Black Office Desks – A good idea?
25th March 2021
My business, Octopus Interiors, sells desks with black worktops. We do lots of other colours and finishes too but the black desks are by far the highest cost and, in my opinion at least, have the biggest wow factor. I’ve seen them in the showroom and I’ve sold them to a few customers and everyone loves them, but I’ve never actually used them myself for a prolonged period of time.
So, the question is, how good are they and are there any drawbacks?
When I came to kitting out my home office with new desks and chairs I wanted to make it look as nice as possible so I opted for the black-topped desks with wooden legs. Here below is a photo of the desks we installed.
The first thing I have to point out is that the photograph doesn’t do them justice. The surface looks blotchy and shiny but this is entirely down to the camera flash and not such good photography on my part with my Samsung Galaxy phone. They are actually a beautifully smooth matt finish with only very minimal normal light reflection.
Most desks are made from MFC (Melamine Faced Chipboard) and although fairly robust it is susceptible to scratching and denting. Kitchen worktops, by contrast, tend to be HPL (High Pressure Laminate) and this is far more hardwearing – more impact resistant, scratch resistant and heat resistant. Like MFC, HPL is often bonded to chipboard, but sometimes to MDF which is heavier, denser and stronger than chipboard.
My black desk tops are the best of both, being made from HPL with an MDF core and this is why the cost is so much greater than our standard range of MFC finishes, but not the only reason. The black HPL top costs around twice as much as the white equivalent, which in turn costs about twice as much as a regular MFC top. When I was making up my mind what I wanted, I started delving into the sample box and came across a black MFC finish. The manufacturer doesn’t offer this as an option for desk tops as it is only included in the range purely for their cupboards. I always wondered why until I noticed that the sample I was holding was absolutely covered with finger prints, something I was aware of and that I’ve noticed previously on many other darker coloured desk finishes such as dark greys, walnuts and so on, but I’d never realised quite how badly it all showed up.
The black laminate top of my desks are, by contrast, a finger print resistant and anti-reflection finish and I can assure you that they really do live up to that claim – although as a caveat that statement I should say that greasy finger prints will show!
So, having spent the past few weeks at my new desk, I’m very happy and very impressed. They’ve withstood knocks and scratching and they look absolutely fantastic. But now to the downsides, albeit very minor ones. Fingerprint resistance aside, they do show up more than conventional white or most wood-effect tops dust, coffee cup marks and grease marks. To my delight, because I get to spend even more time with them, both my son and daughter far prefer doing their homework in my new office rather than their own bedrooms, but with it comes the issue of mugs of hot chocolate, sticky cakes and greasy fingers, all of which lead to a bit of a mess on the worktops, but nothing that can’t be easily wiped off with a damp cloth so a small price to pay for the pleasure of spending more time with the kids!
And finally, the cats. Finger print resistant doesn’t translate into ‘paw resistant’ – I didn’t see that one coming! On the first day, no less, the cats came in from outside with muddy paws and left a trail of prints all over the desks.
To conclude, if you want black desks then they absolutely need to be a fingerprint resistant finish – as these ones are. Anything less would quickly look absolutely dreadful and would be a disastrous purchase for your office. Now that I’ve put them to the test in my own home, would I recommend these fingerprint matt black HPL desks to customers in the future? – Absolutely yes! They will cost considerably more than our regular desks, but surprisingly not much more (if at all) than other suppliers’ regular desks and they just look so cool!
Covid impact could lead to excessive amounts of Used Office Furniture being made available
25th March 2021
After the Covid-19 lockdowns have finally ended, are companies going to close down their offices en masse and encourage everyone to work from home, or will everything go back to normal and carry on exactly where we left off a year ago? Or has Covid simply signalled the end of office working as we know it and made way for a new type of working lifestyle that is yet to be defined? Who knows? – there’s a lot of talk and a lot of different opinions.
But whatever happens, the office furniture market will probably be impacted one way or another, particularly in the short term. Many business have sadly gone under, and for sure more will follow, so this will lead to offices sitting empty simply because the occupiers are no longer trading. Then there are the companies who have managed to weather the storm and have discovered during the pandemic that home working is actually perfect for their business – I have just heard from one customer, a small firm of lawyers with an office in Central London, who’s staff have enjoyed working from home so much and have been so productive doing so, that they have decided not to renew the office lease when it expires in a few months time. I think it’s fair to say that this is not representative of the working needs of businesses across the board because these particular people are lawyers who benefit from working in quiet isolation away from others because their work requires a high level of focus and concentration, and they also don’t have such a need to interact with colleagues on a regular basis, so this one example should not be taken as an indication of what will happen everywhere else. Needless to say, there will surely be other companies with similar plans that will leave even more city offices empty.
All of these empty offices will probably be kitted out with desks, chairs, cupboards and other office furnishing items that will need to be scrapped, sold or given away. Perhaps some of it will be given out to staff to use at home, but most will probably be the wrong size, style or colour for home use. Furthermore, much of it these days is bench style desking and completely unsuitable for home use – see are bench desks a good investment? So, it has to be assumed there will be a glut of used furniture on the market in the near future. More about this later.
But what about everyone else? In the shorter term, at least, there will probably be a slowing down in the uptake of new office space and a certain amount of downsizing and shorter leases, particularly where businesses are coming towards the end of term on their current lease and want breathing space to observe the trends, access their own needs and gauge the feelings of their employees. Companies with lease renewals will think carefully about renewing them on existing offices and possibly favour shorter leases on smaller offices.
Even if there is a significant return to the office, it is likely that many businesses will re-consider the way they use them, furnish them and arrange them. Perhaps this might come about in direct response to legislation (there is none yet but who knows what new rules governments around the world might impose if they are fearful of a repeat of this, or a new type of deadly virus if we don’t change our working habits and environments for good). Or perhaps businesses, particularly the larger corporates whom everyone else may feel compelled to follow, might reshape the working environment in order to protect their staff against, or minimise the effects of, the possibility of a future disease. It might just be that they want to be as sure as possible that if it does happen again, their staff can continue working from the office rather than homeworking. Who knows, but this could take the form of spacing desks further apart, or having bigger desks, or maybe shifting back towards the 1980s when we had open plan offices that were sectioned off desk-by-desk or team by team by tall free standing screens or furniture. As such, their existing furniture might not be the right size, type or shape to enable such revisions (for example, some bench desks might not be re-configurable as stand-alone desks) so whilst this might give a big boost to new furniture sales, even more used furniture may appear on the market.
All of this is purely hypothetical. It really is too early to see how businesses are going to react and what is going to happen to the market, but the one thing I am fairly sure about is that there will be a greater than usual surplus of used furniture. Is this a good or bad thing? On balance, probably bad.
There are a finite number of businesses that would want to invest in used in preference to new. The biggest danger is supply outstripping demand and if that happens, there are very few longer term winners. A large number of sellers chasing a smaller number of buyers can only have one outcome – lower prices for the buyer and lower returns for the seller. Fabulous for the buyer, but longer term it will probably lead to a levelling out whereby the secondhand furniture trade, who only have limited storage space, will buy up only the really desirable, high value kit and everything else may have to go to landfill or recycling – a sad prospect for the environment and the seller alike.
And finally, if there is an immense take up of used desks, chairs, filing cupboards and soft seating then the likelihood is that this could have a substantial negative economical impact on the manufacturing of new office furniture products.
The Risks of Selling or Buying Used Office Furniture Privately
22nd March 2021
We created a page on our website to enable end-user companies with unwanted used office furniture to reach out to other end-user companies that might have a use for it and be prepared to pay something towards it. But whether you are buying or selling, there are many complications with end-user to end-user dealings rather than via the trade and in this article I am going to attempt to identify them – to help you avoid making costly mistakes.
Selling direct to other end-users
First and foremost, you should only try this if you have time on your hands and even then you should always have a backup plan in place for either a rubbish removal firm to take it away or a 2nd hand trader to take it off your hands. If you don’t, you could get into all sorts of very costly problems. By this I mean that if, for example, your lease is about to expire, the office is full of your old unwanted furniture and the landlord expects it to be completely vacant in a few days time, then if you’re furniture is still there you will, most certainly, get an exceptionally hefty bill for its removal and disposal regardless of whether it is of value or not (invariably far higher than if you had done it yourselves because they can charge a premium for their time, the maximum acceptable disposal charge plus bill you for breach of contract). It will become the property of the landlord for them to do with and profit from (if there is any value) as they see fit but be assured they’ll charge you anyway!
If you do get a buyer, you or they still have to get everything out of the building and transported to their office. Firstly this is normally far more involved and costly than you might expect and should therefore be a consideration in the sale price negotiated, but secondly you need to be absolutely sure the buyer has arranged the collection and that the window given to them is sufficient for them to get everything away in time. It’s important to note that it could take longer to dismantle everything and get it out of the building than it did to bring everything in and assemble it in the first place! That’s because the new owner wants to be sure that by time it reaches their office it is still in good condition with all the parts and original fixings, and because it is no longer all together in protective packaging it just takes that much longer. And finally, you need to be sure that whoever they get in to dismantle and remove your old furniture are professionals who are not going damage the walls, ceilings and floors in the office and common parts/lifts etc with gauges, scratches and marks that your landlord will charge you for to put right.
Make sure the buyer takes it all unless you’re getting a fairly decent price for individual items! If they don’t, you may be left with a whole load of stuff that costs almost as much to dispose of as it would have been to junk everything.
Get an agreement, in writing and well in advance, from your landlord giving special permission to waive any normal restrictions relating to permitted times for use of lifts and carrying large items through and out of the building. This will apply to your whole office move, not just removal of furniture. You can’t afford to be restricted by times or methods of moving out as quickly and as efficiently as possible.
Finally, however little you might be offered (or conversely however much you might be charged) it is invariably going to be far more straight forward and considerably less time-consuming on your part to part company with your old desks, chairs, cupboards and so on by handing them over to a dealer. You might consider your time much better spent running your business and generating income rather than attempting to gain a relatively small amount from selling office furniture items. Whatever you do, the first step should probably be approaching a number of people in the secondhand trade and finding out what, if anything, they’re prepared to pay you. If it seems reasonable, go with it! But if they’re offering little or wanting to charge for the removal, then by all means try the end-user to end-user route if you have the time – not withstanding all the issues identified above.
Buying direct from other end-users
There’s probably less downside here, assuming you can negotiate a really good price, but here are some considerations you should pay attention to:
As mentioned in the note for sellers above, you will probably need to make your own arrangements to dismantle desks, cupboards and other larger items of furniture, get them out of the seller’s building, transported to your own office and re-assembled. That’s a lot of work and can be quite costly so be sure you make allowances for this when you agree a purchase price.
You need to be sure that desks and cupboards, in particular, are easily dismantlable without risk of damage so that it can be done quickly but also that they can be re-assembled back at your office without any loss of functionality, sturdiness and appearance. It is worth doing a trial run on a couple of units before committing to purchase just to be sure that the original fixings are all there and easily removable and that that the original installer didn’t compromise or force the assembly. If it can’t come apart or be re-assembled without breaking, you shouldn’t even consider it. Just to stay on this subject a little longer, most wooden components of office furniture are usually MFC (chipboard) which is not particularly ideal for securely fixing screws unless they have fitted with quality metal fixing inserts. Much of it, particularly at the the lower end, does not stand up well to re-assembly.
New furniture can often cost less than you think. Of course, its worth considering quality used furniture rather than budget new furniture, but be careful you’re not paying for budget used furniture when you might be able to get some nice new mid-range products at an affordable price. Be sure to compare the total package cost – product, transportation and assembly – rather than just the product itself.
New furniture is usually available in a wide choice of sizes, styles, colours and finishes. With 2nd hand you’re restricted to whatever is on offer. No matter how good the value, it might be a compromise.
Buying 2nd hand furniture may restrictive if you need to reconfigure your office or add desks in the future. Whereas there is never any guarantee that further down the line you will be able to get another couple of desks of exactly the same colour, finish and specification from the manufacturer you bought them from new, it’s far less likely you will be able to do that with the used furniture you bought. So, you could end up with an office full of mismatched kit.
There will be no warranty when buying from another end-user.
Finally, make sure that whatever you buy you can physically get into your building (through doorways, corridors, up the stairs in particular). Not everything can be disassembled, particularly certain cupboards which are originally supplied not as flat pack but factory assembled instead and may have been glued or welded (if metal). But even if things that are flat packed could contain some very large and heavy panels or boards (e.g. reception counters, big boardroom table tops etc) which might also be too large to get up stairs or around tight corridor corners.