How to Design a Lobby for a Business

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When you design a lobby for your business, bear in mind its key functions. Every lobby must provide a space to hold clients, staff, or members of the public who are waiting, lounging, meeting, or filling out paperwork. Most lobbies also provide a reception desk to serve as an initial point of contact for queries and business. Lastly, some lobbies serve as a holding area for people who are not authorized to enter restricted areas freely.

Estimate the maximum number of clients you will need to be able to comfortably accommodate in each part of the lobby at any given time, and scale your design accordingly.

Lay out the waiting or lounge area. Set it aside from the rest of the lobby, as people who are seated don't like to feel as though they're in the middle of a thoroughfare. Use comfortable chairs with non-absorbent surfaces that can be easily cleaned; this is important for public health. Avoid chairs with arms, as overweight people have trouble fitting into them, or else provide at least one bariatric (i.e., plus-sized) seating alternative such as a sofa or wide chair. Add a few tables to your seating area, and supply electrical outlets.

Lay out the reception area. Place the front desk prominently from the main entrance. It should be wide enough to accommodate at least two clients at a time, so that clients with urgent business can come up to the desk without pushing the other person aside. The desk will also need a counter, a fire extinguisher, hookups for power, phone, and Internet, and connections to any internal communications or security systems.

Install your circuit breaker and emergency command panels here, preferably behind or within the reception desk. In a restricted access business, these components should be on the controlled side of the lobby, concealed from public view.

Provide your lobby with suitable climate control and ventilation.

Customize the design to your specific needs. If there will be meetings here, provide sofas or round tables with relaxed seating. If turnstiles or other security restrictions are required, shape the lobby so that foot traffic flows will not be bottlenecked and cannot easily be bypassed.

Make your lobby accessible to the disabled. Use ramps instead of steps. Leave an open spot in the waiting area for a wheelchair. Make sure the reception desk has one low-counter section so that seated clients can physically see the receptionist.

Practice sustainable design practices. Make use of energy efficient construction, natural lighting, and recycled materials.

Make the client feel welcome. Use sound-absorbing panels on the walls and ceiling to create a more intimate atmosphere. Supplement overhead lighting with daylight, warm lamps, or a working fireplace. Add a few shelves for the display of conversation pieces.

Sell your company by avoiding design mistakes. The lobby is a place where first impressions are made. A small, sterile environment will not inspire admiration, nor will a large, empty space. A boring, angular design implies a lack of passion. Cheap furniture, carpeting, and lighting turn people off. Generic artwork on the walls suggests insincerity, while company propaganda suggests pushiness. Your lobby should be an inviting, refreshing place, even if the client will only be there momentarily.

Add the finishing touches. Every lobby should have tissues, at least one waste bin, a coat rack, an absorbent rug at the front door (if the main entrance connects to the outdoors), and decorations which reflect the face of the company or its people. The day's newspapers would be a nice touch, much more so than year-old magazines. Sign the exits and restroom.

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