What does a reception area say about your business? What impression does it give to a visitor? To some companies it’s all important, with hundreds of thousands of pounds spent on expensive designer furniture and marble flooring and the like, while to others it’s the space that’s thought of last. However, sometimes it’s the little touches which count more and spending vast sums may not provide the right welcome for visitors or the right environment for the staff who work there. So what makes the perfect reception space?
One of the key factors is good light, especially natural light. Buildings which are blessed with a south or south-west facing aspect are clearly at an advantage. The trend in architecture to provide glazed frontages and double-height ceilings can help to bring that light in. If the aspect doesn’t allow this, a well-designed reception space will ensure that there are no cold or dark corners. Curved walls or polished surfaces will help to increase the light flow and create a pleasant ambience.
Lack of space is an issue in many workplaces, and so it’s the reception area which sometimes suffers. Small, tatty reception areas give a bad impression, but one that’s too big can also be unhelpful and visitors may find it off-putting. Therefore the way the space is arranged is very important. Visitors in a waiting area shouldn’t feel as if they’re being watched. Equally, the chairs should be arranged so that they don’t feel forgotten about.
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This is probably the most important factor. The trend for imposing and expensive-looking reception areas with marble floors and designer chairs is on the wane. It’s not just due to economic factors, either. Such designs can be seen as ostentatious or downright unfriendly. The cold corporate image of standard design is out and a sense of individuality is creeping into reception areas, whether it is the art on the walls or the look of the furniture. Individuality is important because it offers a statement about the organisation. Multi-function buildings have more of a problem with their reception areas because it’s hard to find one design that will suit every business represented within it. How do you create the perfect welcome for someone booking a meeting room west end when it could be a quirky design agency or a financial services business? It’s a challenge for an interior designer, but functionality and comfort are key.
Functionality and Comfort
Whatever statement an organisation is trying to make in a reception area, the reception area must be a pleasant place to be in. Some businesses have lost the large reception desk and opted for smaller friendly booths and floor walkers — staff who greet visitors. Some have comfortable break-out areas and self-service coffee machines so visitors can have as many sugars in their coffee as they wish without the embarrassment of asking. Increasingly, business is being done in the reception areas.
As businesses become more informal and perhaps more individual, so the character of the reception area will change too. As with homes, the front door carries a message and a negative message can be hard to change.
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