Eight or nine years ago, we had grown to the point where we needed a second 10,000-square foot floor. Before reviewing any blueprints, however, I decided the new space should reflect my self-deprecating, somewhat irreverent ways as well as my personal hobby of performing stand-up comedy. In other words, it had to be an "office named Steve" in which Steve (that's me) felt completely at home. After all, a comfortable Steve is a productive Steve.

So, I had Montroy Andersen DeMarco create a workspace that featured high ceilings, exposed ductwork and a way cool staircase connecting the two floors. They also baked-in private phone booths as well as conference rooms with bay windows and such creative names as the theatre, the porch and the living room.

The end result was a workplace that made me feel right at home and attracted the type of people I wanted working for me.

But hey, I haven't cornered the market on personalized workspace. You, too, can make your office match your personality.

To help you decide what's what, I spoke with Amanda VanDuyn, an interior designer at Turnstone, a Steelcase brand and Peppercomm client. I asked her how she'd personalize a workspace that would match three totally different types of legendary leaders: Napoleon, Mother Teresa and Steve Jobs.

The Waterloo kid. If your childhood photographs often depicted you with one hand tucked inside your size small tunic, wearing your hair with a slight curl adorning the forehead, or whiling away your hours maneuvering toy soldiers that routinely beat the Duke of Wellington's at Waterloo, then VanDuyn suggests a workspace that:

1.) Has lots of private offices with dark wooden doors that can be kept closed during working hours.

2.) Boasts high-end upholstery for office chairs and couches (upon which you could envision the Empress Josephine happily reclining).

3.) Features built-in bookshelves boasting hardbound copies of some of the world's greatest works of literature.

Your dress code would be formal, employees would present themselves as buttoned-up professionals, and whispers would be considered shouts (and frowned upon at all times). Laughter would be permitted only after you'd landed a big account, or if a hapless employee should somehow embarrass herself by slipping and falling on the hardwood floor. Visitors would describe your office as reserved, solemn and all business.

The great humanitarian. If you grew up believing receiving was far better than giving, volunteering for community service was the highlight of any weekend, and debates should end with a happy consensus, then VanDuyn says the following office layout would fit you like a well-worn halo:

4.) Décor that uses lots of colors projects a sophisticated palette but never so extreme as to offend anyone. Dedicated workstations that are scattered about in no discernable pattern and reclaimed wood that projects a retro-industrial feel one would find at the bar around the corner.

5.) Prominently displayed DIY projects that were locally-sourced and featured products, services or foodstuffs grown within a 10-mile radius.

6.) A dedicated space that celebrates employees' accomplishments, featuring lots of photographs of smiling faces AND published sales numbers, profitability, etc.

Your dress code would be business casual. There'd be an endless array of cool, after-work events that provide enough beer and wine to satiate the Eighth Army as well as TV monitors tuned to the employees' network of choice. Visitors would describe your workspace as possessing a personalized, human feel that beautifully mirrors your local community.

The NextGen Jobs. If you grew up seeing yourself as a Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates all rolled into one who never cared about your appearance, running with the pack or studying stuff in school you deemed mundane at best, then VanDuyn says this type of workspace would best reflect your personality:

7.) A slide that's been installed next to the stairway for employees who want to channel their inner kindergarten selves. Swings suspended from ceilings in communal spaces. Hammocks and bean bags for mid-day siestas critical to recharging one's batteries to work well into the wee hours. And, of course, tents, RVs and treehouses in which to hold brainstorming sessions.

8.) Walls that aren't really walls because they're actually repurposed FedEx shipping containers or someone's discarded garage door.

9.) Exposed bricks, HVAC systems, unisex restrooms, beams, lofts and anything else that underscores the bohemian type of lifestyle your workspace should reflect.

There would be no dress code as such. PJs, robes and flip-flops would rule the day while employees sporting docksiders, khaki shorts and buttoned down shirts would be sent packing. And visitors would depart with their jaws agog, exclaiming, "I've just seen the workplace of tomorrow and it is beyond cool."

There is no right or wrong when it comes to designing a workspace. But, make no mistake, it's a critical component in your organization's overall success. Entrepreneurs should think long and hard about designing one that accurately reflects their substance, style and world view. To do otherwise would only confuse employees, clients and recruits alike. And, business is tough enough without sending a conflicting message because you chose the wrong office design to reflect your personality.

Published on: Feb 21, 2017
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