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From vision to reality: the Clarke Rendall creative process

The beautiful reception desks and office furniture we create at Clarke Rendall aren’t just down to the super-skilled work of our talented designers and craftspeople — they’re also the result of our overall creative process: from vision to reality.

We see a huge part of our role as supporting our clients through the entire creative process — from receiving a brief, to delivering projects (on time and on budget) that our customers are thrilled with.

This is how we do just that.

We Get The Brief Right

The bottom line is a good brief will result in the client getting what they want — and that’s what we try to achieve each time. We try to come up with a brief that answers all the requirements the client has: whether it's from an interior design point of view, or from an operational receptionist’s point of view.

A good brief will take into account the likes and dislikes of what the client currently has and the interior design for the new fit out — wall colours, carpet colours, the look and feel of the project.

It will also ‘consult’ the day-to-day users to find out some of the requirements, such as:

  • How many people will sit there?

  • What sort of equipment will be on the desk?

  • What sort of storage will they need?

A good brief will also have information on the amount of space there is because, quite often, the requirement may not match the space that's available so we have to start thinking slightly more creatively about how we include certain things.

A harder brief to work with is one that doesn’t give any details — where someone comes along and the entire brief is simply: ‘This is the space I’ve got. Can you give me some options with the wow factor?’

When that happens, it’s up to us to pull the brief together, working alongside the client.

We Help Clients’ Perfect Their Brief

It is important to be clear at the start of your project about several key factors of reception desk specification. Get it right at the outset and it will save you, your client, and your furniture supplier, a great deal of hassle and stress.

Get it wrong, and not only can it be a painful and lengthy process, it could end up costing you money, too. This first stage is crucial to the success of all that follows, so make sure you are asking all the right questions.

We have a 5-step guide - with useful tips and hints - that holds the hand of someone who’s never sold or commissioned a reception desk before. It includes all the questions we need answered, including;

  • How many users do you need to accommodate?

  • Will it need specific equipment? PCs? Monitors? Printers?

  • We need to have provision for wheelchair users — so how can we do that?

  • Do you need shelving?

  • Are there columns on the walls we need to build around?

  • Is it a public building where potentially the desk could get some abuse?

  • Does it need to be a slightly tougher material? Or is it a more corporate ‘four or five visitors a day’ situation where the desk is just there to look good? Etc… Etc…

The guide then talks about the shape and materials needed. Photos here are so useful to show us what you like. On Pinterest, for example, there’s some great images that come up — and they’re often international images so show trends that may be new to us. Pictures are a great idea and we welcome them!

We Talk - Realistically - About Budget

Quite often a brief will come in without any sort of visibility of budget, so we will go back and ask the client - the furniture dealer - very direct questions about what their client has got to spend.

We’ll encourage them to talk to their client about price points of our standard products, just to get a feel for the response. Quite often, people don’t know what a reception desk is going to cost. It’s like pricing up your bathroom at home. There are many things you choose to have or not have that affect the price. If you go for gold taps, it’s going to be more expensive… we can make a three-metre desk for £2.5k or we can make it for £10k — depending on what the materials and the different design benefits are.

If somebody comes to us with a selection of images, our experience enables us to give a budget figure against the images. £7,000 to £8,000 for glass and illumination… or £3,000 to £4,000 if they’re looking at a simple laminate.

We help build a picture for them so they’ve got something to take to their client so we can all get an idea of where they’re at re: the budget. And once their client responds, we then know which direction to take the design in.

We Talk - Realistically - About Materials

On one particular project, we were sent a picture of a desk with a solid brass ornate screening behind it. You can imagine it took someone weeks and weeks to hand make this beautiful screen. Easily £10,000 to £15,000 worth of metal-work.

The client wanted to recreate that. We told them it was real brass and roughly how long - and how much - it would take to make that. But, we also told them if they were thinking of an item that looked like that screen, we could offer them options.

We suggested metal fret-cut panels that we’d spray or powder-coat gold so it would give a similar high-end appearance; and we also offered an alternative in MDF — with the shapes cut out of it and sprayed gold. We were able to offer a few options that would give the same look and feel but with a greater awareness of budget at a different level.

We can do this with most materials. Someone will want a beautiful stone desk but when you look at it the stone is rare and costs an absolute fortune. So we offer a synthetic stone, or a Corian acrylic stone, or laminates that look like these stone patterns.

You can give different price levels depending on how committed the client is to the design idea. We do try and keep our finger on the pulse in terms of new materials because materials change all the time and there’s always a new development that will give a solution to a problem.

We Run With The Brief

After the brief is approved and agreed, the next stage is the salesperson and the design team get together and come up with a draft of what we're going to put forward. So we would decide on finishing, decide on shape and size, decide on any of the functional features the desk has got to have, and we’d come up with a preliminary sketch of what we want. The salesperson would come out of the conversation then and the designer would be left to work up a design that suits the brief that the salesperson refined.

Bradley Fielden, our Sales & Marketing Director, sums up Clarke Rendall’s creative process ethos: ”Whether you’re an expert in interiors or someone who’s never had to build or specify a reception desk, we can help you with each step of the process. And that is very rewarding. It’s a great feeling when we help a novice through the whole process of buying and creating furniture — to help them deliver a great piece of design, built to the brief, that they’re really pleased with and eager to show off."

For advice and guidance with turning your reception desk or bespoke office joinery brief into reality, please contact us at or 01908 391600

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