How to make a good first impression with your office reception area design


A first time visitor to your workplace is likely to be forming an opinion on your company within the initial few seconds of arriving in the building. It’s certainly not new information that first impressions count, but it’s about more than just being met by a friendly face. Have you considered the vibe your reception area design might be giving potential new clients or future employees? Ben Johnson are specialists in reception area design and refurbishment including communal meet & greet spaces.

Thinking carefully about the design of your greeting space, reception area or meeting rooms can help to set the tone and sell your business before a single member of your team has even opened their mouth, or it can just as easily put your guest off.

So, let’s consider what you can do about it…

Mayborn reception area design - Ben Johnson Ltd

A light and bright reception area we created for Mayborn Group at their HQ in the North East.

Space with purpose

No pressure, but the ideal reception space should be a double-whammy of welcoming and practical. Nailing that sweet spot will convey an immediate sense of the brand or culture and can make a visitor feel instantly reassured that they have come to the right place. A good office reception should have clear zones, such as an obvious desk to approach or a seating area to wait in, for example.

Since it’s important that the design of the busy reception area mixes practical and pretty, ensuring it is visually stylish while controlling access to the flow of people and deliveries, you’ll want to consider the logical placement of any furniture and the way the traffic will expect to move around that.

Make a feature of the key interaction point (usually the reception desk) and don’t forget to take into account the security aspect, accessibility for less able visitors, and provide clear and obvious signage to avoid confusion.

Take the below images of the reception of The Warehouse Hotel in Singapore, an old spice warehouse turned design triumph by the dream team that is Zarch Collaboratives and design studio Asylum. Although a hotel rather than an office, this is a great example of a welcoming and appropriate commercial reception space done right.

It’s on-brand and packed with personality. It’s sympathetic to the aesthetic and history of the building, available space and scale have been considered and there’s a clear division of the zones between the reception desk and seating area. It’s a place that guests will be impressed by upon entering for the first time – and probably many more times after that.

Material world

Another important consideration is the materials you’re going to use in the area. Ideally, you want to be using a lot of very durable materials that will stand up to a high footfall or substantial wear and tear, or look for items that can be easily and cheaply refinished once they start to look a little tired.

This will prove to be more cost-effective over time even if the initial outlay is a smidge more of an ‘investment’.

Harrogate Water reception area design - Ben Johnson Interiors

A reception area we created for Harrogate Water, using practical yet natural materials to echo and enforce their brand.

Clinkard Group reception

With this reception area for our client Charles Clinkard, we really made a feature of the warm exposed brickwork of the building, teamed with complementary but hard-wearing materials.

Fly your colours

Often the most fun part of beginning a new interiors project is thinking about the colour palette, but this time bear in mind that this is the first view many people will get inside your business.

This is not a good time to be going avant-garde on the colour scheme and trying something wacky. One of the best things you can do here is to pull options from your own brand colours. Go vibrant if that’s consistent with your company’s style but use shades that are true to your core branding, or complementary shades for contrast.

We created this reception space with a focus on our client’s brand colour, keeping other colours to a minimum.

Plain white walls can be a great option, used in the right way. With this White & Case office (below) at the top of the Rockefeller Centre building in Manhattan, HOK has created a dramatic first impression for the reception area, using the height and natural light from the huge windows to their advantage and pairing it with a bold white scheme to give an extremely cool, high-end feel.

Unleash the logo

Following on from the last point about solidifying the brand, your company logo should be included, visible from the entrance preferably.

Placing it above or on the reception desk tends to work well but don’t be afraid to get a little creative with how you display it. You could perhaps make it 3D or utilise a backlight or neon for a really impactful effect.

Marketing group Rauxa’s office (above) in New York has been given the Spector Group design treatment.

We love the way that, as you enter Rauxa’s office space, you are met with a warm, inviting reception clearly branded up with their logo front and centre. There’s also a great use of contrasting tones and funky neon lighting which immediately tells you that this is an innovative company, one not afraid to be a little bold when required.

Spector has really made the most of mixed materials, natural and ambient lighting, and the amazing ceiling height with industrial features native to the space.

This leads us neatly onto…

Light it up

Lighting is always an integral part of good interior design and should be considered as early as possible in the process. The way a room is lit has an impact on our emotional response to it, which influences our initial impressions. Too much bright light can make a space feel clinical or uninviting, but go too dark and you’ve created somewhere dingy and equally unappealing.

If you’re clever about it (and we like to think we are) lighting can be used to make a smaller room look larger or to draw attention to a certain aspect of the space. A well thought out, smart, layered lighting strategy with a mix of natural and artificial lighting can really make the difference to an effective and welcoming reception space that both staff and visitors are happy to spend time in.

For the SharkNinja offices, we used feature lighting to make the most of the reception desk and draw a visitor’s immediate attention to it.

Smart storage

Decluttering the space and keeping it tidy should also be high on your list. This keeps things simpler for visitors, allowing the key design features to have more impact.

It also gives a far better impression than a pile of delivery boxes, empty coffee cups or messy stacks of paperwork.

Remember, you’re making a statement about your business here. This stuff is important.

P & B Foods reception

P&B Foods in West Yorkshire commissioned us to create this airy and welcoming space.

With the skills and experience we have, it’s a simple task to implement some clever and unobtrusive storage solutions that won’t ruin the overall look and feel to keep things organised, effectively tidying away less attractive but necessary items.

If appropriate, displaying examples of your company’s products around the space in some way can be a nice touch to the overall reception area design. This will give your visitors an idea of the work you produce whilst supporting the brand.

We created this contemporary and welcoming ‘meet and greet’ space for the MEPC office in Leeds. Soft, stylish seating and feature lighting were selected to clearly display branding and literature.

Let’s take this somewhere private

And finally, don’t forget about your meeting areas! Visitors or staff attending the office for an interview are quite likely to also see the inside of at least one other room. Don’t let them be blown away by your entry space and then drastically underwhelmed by the tiny grey box of a meeting room you inevitably lead them into!

It’s all too easy to focus on one area but, with our experience, we appreciate the full journey through a building and want to support you to make that a seamless flow.

If you’d like some professional advice and assistance on a redesign of your office entrance, reception space or beyond, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.