By Tamara Sheehan
Director of Business Management
SpaceIQ

When you’ve got minimal office space to work with, you need to get creative in how it’s used. On one hand, having a reception area may seem like a waste of precious space. On the other hand, it’s an important component of a customer-facing business. Thankfully, there are more than a few reception area ideas to make the most out of this space—especially when there’s not much of it to go around.

Make the most of corners

Designing a small reception area means making use of every square inch—including corners. Corners are typically eschewed during design in favor of more focal aspects of the room, such as the reception desk or chairs gathered around a coffee table. But corners offer valuable space.

Instead of leaving corners empty or trying to hide them with a potted plant, unlock their potential with a small coffee table, lamp, and comfortable chairs. Take advantage of the 90-degree angle with an L-shaped ottoman. A corner bookshelf with décor goes a long way toward making your waiting area more inviting.

A little light goes a long way to brighten a reception area

Lighting is important in a waiting area. If you have windows, let the natural light in. Sunshine will open up and brighten a small reception area, making it seem much bigger. If your reception area is closer to the building’s center, make the most of overhead lighting and fixtures.

When it comes to artificial lighting, there’s no shortage of options. Corner lamps are a smart use of space, while a simple chandelier makes a great statement piece. Use LED or CFL bulbs to provide more of a neutral brightness.

Create a balance with lighting. Too bright and you’ll give visitors (and reception staff) a blinding headache. Too dim and you’ll give off a cavernous vibe. In smaller offices, light balance plays a big role in comfort.

Minimalist furniture makes a reception area statement

In any reception area, furniture is the biggest impact on space. Reception desks, chairs, and tables take up square footage. The key to making small office reception design work is to minimize the impact of furniture. In other words, think small.

Avoid larger pieces. The huge leather armchair may be great for a prestigious law office, but it’s not ideal for a 200-square-foot reception area. Likewise, stick to individual, modular pieces. A few simple chairs, a long minimalist bench, and a couple of well-placed tiny tables should be comfortable enough for guests.

Unless you have a specific need for a large reception desk, downsize. Smaller options free up space. If this isn’t possible, consider a more conforming style of desk, such as a rounded installation or a corner-hugging desk. As for big coffee tables… get rid of them. They neutralize the space. What’s more important: Your guests or your magazines?

Hug the perimeter

Even the most minimalist furniture choices can take up a lot of space in a smaller reception area. Get the most of every inch by using the perimeter. Leave the middle of the space open and free. Not only does this improve mobility, it makes the space feel bigger.

But that does mean lining chairs and benches along the wall—not aesthetically pleasing. Introduce a little variation around the perimeter. Chair, chair, coffee table, chair, plant, bookshelf along the wall is more appealing than seven chairs. Similarly, interspersing different types of seating with various features and fixtures will add depth, dimension, and a dynamic feel to the space. The idea here is to make it seem more like relaxing than waiting.

Décor influences atmosphere-especially in a reception area

Décor has a huge impact on space utilization—especially in smaller areas. For example, hanging a mirror on the far wall of a long waiting room immediately opens the area up and adds depth. In the same way, adding plants reflects a more natural appeal.

Consider every type of décor when planning an office reception area design—floor, walls, countertops, and ceiling, to be specific. Next, plan a theme that’s conducive to comfort while also maintaining the personality of your business. Finally, pay attention to “décor density” and try not to make the space feel cluttered. The right decorations can expand a space’s feel and add appeal; too many and they’ll have the opposite effect.

Make it about the visitor

Designing your office space to fit within the confines of limited square footage can seem like an impossible task. The key is to break it down into individual components and stay true to the core focus: accommodating the people who use this space. Make the most with what you have, but focus on the visitor. Your reception area is your business’ first impression. Make it a good one.

Small office reception area idea checklist

Before you dive into a redesign of your office’s reception area, follow this checklist and plan ahead. You’ve got limited space to work with and you want to make the best possible impression. Here’s how:

  1. Measure your office, so you know exactly how much space you’re working with
  2. Consider every aspect of the office
    • Entryways and exits
    • Reception desk
    • Windows
    • Corners
    • Available space
  3. Make the most of corner space and other awkward areas
  4. Install and balance proper lighting
    • Natural
    • Overhead
    • Corner
    • Tabletop fixtures
  5. Choose flexible furniture and make the most of positioning it
  6. Arrange from the perimeter, moving inward
  7. Choose the right décor for comfort and branding
  8. Design with the visitor in mind

You may have limited space in your reception area, but that shouldn’t limit your ability to design a comfortable, accommodating space. Understand what you’re working with and plan elements that accentuate the area, instead of being constrained by it. Remember, your reception area is the best opportunity to make a great impression.

Keep reading: what to look for in an office space design tool.