Steps to a Successful Reception Area Design

Have you ever walked into an office and immediately felt at ease? On the flip side, have you ever entered a business and instantly felt like something was off about it?

A lot of these feelings, positive or negative, have to do with the way the reception area is designed.

The construction, layout, furniture, and decor in your reception area all say a lot about your business, as well as you as a business owner, and your employees. Are you confident in the message you’re currently putting out, or would you like to make some changes?

This guide breaks down everything you need to know about designing a reception area that will impress your clients and help you level up your business.

Why Your Reception Area Design Matters

Some business owners put very little thought into their reception area design. They assume that as long as they’ve got some chairs and a couple of magazines for people to flip through, they’re all set.

Designing your space matters

In reality, your reception area has a major impact on your clients or customers and the way they see your company. Here are some of the top reasons why you need to take reception area design seriously.

First Impressions Are Everything

Research shows that the average person establishes their first impression within 7 seconds. In other words, within seconds of walking through the front door of your business, people are making assumptions about the kind of company you run and the types of products or services you offer.

If your reception area is cramped, poorly lit, or badly designed in any other way, you’re putting yourself and your team at a disadvantage.

Can you turn things around once you introduce yourself and start your appointment? Sure. However, you’re still starting things off on a negative note. This means you and your team will have to work extra hard to salvage things.

Wouldn’t it be better if you could start on the right foot right away — before you’ve even started explaining your services?

Build Your Brand

Your brand is your business identity

Everything about your office, including the design and layout of your reception area, should be a reflection of your business’s brand.

Let’s say you run a luxury medspa and offer services like Botox and fillers to wealthy folks who want to look their best.

Your reception area should give off this vibe. If it’s cluttered, dimly lit, and full of shabby furniture that’s falling apart at the seams, your business isn’t exactly screaming luxury, isn’t it?

People might be a little (or a lot) nervous about having you inject substances into their faces if your reception area doesn’t have a professional and clean design.

Customers and clients won’t have a lot of faith in your brand and your business if the design of your reception area is totally different from the design of your other branding and marketing channels (your social media profiles, your website, your business cards, etc.).

Reduce Anxiety and Put Visitors at Ease

Building off this last example, if your clients are left waiting in a poorly designed reception area with nothing but an old issue of People magazine to distract them, they have a lot of time to wallow in anxiety and wonder if they’ve made the right choice by visiting your business instead of one of your competitors.

No matter what kind of company you run, you don’t want your customers feeling anxious and uncertain before they even meet with you and your team, do you? It’s better if they feel calm, confident in your capabilities, and eager to get down to business.

Everything from the type of furniture in your reception area to the colours of the paint on the walls can influence your clients or customers in a positive way or a negative way.

If you use calming colours and comfortable furniture, you can create a calming, peaceful environment that sets everyone up for a more successful appointment before you’ve even called them back to your office.

Increase Customer and Client Loyalty

When customers and clients have a successful appointment and feel at ease from the second they walk in the door, you’re also increasing the likelihood that they’ll come back in the future for additional appointments.

As a business owner, you know how important customer loyalty is.

Not only is it less expensive to retain an existing customer than it is to attract a new one, but increasing customer retention (even by just 5 percent) can boost your company’s profits anywhere from 25 to 95 percent!

Furthermore, on average, 65 percent of a company’s business comes from its existing customers. In other words, if you make your customers and clients happy by making a great impression with your reception area, you’ll retain them long-term, and you’ll also increase the chances of them referring their friends and family to you.

Common Reception Area Design Mistakes

Making mistakes

You have a better understanding of why reception area design matters. Before we dive into what you should do when it comes to designing a reception area, though, let’s talk about some of the most common mistakes people make. Here are some issues to avoid when making plans for this part of the office:

Poor Lighting

Lighting is simultaneously one of the easiest things to get wrong and one of the easiest things to get right when it comes to designing a reception area.

Dim lighting is rarely considered a good option for a reception area. If it’s so dark that people can’t see where they’re going or have to squint to read their magazine while they wait to meet with you, they’re going to have a bad feeling about your business before their appointment officially starts.

Furthermore, dim lighting can throw off your receptionist’s productivity and increase their chances of dealing with anxiety or depression while on the job. That’s not going to contribute to a positive reception experience for anyone, whether they’re an employee or a customer.

On the flip side, if your office is so brightly lit that it gives customers or clients a headache, that’s also not ideal. Try to capitalize on natural light as much as possible to create a bright, open reception area without going so bright that ends up blinding someone.

Insufficient Seating

Have you ever been to an office that didn’t have enough seating in the reception area?

When there aren’t enough couches or chairs for all of a company’s clients or customers, it automatically puts people on edge while they’re waiting to be seen. People don’t like to have their space invaded, and they definitely don’t like to stand in a corner because there’s nowhere for them to sit.

Make sure you’re capitalizing on the space available in your reception area and providing a sufficient amount of chairs and couches for your customers or clients. If you notice that you’re lacking seating, you may need to consider rearranging things or investing in some additional pieces to make room for everyone.

Uncomfortable Seating

It’s a problem to have insufficient seating. It’s also a problem if the seating that is available is uncomfortable.

If people are going into appointments with you and your team members with aching backs and stiff necks because your reception areas chairs are so uncomfortable, they’re already going to be a bit irritated or anxious before you have a chance to meet with them.

This is not creating a great impression of your business. It may also cause them to have a negative view of you and your products or services right from the start.

It’s much better to stock your reception area with furniture that’s comfortable (not too firm, not too soft) and ergonomically friendly. If you make your customers and clients physically comfortable, it’ll be easier for them to be mentally comfortable and worry-free when they get called back for their appointments.

Uninspiring Artwork and Decor

The average reception area is famous — or rather, infamous — for having drab artwork on the walls and generic, uninspiring decor throughout the room.

A lot of people choose this kind of decor with good intentions. They want to select pieces that will be generally appealing and won’t offend anyone.

These goals are understandable and even admirable. However, if you go too generic with your art and decorations, you will end up making no impression at all, which also isn’t ideal.

The art and decorations used in your reception area should be a reflection of your business and an extension of your brand.

If you run a travel agency with an emphasis on selling fun family vacation packages, for example, you wouldn’t want to hang a bunch of boring landscapes on the walls. You’d want to invest in decor that is fun, family-friendly, and gets people excited to travel with their loved ones.


A cluttered, messy reception area also is not conducive to making a good impression on your customers or clients.

If someone walks in the front door of your business and is met with a reception desk that’s overflowing with papers or a bunch of cardboard boxes that need to be unpacked and put away, they’re likely going to assume that your business is poorly organized and unprofessionally run. No business wants to be associated with those kinds of feelings and assumptions, right?

In general, your reception area should be as minimalistic and clutter-free as possible. This is especially important if you don’t have a lot of space to work with.

The less clutter there is, the larger the waiting room will feel. This also provides more space for people to sit and wait, which helps you to address another common reception area design problem (insufficient seating).

How to Design an Impressive Reception Area

Now that you know what not to do when it comes to designing a reception area, let’s get into the specific steps you can take to set up a waiting room or lobby that makes a great impression, sets your clients or customers up for a successful visit, and encourages them to come back again in the future.

Beautiful reception area

Follow these guidelines so you can create the perfect reception area for your business: 

Reception Area Construction Plans

If you’re building your office from scratch, you have a lot more freedom when it comes to designing your reception area. Here are some tips that will help you construct an impressive reception space from the ground up:

Focus on Functionality

We’ve all been to offices that are awkwardly constructed and have a less-than-functional setup. When you’re building your own office, though, you can avoid these issues by making functionality a priority right from the start.

Before you think about the visual elements of your reception area, make sure it serves all the purposes a reception area or waiting room is supposed to serve.

There should be enough room for a good-sized reception desk, for example, so that your front desk staff has enough room to do their jobs comfortably. There should be plenty of room for chairs, couches, coffee tables, and other types of furniture, too, with space leftover for your clients or customers to move about freely without tripping over anyone or anything.

You may also need to factor in privacy elements, such as glass walls that act as sound barriers for receptionists to take calls without the whole waiting room hearing what they’re saying.

Choose Durable Materials

Another benefit of constructing your reception area from scratch is that you get to choose all the materials that will be used throughout the room. From the floorboards to the carpet to the material for the reception desk, you get to pick everything.

Ask your construction team about high-quality, durable materials that will last through years and years of wear and tear. Some examples of materials you might want to consider include:

  • Waterproof hardwood flooring
  • Laminate flooring
  • Vinyl flooring
  • Short-loop nylon carpet
  • Solid wood, bamboo, or marble for the reception desk

Remember, it can be worth it to spend more money upfront and invest in quality materials that will last and provide a greater return on your investment. Otherwise, you might spend more money in the long run on repairs and replacements.

Consider Brand Consistency

Finally, whether you’re constructing the reception area from scratch or doing some renovations, make sure you’re choosing materials and products that are consistent with your brand.

For example, if you run a brand that is characterized by luxury and elegance, materials like hardwood, stainless steel, glass, and marble are likely going to be more in line with your other marketing materials and the overall essence of your business.

If you run a brand that places an emphasis on eco-friendliness, on the other hand, materials like bamboo or recycled fibres may be a better fit.

Budgeting Tips

Whether you’re building an office from scratch or working with an existing space, budgeting is likely a top concern for you and your team. If you’re worried that designing a reception area is going to bleed your bank account dry, these budgeting guidelines will help you to save money and get the perfect waiting room or lobby for your company:

Start Early

It’s much easier to stay on budget and avoid overspending if you start your project (be it a ground-up construction project or a renovation project) early.

When you’re trying to get things done at the last minute and need to scramble to meet your deadlines, you’re going to have less room to negotiate lower prices or search for the best deal.

Give yourself plenty of time to A) figure out what you can afford to spend, B) get the funds together to afford the reception area design of your dreams, and C) get everything done without having to rush.

Get Multiple Quotes

Another benefit of starting early is that you have time to get multiple quotes for each element of the reception area design. For example, you can meet with multiple contractors, multiple flooring specialists, multiple furniture manufacturers, etc.

Getting multiple quotes may feel like a hassle when you’re scheduling meetings and trying to keep all your documents straight. It’ll pay off, though, when you’re able to easily compare prices and find the vendors that provide the most bang for your buck.

It’s worth it to take the time to ask around before jumping into something that’s not a good fit for your business or your budget.

Partner with a Professional

If you’re feeling totally overwhelmed by the concept of designing or redesigning your reception area, it might be worthwhile for you to partner with a professional. They can do the heavy lifting for you and help you make smart decisions that align with your budget and align with your brand.

Of course, you will spend more money upfront when you work with a designer instead of doing everything on your own. If you don’t have the time to commit to making all the decisions associated with the design process, though — perhaps because you’re busy handling other aspects of running your company — it’s better to outsource these matters to someone else. 

Project Management Tips

 Project Management Tips

Good project management skills go a long way when it comes to keeping your design team on task and getting the kind of results you want from your office reception area. If you don’t consider yourself a good project manager, the following tips can help to simplify this part of the design process:

Visualize the End Result

If you don’t have a clear idea of what you want the finished reception area to look like, it’ll be harder to know if you’re satisfied with the completed product.

Take time to draw up (or have a professional draw up for you) your vision of your ideal waiting room. That way, you will know what you’re working toward and can easily tell whether you’re on track.

Set Clear Deadlines

When you’re taking on any type of project, including a waiting room design project, clear goals and deadlines are crucial.

Work backward, starting from the time when you want to have the entire design process complete. Then, set additional deadlines, such as the date by which the flooring needs to be done, the date by which the furniture needs to be delivered, etc.

Break Down the Project into Manageable Chunks

On a similar note, as you’re figuring out deadlines, break down the design project into more manageable chunks.

This will help you and your team to stay engaged throughout the entire design or redesign process. It will give you built-in milestones to celebrate along the way and will help you to monitor progress more easily. 

Assess Everyone’s Strengths and Weaknesses

Spend some time assessing your team and evaluating everyone’s strengths and weaknesses. This is especially important if you’re not working with a professional and are handling a lot of aspects of the design process on your own.

Before you dive in and get to work, figure out who is best at choosing the decor, who can handle meetings with vendors, who can take care of the flooring, who can oversee carpet installation, etc.

Not only does this give everyone a chance to do what they’re best at, but it also creates an opportunity for you to practice delegating. You might be the business owner, but that doesn’t mean you have to take everything on yourself.

Schedule Regular Reviews

When you’re creating a schedule and timeline for the design project, be sure to include regularly scheduled reviews.

This gives you — and everyone else on your team — frequent and consistent opportunities to assess their work, report on potential problems they’re facing, figure out solutions to these problems, and celebrate their successes.

Regular reviews also provide you with a set time and place to focus on the progress of the design. This frees up your brain space in between meetings to worry about other things.

Aim to have reviews at least once every couple of weeks, although more frequent ones may be required, especially as the project progresses.

Address Issues Right Away

If something comes up during one of your review sessions, address it right away. You might need to fix the problem directly, or you may need to assign someone you trust to handle it on your behalf.

Either way, don’t ignore issues and hope they go away on their own. More often than not, they’ll just get worse and become harder (and likely more expensive) to fix.

Essential Design Principles to Remember

Not everyone considers themselves to be an expert designer, and that’s okay. As long as understand some essential design principles, you can still put together a reception area that makes a good impression on everyone who visits your office:

Don’t Be Too Trendy

The goal is for your company to be around for a long time, right? With this in mind, it doesn’t make sense to be too trendy when designing your reception area (or any part of your office, for that matter).

If you’re overly trendy, your waiting room will start to look dated after a few years when the trends shift and some other type of decor becomes popular. To avoid having to do a total redesign every few years, stick with pieces that are timeless and will look good all the time, no matter how the styles change.

Less Is More

A good rule of thumb when designing any space, including your office’s lobby or reception area, is that less is more. Remember, clutter is a common issue that can throw off the appearance of your waiting room and create a sub-par experience for your customers or clients.

Keep furniture and decor relatively minimalist and avoid bringing in too many pieces. Of course, you want to provide a sufficient number of places for people to sit, but don’t cram in so many chairs and couches that people are tripping over each other.

Colour Matters

Pick a simple colour palette that is both consistent with your company’s branding and has a positive effect on your customers or clients.

According to colour psychology, colours like green, blue, and white are generally considered the best fit if you’re trying to create a calming, relaxing, and clean vibe in your waiting room. They make great base colours, especially when you use lighter shades.

Colours like red and orange, on the other hand, can be a bit jarring for your customers and may cause them to feel a bit anxious or on edge. If you’re going to use bright, exciting colours like this, use them as accents rather than painting all the walls that colour.

No matter what colours you use, try to limit yourself to just a few. If you bring in too many colours, even if they’re all technically calming, peaceful shades, you could still overwhelm your customers and create a chaotic, cluttered feeling.

Lighting Is Key

Remember, the right lighting is essential. Focus on natural light as much as possible so that your waiting room is bright and inviting without being too harsh or blinding, both for your staff and your customers.

If your office opens early or closes late (or both), you may want to invest in adjustable lightbulbs. The benefit of these bulbs is that you can adjust the brightness throughout the day to avoid overwhelming visitors with light that’s too bright in the middle of the day or too dim in the early morning or evening.

Art Should Make a Statement

Limit yourself to a few pieces of art or other decorations (such as sculptures or throw pillows) that make a statement and align with your brand and the type of business you run.

You don’t have to stick to boring landscapes, but you also don’t want to invest in art or decor that is controversial or may turn visitors off. Remember, too, less is more. Too many pieces will make your reception area feel cluttered.

Furniture Selection

Reception furniture design is crucial if you want to make a good impression on your clients and customers. These tips will help you choose furniture that is comfortable, cost-effective, and pleasing to the eye.

Make It Functional

All furniture in your reception area should serve a purpose. Even if you have plenty of space to work with, don’t fill it with pieces that neither your staff nor your customers or clients can use.

Every piece of furniture should be functional. You may even want to pick out multi-use pieces that serve more than one purpose (such as ottomans that can also serve as chairs). This will help you to get the most bang for your buck and can make your waiting room more adaptable in the future as your business grows and changes.

Consider Style and Colour

Look for pieces that align with your style and branding, as well as the type of vibe you want to create in your waiting room. This might mean picking sleek, modern furniture, cozy, homey pieces, or anything in between.

No matter what kind of furniture you’re shopping for, steer clear of colours that will clash with the other decor. Aim for neutral colours if possible, too, so that you can take them with you if you end up needing to move to another office.

Remember to avoid furniture styles that are too trendy as well, so that they will last and look good for a long time.

Measure Before You Buy

Always measure the space carefully before you purchase any pieces of furniture, from couches to end tables. Pulling out your tape measure and taking careful measurements will save you the headaches that come from making returns and exchanges or moving things around to try and get them to fit in the waiting area.

Emphasize Ergonomics and Comfort

Focus on furniture that is ergonomic and provides maximum comfort for your guests. You don’t want them to deal with stiff backs while they’re waiting to meet with you, right?

If people are uncomfortable in the reception area, they’re going to take that discomfort with them into your meeting. Not only does this create a bad impression, but it could also lead to unpleasant outcomes for you and your team.

Set Your Staff Up, Too

When you’re shopping for ergonomic, functional, and comfortable furniture, don’t leave your front desk staff out of the equation. They’re going to spend more time in the reception area than anyone else, after all, so they deserve to feel at ease while they’re there.

Start by looking for ergonomic office chairs and keyboards, as well as adjustable desks, so that your staff can work comfortably and be as productive as possible throughout the day. They will thank you (as will their joints), and they will also be more inclined to stick with you long-term.

Factor in Future Needs

It might be tempting to think only about what you want for your reception area right now, especially if you’re working with a tight budget. As much as you can, though, try to think about the future as well.

For example, how might your office grow or change over time? Do you expect to hire more front desk staff down the road? Do you anticipate needing to accommodate higher volumes of clients?

Make sure you’re factoring future plans into your present decisions. Otherwise, you may end up having to spend more money later to adapt your reception area to meet new needs.

Beyond Design: Bonus Tips for an Outstanding Reception Area

The design is one of the most important things to focus on when setting up your office’s reception area. In addition to following the guidelines for an impressive design laid out above, though, make sure you and your staff are also taking some additional steps to ensure a good visit from start to finish.

The following are some bonus tips that will make a big difference in the way you receive clients and customers:

Encourage Professional Appearance

We’ve made it clear by now that the way your reception area is designed has a big impact on the way people perceive your business and the products or services you offer. Keep in mind, too, that the appearance of your front desk staff also has a big impact on people’s perception of your company.

Encourage your receptionists and other customer-facing employees to dress professionally whenever they’re in the office.

You can work together to decide what “professional” means for your team (for some, it means suits and dress shirts, for others, it means scrubs in company colours), but there should be a clear, agreed-upon dress code that everyone understands.

Encourage Professional Tone and Greetings

In addition to looking nice, your front desk staff also needs to greet customers or clients in a professional way. They should help to put people at ease right when they walk in the door.

A client shouldn’t have to ring a bell or clear their throat repeatedly before someone says hello to them or checks them in for their appointment. They also shouldn’t be treated as an inconvenience for having the audacity to show up at your office.

Make sure you’re taking time to properly train your staff so they know how you want them to receive customers. Even if you have the best-designed reception area in the world, if your employees are turning clients off before they have a chance to meet with you, it doesn’t really matter.

Streamline the Check-In Process

Invest in technology that helps to streamline the check-in process for your guests, too.

Consider using iPads or a guest computer so that people can easily sign in (this also helps to streamline your record-keeping process), for example. You may also want to invest in a customer relationship management program that helps you store all data and records in one place.

This makes your staff’s job easier, and it creates less frustration for guests, especially those who are repeat customers.

Prioritize Cleanliness and Maintenance

Cleanliness and appropriate maintenance are also essential when it comes to designing your reception area and keeping it looking nice.

Anyone can have a nice-looking reception space when they first open their business. What about a couple of weeks or months into running the company, though? How does the room look and feel then?

Make sure you and your staff are doing the following to keep your waiting room or lobby looking great all year-round:

Create a Checklist

Start by creating a checklist that your team can easily reference and ensure they’re not leaving anything undone. You may want to create multiple checklists, in fact, for daily, weekly, and monthly maintenance.

You might not need to run the vacuum in the reception area every single day, for example, but you will need to straighten the magazines, fluff the pillows, and wipe down the front desk. Those tasks would better fit a daily checklist instead of the weekly one.

Stick to a Schedule

Create a cleaning and maintenance schedule for the reception area, too. For example, you might take care of the weekly maintenance tasks every Friday at the end of the day, and do a deeper clean on the last Friday of the month. When everything is on a schedule, it’s easy to keep track of it and ensure nothing gets neglected or forgotten.

Get Everyone Involved

Finally, get everyone on your team involved in the reception area maintenance process. Don’t put all the responsibility on one receptionist.

Assign everyone a task and put it on the calendar so they can’t feign ignorance and pretend they didn’t know they were supposed to handle things. Remind them that all team members play a role in making a good impression on clients and customers, and maintaining the reception area is an essential part of that process.

Start Designing a Reception Area Today

Now that you’ve read through our guide, are you feeling more confident in your ability to successfully design a reception area?

As long as you remember the advice discussed above, you’ll have no trouble creating a reception area that makes a great impression on your clients and customers, separates your business from your competitors, and keeps people coming back for more.