Which look are you going for in your new reception area? A super-trendy ‘living wall’ made of moss? A COVID-safe glass set-up? A more traditional oak feel?
Whatever your reception area and office furniture wants and needs, we can help.
Here we discuss the pros and cons of various materials and finishes — and see which trends are on their way…
The most popular materials and finishes
Our most-requested material is High Pressure Laminate (HPL). This is a surface that’s glued and pressed to an MDF or chipboard core, giving that hard-wearing finish similar to what you’d see on a kitchen work surface. The HPL is a resin backing with a paper layer under it with any design or colour or trend you want. And then layers of resin over the top to give you that tough surface to work on.
HPL technology is moving so fast. We use companies like Egger and Formica — world-renowned for producing great colours and woodgrain finishes. They’re also moving into ‘material’ finishes so they can produce material patterns and textures.
One of the newest technologies is from a company called Arpa. Their Fenix product produces a very matte finish that doesn’t show fingerprints or smudges.
The pros of HPL are it’s cost-effective; there’s a huge choice of finishes (colours/woodgrain/materials); and it’s often a great substitute for a real material in a laminate print. So if you were trying to produce something that looks like rusty copper, say, there’ll be a laminate that looks like rusty copper that will be, probably, a fifth of the cost of sheets of real rusty copper!
Unlike some other materials, HPL is also available in small quantities — a major benefit because the average desktop piece of furniture will take maybe five sheets of laminate and if we want to mix up colours, we might only be ordering one sheet of each.
Also, with specialist materials - stone or metal, for example - we’d need to go to a metal applicator or a stone company to cut them. With HPL, we can do the cutting in-house. Cost-effective, flexible and time-efficient.
The only real con is, regardless of appearance, every HPL surface feels similar to the touch. You could create a woodgrain laminate with a marble effect and it will feel the same whereas a real wood and real stone for example, would give different temperatures and the texture would feel different.
But HPL is a great solution. That’s why we give clients the laminate and real material option.
Another popular material is solid surface and our go-to brand is DuPont Corian. Solid surface is an acrylic-based stone product and it performs like a standard stone but is made from acrylic. The patterns often have a stone-type appearance but it also comes in plain colours, too.
The big pro here is it’s extremely durable. It’s coloured all the way through, so if it gets marked or scratched it can go through a sanding process which gives a clean unmarked finish again.
Also, because of the acrylic base, you can put resin in any joints, sand it back, and it appears to have no joints.
You can’t do that with stone or laminate. Perfect if you’re making a big item that needs to look like one big piece.
The cons? The darker colours tend to show fingerprints and scratches more than other surfaces do. Plus the cost is also considerably more than the laminate finish — but it’s still way more cost-effective than using real stone.
Real wood and real wood veneer are also extremely popular and there’s actually quite a trend at the moment to use solid oak everywhere. Our Stave reception desk is being ordered a lot in oak laminate to compliment, for example.
The pros are we can provide the material from a sustainable source; we can work with it in our factory; and we can make some quite interesting things out of it! Wood is obviously a natural product so its appearance is always different — so you always get something unique.
The cons are it’s slightly less durable; it doesn’t take impact as well as stone or HPL; and it’s slightly more expensive.
Concrete is another very popular finish — especially since exposed ceilings came into fashion about 6 years ago.
Whilst it’s too heavy to cast furniture from it, we can use a micro-concrete skim to coat wooden joinery - or we use concrete-effect HPL - for this style of desk and furniture.
Emerging materials and finishes
We do the Moss product. That is definitely a trend at the moment. Foliage of any sort! Preferably naturally-preserved products as opposed to plastic.
We also get asked for lots of metal work — so things like powder-coated metals, brass, copper. Glass, too, has become popular because people, during the pandemic, wanted screen protection on their desks.
There are pros and cons for all the above. Foliage has a relatively short life and needs to be maintained; it’s expensive; and there can be some colour transfer from the preserved leaves.
With the metal, it can show dents. There’s also lots of maintenance involved if you’re going for polished brass, and if it gets scratched, the scratch remains, but this is sometimes the look people want. An industrial urban feel.
Glass obviously has to be handled with care; it would need to be toughened to be used in a public place and can be heavy and difficult to get into small buildings. Plus anything bespoke such as curving glass for a curved desk can be very expensive.
But… some people just love the look of living walls; they love when metal looks industrial and well-used and glass can look simply beautiful and we work with all of these and have plenty of examples of successful installations.
Are there other trends?
More natural textures are being requested: bark, charred timber, salvaged flooring, paper stone… the recycled, repurposed, rustic look is definitely still a trend. Painted finishes are popular, too. The Victorian ‘fielded panelling’ appearance is something we’re often asked for.
Recycling is definitely a consideration for our customers because quite often there are financial gains to be had by producing a refit that is environmentally-friendly. But, ethically, of course, sustainability is high on the agenda for all of our clients.
We are FSC-certified which means we’ve been approved to handle and complete the chain of custody of anything that’s responsibly sourced from a forest through the correct channels — so nothing will be taken from a rainforest or an area of growth that has no sustainable future.
Timber and metal can be recycled; stone can go back in the ground; and a lot of what we make is quite easily recyclable once dismantled.
If a client wanted to create something sustainable, we would discuss their requirements and offer them measurements and quantities of what we’d be making so we could tell them how much wood there is, how much plastic, which glues are used… all the information they’d need to make an informed decision.
How to choose the best material and finishes for you
You need to think about the reception/office environment and factor in the amount of traffic an area will get.
Very high traffic areas? Then we’d suggest a solid surface because the desk can be refreshed with fairly inexpensive maintenance.
The amount of light is important, too. If you’re working at a metal or stone desk in a cold environment, you’re going to find that cold and uncomfortable as a surface. You might then consider something warmer like a wood or a laminate.
Conversely, if there’s lots of sunlight you might not want to use wood because the variation in temperature might make the timber shrink and expand.
And, as Bradley Fielden, our Sales & Marketing Director, says: ‘Whatever you want, we can advise you. What our business thrives on is giving people choice — from a wide range of finishes and materials. If you’re a designer, of someone purchasing the product, you can have something different each time you think of an idea and we can explore pretty much any finish you can dream of.’
A 3m bespoke reception desk finished in Arpa Fenix Laminate with inset desktop panel wrapped in faux leather - Bordeaux Red with solid brushed brass decorative screen. The recessed panel to the front is wrapped in quilted effect faux leather.
A 2.4m wide monolithic reception counter finished in Stone Sense Calacatta Tile and Egger High Gloss Premium White laminate.
A bespoke curved reception counter finished in Glacier White Corian® and clad with a brushed solid brass sheet.
A micro-concrete coated bespoke reception desk complete with storage.