How to Create a Welcoming Lobby: Design Tips for Commercial Buildings


Interior design is all in the details, especially in the lobby and other high-traffic areas where people are bound to notice every feature. Your lobby's design concept must have both flair and functionality, which isn't easy to accomplish in such a busy and confined space. These design tips will help you fine-tune every detail and create a welcoming environment for visitors.

Make your lobby accessible for everyone

How to Create a Welcoming Lobby: Design Tips for Commercial Buildings

Easy accessibility is the defining feature of a great lobby design. Everyone should be able to move around the room and feel comfortable. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires commercial buildings to provide door openings at least 36 inches wide to accommodate people who use wheelchairs.

There are many other accessibility features you should add to your lobby, especially around the entrance. Incorporate the following: 

  • Ramps and curb cuts outside the doorway
  • Automatic-opening doors
  • Nonslip floor materials
  • Commercial-grade floor mats
  • Signs with clear directions
  • Braille signs
  • Reserved seating for visitors with disabilities
  • Accessible bathrooms

You must also create an open floor plan so people with wheelchairs, walkers, scooters or crutches can safely navigate the lobby. Regardless of the furniture's style, spread things out and create distinct pathways to give everyone breathing room and avoid trips and falls.

Provide comfortable and stylish seating

How to Create a Welcoming Lobby: Design Tips for Commercial Buildings

Opus Dubai by Zaha Hadid Architects - Photography by Laurian Ghinitoiu

The success of a lobby's design largely hinges on its furniture selection. You need to provide seating arrangements with both style and comfort. For such a high-traffic area, round furniture usually works best. It makes the lobby safer by eliminating sharp corners and can create a more relaxing environment.

Round shapes are one of the key features of ancient architecture because they reflect our natural environments. Circular or oval sofas, loveseats and accent chairs can make your lobby look more functional and aesthetically pleasing at the same time.

Another important feature to consider is the furniture's texture. Your material selection should reflect the building's function. Fabric upholstery offers warmth and comfort, leather demonstrates luxury, and vinyl provides premium performance. You might also consider adding some transformable furniture that can adapt to different design trends.

Create a calming atmosphere with natural colors

How to Create a Welcoming Lobby: Design Tips for Commercial Buildings

179 Lincoln by Atelier Cho Thompson - Photography by Jared Kuzia

Color is one of the most challenging design features to nail down. When in doubt, trust the science. The human eye finds specific colors more soothing than others, especially green and blue. These hues are often found in natural environments and have a calming effect that can help guests stay relaxed.

If you can’t incorporate these colors because they don’t match the rest of the building, then lean more on different shades of white, gray and brown. There are hundreds of shades of white to experiment with that match with any existing color scheme. Gray and brown also have dozens of variations, so the possibilities are endless.

Bright colors like red and orange are fine in moderation, but you don’t want them to create excessive brightness and warmth. Lobbies are energetic enough to begin with. They are better utilized as accents rather than dominant colors. You can incorporate them through flowers, artwork and other decorations without overwhelming the rest of the lobby’s design.

Relocate the reception desk

How to Create a Welcoming Lobby: Design Tips for Commercial Buildings

Medical University of South Carolina Shawn Jenkins Children's Hospital by Perkins&Will

The reception desk is the unofficial cornerstone of every commercial building’s lobby. It must be in a strategic location that visitors will appreciate while allowing the receptionist to deal with high volumes of customers and work well under pressure. Finding the balance between these two priorities can be a real challenge.

The ideal location for your reception area depends on your lobby’s unique layout. Visibility is the most important element to consider. Guests shouldn’t have to walk around a corner or travel the entire length of the lobby to reach the desk. It should be in a clearly visible and accessible spot where people can see the receptionist upon entering the building. 

Businesses with large lobbies and a constant influx of customers sometimes take a two-desk approach. They put the first reception desk right next to the entrance and another desk farther back in the waiting area. If you decide to incorporate two reception desks, make sure you put up clear signage so visitors don’t get confused.

Incorporate statement pieces

How to Create a Welcoming Lobby: Design Tips for Commercial Buildings

Renaissance Zhuhai Hotel by CL3

Now let’s talk about artwork. Every lobby needs to take up its empty wall space with pictures and paintings, which leaves a lot of room for creativity. This design component is your opportunity to incorporate statement pieces that give the lobby its own personality while reflecting the brand’s identity.

A great idea to demonstrate your business’s commitment to the community is to show off artwork from local creators. Floor-to-ceiling murals are also popular aspects of modernist interior design. When in doubt, you can also add mirrors to take up wall space. They naturally make the room feel bigger, which can help guests who feel claustrophobic.

The effects of your lobby’s decor are more powerful than you think. Dull and uninspiring designs can make people feel bored or sad, while creative designs inspire social activity and cohesion. Your lobby can turn from a bland corporate space into an exciting and welcoming entrance with the right statement pieces.

Enliven the lobby with plants

How to Create a Welcoming Lobby: Design Tips for Commercial Buildings

Varso Tower by Foster + Partners

If you’re still not satisfied with your lobby’s decorations, then fall back on the fundamentals and add more plants. The presence of greenery is valuable in commercial settings because it can boost worker productivity and contribute to a calming atmosphere. Plants can even improve the lobby’s air quality and make guests more comfortable.

There are many low-maintenance indoor plants to choose from, but you should prioritize nonpoisonous species and perennials that will grow year-round. Place them next to the entrance, reception desk, lounging areas and any “dead spaces” that need a little more life. Just remember to leave enough walking space for guests.

Make a strong first impression

The lobby of your building is crucial for both attracting and retaining customers. It’s the introduction to the rest of your business’s operations, so you can’t get lazy with any design details. These tips will help you create an inviting and relaxing atmosphere that makes a strong first impression on visitors. 

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