Share this article


Our Christmas rush is in full swing! We’ve a large display cabinet, a concealed storage and desk unit, a nurse base desk and a reception counter all to be done by the time we lock up for Christmas!  The heat is on!

However…. We won a large battle this week and installed the last job that was postponed due to Lock down 1.  Dogs Trust Darlington!  This was ordered way back in February, when all we knew about Corona Virus was that someone in china ate a bat and a portion of the population were dying from a cough……  How times change….. Anyway, being in the north the build has been plagued (excuse the pun) with problems due to the pandemic.  Missed deadlines, suppliers unable to supply due to company close downs etc etc.  This did work in our favour a little bit as we had an epic amount of work to complete this summer so it was not a bad thing that this job was pushed into the winter.


One thing you need to know is that Darlington is a blummin long way away!  It’s a three hour drive but it feels like a lot more.  So when I drove up to survey the job in July it took the best part of the day and made me evaluate how we were going to install it…….

I met with the site managers of McPhillips Ltd who were the building contractors, this was to be our second job with them, they are a great company to work for and have more in the pipeline with them for next year.  I also met with the architect and members of the Dogs Trust team, we discussed colours, layouts, process’, services and time scales. I managed to obtain a couple of site measurements,  but not many as the number of walls that were erected was low!!

How the location of the new counter looked in July.

Having being able to get some site measurements, admittedly mainly from drawings I headed for home, once back at the office I was able to design the desk based on the clients requirements and source a laminate that matched the RAL colours which I was given.


Every organisation has a colour and there are so many different references and shades.  For example; Ben’s Cookies red is RAL 3020, Shipley’s blue is Dulux 20 c 40 and the NHS blue is Pantone 300.  We have to match these as closely as possible bearing in mind that you can mix a paint to any colour, so a decorator can perfectly match a specified colour, we can also but that means spray painting the cabinet or counter, which looks great but isn’t ideal for a piece of furniture that is going to be the first port of call for visiting four legged friends who didn’t tell their humans they needed to go to the toilet before going inside. SO, we have to use a laminate.  There are hundreds, maybe thousands of different colours and finishes from many different ranges and companys and you can bet your last pound that the Ral, Pantone, BS colour or  Dulux colour reference doesn’t have a laminate match!  So it’s our job to find the best possible match and offer it as an alternative.  Thankfully the architect on this project was aware of the struggle and specified the paint to the yellow laminate so the challenge wasn’t too bad!


If you have read my previous blogs, you’ll now that part of the JFW process is to provide working drawings for approval, and this job was no different.  To be honest it really helped me to get it down on ‘paper’ because with the lack of walls I had to plot the exact position using the plan drawings provided.  I also had to work out a position for power and data to be positioned by the electrical contractor before the floor screed went in (more about this later).

I received no comments from the client and we were good to go!


Owen and Lee were the men for this one, starting with the formers they built up a frame and clad it with pre-laminated panels, part of the counter was curved so they formed the curve using bendy ply and 4 mm MDF, this was then over laminated with Formica. Tops came next, which wasn’t a small job.  As you can see from the drawings, the counter is 5M x 5.7 M so it took up most of unit 5!  They formed the top box and all that was left was the tricky bits, the angled wall and gate.  A real head scratcher for both Owen and myself, going to and fro from office to workshop looking at the computer drawings and workshop setting out rods, we managed to develop a plan and a solution to all the hurdles that faced us.  As everything pivoted on these parts we had to ensure that they could be adapted and altered on site if needed.  Everything was completed and ready to go last Friday, with the van loaded I broke the bad news to Dexter, Josh and Charlie.  They had a long day delivering the unit on Monday!


At the crack of dawn on Tuesday 4 men converged on a very dark lifeless industrial estate to make the journey North to install the pre-delivered reception counter!  Danny, Owen, Lee and myself arrived in Darlington at 8 am and were swiftly inducted by a very understanding site manager, who knew we were there for one day only.  Fortunately I don’t have any interesting stories, it went without a hitch. everything fitted how it should and it went in the exact place intended.  The electrics came up out of the floor EXACTLY where I asked them to bring them out and it came into our counter EXACTLY where we wanted it to!  I was extremely relieved!

I couldn’t have been happier with the finished product.  Owen and Lee worked hard to meet the deadline and build a very large and in some places complicated counter.  I wouldn’t swap my team for anything!


This is the first completed project for Dogs Trust, I am currently going through the approval of drawings phase of Dogs Trust Cardiff which will be going in early next year, I have also been working on changes to the centre in Harefield.  I hope that we can continue to work with Dogs Trust and McPhillips to install a quality reception counter into all their centres.

Thanks again for reading and have a great weekend!

Tags: Commercial Furniture, JFW Process, Office Furniture, Reception Counters
Lessons from Tony Hsieh