company life.

Tip 2: Understand your clientele. 680 Ala Moana Boulevard was another project from which I shared photos and tips with you. When Kamehameha Schools asked me to stage the affordable rental project’s model unit, I first thought of whom I was designing for — younger, urban, Starbucks coffee in hand — and then aimed the decor at them.


When they walked through the front door, instead of vanilla white on the walls, they saw in the hallway a cool gray wall and accessories that would speak to them: a bench with a cute recycled newspaper dog, a driftwood wall plaque and a coat rack where I hung a man’s hat and a woman’s scarf.

If the space spoke to them, chances were higher that they would want to live there.

So, think about who you are trying to attract to your business and be sure your decor and accessories are sending the right message.


For more photos from these projects, go to If you’re interested in more on how to create spaces that will help generate success, I’m part of JLH Super Sunday training on Sunday, April 25. To register, contact the Junior League or go to

Cathy Lee is president and designer of Cathy Lee Style and Cathy’s Marketplace, a furniture and accessories showroom with design services at 1110 University Ave. She recently opened reStyle Hawaii, an affordable, style-conscious consignment warehouse with upholstering and repurposing services at 420 Keawe St. To find out more, go to