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Be careful with your choice of wall paint colour – pale browns can look very pink

At Octopus we decorate a lot of office interiors, usually in brilliant white, magnolia, off-whites such as timeless or RAL 9010,  various shades of grey or really bold accent colours to meet customers’ specific tastes or to match company colours. But until now, never have we been asked to use Natrual Taupe.

A customer of ours recently instructed us to decorate their London office walls in Dulux Natural Taupe 4. They had already purchased a sample pot and painted a small patch of wall just to be sure, and it came out just as they expected – a slightly off-white pale beige appearance, exactly what they were after.  My decotators set about painting the entire office and it was only when I went in to check on progress a couple of days later, after they had already completed 2 full coats, that I suspected that perhaps this wasn’t the colour our customer was expecting.  It was, most definitely, a pale pink!  This was not just my opinion but that too of everyone else who subsequently looked at it. Interestingly, I first saw it at 6am on a winter’s morning under artificial office lighting, and as daylight began filling the space, it started to look less pink, but one lesser or greater shade of pink or another it remained regardless of light levels in the office.

My first reaction was mild panic. We were fitting the new carpets the following day and having the new desks and chairs installed a day after that.  If we had to re-decotate the office it could be a complete disaster.  Had we ordered the wrong paint? Had our supplier mixed the wrong colour by mistake or was their paint mixing machine faulty?  I rushed down to a different supplier and got them to mix a small sample pot (I wasn’t going to risk going to our regular supplier and getting them to mix another one just in case their machine was faulty and gave us an identical repeat of the wrong colour), and I also took away an official Dulux colour card. To my relief, the new paint matched exactly, as did the colour card.  So, as it turned out, a paint colour that appeared almost white on a small test patch and sample card, was pink when applied to a large wall area.

To test this further, I collected a handful of colour cards from Homebase whilst doing my weekend supermarket shop at Sainsbury’s next door, taking a selection from the ‘browns’ of which Natural Taupe 4 was one, and another selection from the neutrals/greys.  Outside in the car park in natural daylight and held up against my white car, all of the palest brown colours of each range did indeed look slightly pink.

The result:  After the carpets and furniture were fitted, we had to put down full carpet protection and dust covers everywhere, mask up and start again in a different colour in ultra quick time. We got paid for it as our customer acknowledged that it was not our error, but we would rather have not had to go through this for our own sake as well as our customer’s as it involved a lot of extra effort and very tight & unexpected deadlines.

The lesson:  The lightest shades of brown can and do look pink. The greater the amount of daylight, the lesser the effect. The lower the level of natural daylight and the warmer the artificial lighting, the deeper the shade of pink becomes.  Other factors that can effect the appearance are the texture of the walls and the type of paint. A flat matt compared with a silk or eggshell in exactly the same colour will look different due to the amount of light reflection.

Conclusion:  If it’s your home, experiment by starting small and expanding to the whole area if it looks ok. If it’s your office, play it safe and go white or as neutral as possible (or very bold with accent walls if you dare!), but don’t take the chance with pale colours over large areas unless you’re absolutely sure.  If you get it wrong at home, it’s probably a minor inconvenience. If you get it wrong in the office, you might be preventing your business from functioning properly until you reslove the problem.

Sit-Stand Desks – Are they worth it?

Everyone is talking about sit-stand desks. All the office furniture manufacturers offer them and, it seems, are pushing like crazy trying to get us to buy them. Walk into any showroom in Clerkenwell and you’ll see these things prominently displayed – not just one but often a large bench configuration featuring 4 or 6 desks occupying a considerable amount of prime showroom space.  But are they worth it, does anyone buy them and should you be buying them?

As an office desking supplier, I’d love it if all my customers bought Sit-Stand desks rather than conventional ones. We’d increase our turnover and profit three or four fold!  But they don’t and it boils down to cost.  One of our standard desks will cost you around £150, whereas a light duty electrically operated desk comes in at around £400 and a heavy duty/bench type at £600 plus.  That’s more than 4 times the cost of a regular desk and most businesses are simply not able to justify it.

But cost aside, do they offer benefits and if we could afford them, should we have them?  The answer is probably yes to both questions.  Quite what and how much benefit these desks deliver is open to debate but for sure at least some of your employees would use them as intended. And even if it brings no obvious physical health benefit but instead gives the employee a sense of wellbeing (the fact that you’ve made an investment in something on their behalf that they believe is doing them some good), then of course it’s worth it –  happy workers are productive workers and all that!  Studies have been done into the benefits of alternating between sitting and standing at a desk but no doubt more needs to be done before we see conclusive facts and figures.  But I suggest that much of the justification centres around the already well established and universally accepted knowledge that sitting at a desk in a static position for the best part of 8 hours a day is not all that good for your back or your fitness.  Absolutely, I’ll go along with that! Having spent 40 years doing competitive rowing and also playing rugby in my youth, my back needs to be treated with care and long durations of sitting or standing really doesn’t help me.

So, we’ve always been told to take breaks from sitting and get up and walk around to exercise the spine, muscles and joints.  But of course people for whom work is predominantly desk-bound can’t keep going off for a stroll otherwise they’re not going to get their work finished, so a height adjustable sit-stand desk is the obvious solution to the problem!

But before we start thinking that a £600+ desk is going to be the answer to work-related back problems, it’s probably correct to say that it is just part of a solution that might benefit some people.

The other, and in my opinion more fundamental part of the solution, would be to make sure that whilst people are sitting at their desks, they have a chair that provides a high degree of support and functionality, and that they have adjusted it correctly and are using it as intended!  In other words, a decent ergonomic task chair with all the adjustments, support and mechanisms that aid good sitting.  If your budget is limited and you really can’t extend it to sit-stand desks, then spend as much money as you can afford on Synchronous Mechanism Task Chairs or other advanced ergonomic chairs instead and make sure your staff receive instruction on how to use them.  This will at least help to minimise the negative aspects of sitting down and just maybe your staff won’t develop the back niggles in the first place that lead to them needing to stand up or walk around at regular intervals!

To conclude.  If you can afford it, treat your entire office to Sit-Stand desks and high quality ergonomic task chairs.  If you can’t justify the sit stand desks, then spend as much as you can afford on ergonomic chairs.  Your staff will be appreciate it and you may just get more out of them in return.

The Problem with Bench Desking

I’ve written about this before – Bench Desks, a good investment? Perhaps not – but after a number of recent complications with decorating and the fitting of new carpet tiles in offices I feel compelled to write again and highlight the issues.

Yes, we sell bench desking, and we do so because our manufacturers make them, our customers often want them and no matter what we say to deter them they have them anyway, and there are, of course, a number of compelling reasons for having them.  BUT, there are also a number of reasons to avoid them.

A few weeks ago, we were called in to quote for re-decorating an office.  Because it is an operational office, decorating work would have to take place during a weekend and everything had to be back in position on Monday morning so that the staff could continue with their daily work without disruption.  The desks were positioned within a few inches of the walls that needed to be decorated – too close to be able to even push a paint roller between the wall and the desk let alone allowing enough space for our decorators to stand and carry out a proper job.  The desks would therefore have to be moved but they were bench desks and each bench fitted neatly between the wall and a pillar in the centre of the room.  Because of this, they couldn’t be shifted away from the wall and the only solution would have been to clear everything off them and box it all up and then dismantle every desk.  There simply wouldn’t be enough time to do this, get the office decorated and then re-assemble and  re-position all the desks during a weekend.  The net result is that the company still has unpainted walls and is still deliberating as to what to do. Had they had individual desks, we could have very easily just pulled the end desks out from the cluster and decorated the walls.

The next experience was almost identical to the previously mentioned situation except that this time there was sufficient space to move the desks away from the walls into the main aisle. But they were immensely heavy and couldn’t be moved without first clearing everything away to avoid damage, and employing additional people to lift them.  Due to time constraints (again trying to get everything done and back to normal again during a single weekend), the operational procedure of getting everything ready for the works and then re-instating it at the end was almost as extensive as the decorating work itself.  The following additional steps would have to be employed:

  1. Unplug from floorboxes all computers, phones and electrical equipment
  2. Clear all desktops and pack away into labelled packing crates
  3. Clear everything from under the desks and pack away
  4. Label computers, phones and remove and store in a safe place
  5. Employ an additional 2-4 men to help lift and shift the desks without damage to the floor or desks, or injury to the people carrying out this work
  6. Repeating all these procedures at the end of the weekend to put everything back again.

The above could have been limited to clearing just a handful of desks had they have been individual units.  Again, this company has had to put off their plans to decorate their office because the process was too complicated and costly.

An finally, we had a recent experience in re-carpeting a fully operational office with bench desks (we have had to do this a number of times before I might add, so it was not a new experience too us).  What we would usually do is to work in areas by shifting all the furniture into another area, carpeting the cleared area and then shifting everything back again and working on another area.  But this is assuming the desks can be moved which, if they are individual desks they can.  The bench desks may (as was the case in this situation) have to stay put, and our fitters worked at a far, far slower pace because the desks had to be lifted whilst carpet was being laid underneath them.  Not least, we had to employ additional labourers who’s job was purely to lift desks.   All in all, the cost of the job was significantly greater because of the inability to move the desks.

To conclude, when buying new desks and designing the layout, think about how long you’re likely to stay at the office, and what the chances are that you will want to do an office re-fresh at some point.  In my experience, the most likely facelifts are new carpets and decorating.


© Octopus Interiors 2019