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Theme: paints and finishes

Does the office wall have to be painted magnolia to keep workers' attention on their desks, or could bringing a little colour into their lives kick-start their day and increase performance?

Just think - the long-awaited building work is finally complete. Whether it's a newbuild, a conversion-and-renovation project, or a simple refurbishment, this is the point at which the designer must finalise what is going to cover the new plaster.

Until a few years ago, you could safely bet your mortgage on the interior colour of almost any office building in the UK: magnolia, usually paint, unless you were visiting the directors' floor, where tasteful, if slightly dog-eared, magnolia wallpaper reigned.

Thankfully, office design is much improved, with brighter colours and more interesting textural or even exposed surfaces. Restaurants, bars and hotels also require durable wall coverings that stay looking good.

Feeling special Paint is usually a good option for corridors, and both Dulux and Crown produce a wide selection of colours in their trade ranges.

Providing the plaster substrate is of good quality, a painted finish provides a durable surface that looks clean and fresh - and, most importantly, is easily repaired. Lessthan-perfect plastering can be disguised by the use of matte paint finishes.

For period buildings, specialist manufacturer Farrow & Ball has created a range of historically accurate colours to complement the style and materials used in the building.

For a completely new and rather unusual effect, Akzo Nobel has developed a 'sensorial textile effect' paint that can reproduce the look and feel of suede, leather or woven fabric. Applying Alpha Tacto with an ordinary brush produces a leather effect, while a special coarse-hair tool creates a look that emulates textiles. It comes in a palette of 33 colours and at present is only available in Italy. Look out for a possible UK launch later this year.

Suitably plastered Used in an office reception area, a hotel lobby or as a feature wall in a restaurant, Armourcoat's range of polished-plaster surfaces create a finish that is (almost) indestructible and requires little more than an occasional dust to keep it looking its best.

Armourcoat can produce almost any colour in a range of finishes, including its latest pearlescent and metallic effects. These are created by combining transparent glaze with pure pigment and either pearlescent or metallic powder, which is then applied to a pitted or dragged plaster finish by its craftsmen.

Cover to cover Wallcoverings, which enjoyed an explosion of popularity a few years ago - followed by their equally speedy replacement by paint a couple of years later - are very much back in vogue, and there are plenty to choose from for the contract sector. Muraspec produces a large selection of wallcoverings, with more than 600 new products introduced in the past year alone.

These include Easy-Hang and a Euro Class-B fire-standard range. To help simplify the choice, the company has created Muraselector, which contains samples and information on every range, including designs, textures, colours and prices.

Tektura supplies contract wallcoverings in contemporary designs and a wide selection of colours and finishes, and they won't tear or lift at the seams.

To liven up an expanse of plain wall, Textureal supplies textured panels in a variety of designs that can be coloured to match or contrast with the chosen wall colour. They can be used individually, in the same way as a painting, or installed in groups to create a block of different textures. Three stock designs are available in panel sizes from 200 x 200mm to 1,200 x 2,400mm. A bespoke service is also available.

Cushini produces a range of embossed leather wall panels in black, brown or cream.

Installed en masse, they produce stripes of wonderfully tactile interest.

Ornamenta's site-specific wallcoverings are becoming extremely popular to reinforce corporate identity or create a dramatic focal point. A selection of standard designs for large spaces is backed up by a bespoke service, allowing companies to incorporate logos, brand colours or images.

With such a wide choice of finishes, there's really no excuse for bland office walls.

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