THE IN-BETWEEN: Elevator Lobby Design Strategies

The elevator lobby is often overlooked as an opportunity to reinforce your brand.  Regardless of its size, this workhorse space is a prime circulation area that is accessed multiple times a day. When the elevator door opens, the lobby area beyond should provide an inviting and appropriate reference to your brand experience.  With proper design consideration, the elevator lobby creates a strong first impression as well as a positive lasting impression for your building and campus brand.

Elevator Lobby Design Functionality

Typically, the elevator lobby at the main entrance of the building receives the most attention.  However,  common space is often at a premium for both senior living and higher education campuses. Upper level elevator lobbies provide opportunities for quieter gathering or informal study areas.

elevator lobby seating allows people to relax while waiting and accommodates small gatherings
For senior living residences, we recommend having seating adjacent to the elevators so that people can relax while waiting.  Often, residents on the upper floors of apartment buildings will use this area for informal gatherings like a happy hour.  Photo:  The Grove at Meadowood Senior Living
For college campuses, the elevator lobby provides a lively venue for casual interactions and group study. Franklin & Marshall College
Acoustical wall panels can also function as art. Photos: Xorel Artform Wall Panels

It’s worth noting that elevator lobbies can be busy, noisy spaces between people passing through and elevator functions.  Therefore, sound control measures are a must.  This could be any number of options.  For example, acoustic ceiling or wall panels, carpeting or even light fixtures are all options for incorporating acoustics without sacrificing design intent.

Kelly Wood, IIDA, recently used a Carnegie Xorel Artform wall panel. This versatile acoustical panel system provides the desired sound control in a uniquely artistic format.

“Basically, you choose one of their artform shapes and an acoustical fabric. Then you create any design you wish using these shapes.” Kelly shares.  “It’s a good way to to achieve the sound control that you want in a room or area like an elevator lobby without screaming ‘I AM AN ACOUSTICAL PANEL!’ I also appreciate having another opportunity to make an artistic statement or reinforce the community brand.”

Wayfinding Cues for Elevator Lobbies

For commercial applications or student housing, an oversized wall graphic denoting the floor number is a great marriage of form and function. However, a more subtle approach is desirable for most senior housing and hospitality venues.  The signage is typically more understated and we often place a distinctive piece of artwork immediately opposite the elevator doors. Photos L to R: Gensler, Interior project slideshow; Falcons Landing Terrace Homes

Navigating a multi-story building can be challenging from an elevator core. It’s often located toward the center of the building, with no outdoor views. Corridors (whether apartments, dorms, or classrooms) often look the same or nearly the same with similar flooring, walls, and ceilings.

Elevator lobby feature wall at Cathedral Village

“The elevator lobby allows for more life and color as an intersection for spontaneous interaction.” says Kristin Novak, IIDA.  “Have fun with the materials and furnishings here – pull in a pop of color or unique wall covering that would be overwhelming extending through a long corridor but is just right when used in moderation for this smaller area.”

Directional signage is essential, but it is also a good idea to provide a distinctive design feature that is visible from the elevator.  Varying color schemes, finishes and design elements between floors can help guide people from floor to floor.

“A bright color or furniture piece can be changed up for each floor or location to assist with wayfinding,” Kristin shares.

Finishes and lighting can also serve as a silent guide, helping people intuitively navigate the building.  For example, flooring patterns can indicate which way to turn when exiting the elevator.

Aesthetics, durability and maintenance requirements should all be carefully considered for this high traffic area that everyone using the building will see. Photo: RiverMead Villas

Accessibility and Safety Considerations for Elevator Lobby Design

As part of the circulation pathway through your building, the elevator lobby should be designed for easy accessibility and navigation.  Senior residents or those with mobility challenges could use a spot to sit while waiting for an elevator to come or while waiting for a friend.

“Some people who are sensitive to movement can even experience vertigo after riding on an elevator so having a soft seat, handrail or other piece of furniture is a great way to provide some stability and a natural resting point near the elevator,” says Kristin.

Good lighting helps people safely navigate and makes the space, which can often be small, feel more open and welcoming.  Diffused lighting provides a subtle effect and a consistent light level with low glare. This is particularly helpful when people are exiting the building where they may be greeted with bright sunshine during the day or car headlights at night.

Elevator lobby design is about aesthetics, functionality and durability.
Material selections should be aesthetically pleasing but also highly durable. This high traffic area must be designed with your facility’s cleaning regimen in mind. Photo: Brandermill Woods

“Consider flooring material carefully,” Kristin recommends. “The elevator often has direct access to a parking garage or an entrance to the building.  Be mindful that people may enter the elevator with wet or dirty shoes and can bring those materials into the elevator lobby.  Durable and slip-resistant materials that can easily be cleaned are a good move.”

In an age where high-touch surfaces like elevator buttons can be considered a hazard, touchless systems are a welcome addition to any elevator lobby.

“We expect to see touchless options becoming the norm,” says Kelly.

Short term options include switching the call buttons to copper or plates made from copper alloys brass or bronze. These materials are naturally antimicrobial.

Elevator Lobby Branding Opportunities

Elevator lobbies should reflect your campus brand. Photo: Willow Valley Communities Vistas Apartments

The elevator lobby should flow into its surroundings, whether the main lobby or corridors leading to apartments, common areas, individual rooms, classrooms, or offices.  The function of this space is not only circulation, but also to reinforce your brand. Therefore, the finishes and furniture should reflect the same standards as your other public spaces.

“Consider what your residents or guests will experience when they step off of the elevator, including all sensory perceptions,” recommends Kristin.  “Vision and touch are easy to establish, but also consider the senses of hearing and smell.  For example, fresh baked cookies (whether real or a fragrance diffuser) create a welcoming environment at a main lobby.  Sage and eucalyptus lend themselves to a calming experience that may be appropriate at the entrance to a spa or wellness area.”

With appropriate design consideration, the elevator lobby becomes more than just a passageway through your building. This key transition area should function as a creative expression of your brand and facilitate positive experiences for residents and guests.

Kristin Novak, IIDA, earned a Bachelor of Arts, Studio Arts and History of Art & Architecture from the University of Pittsburgh. She went on to earn a Master of Fine Arts, Interior Design from The George Washington University. Kristin respects the health, safety and welfare impacts of interior design on the people living and working in our clients’ communities.

Kelly Wood, IIDA, eared a Masters of Science, Interior Architecture and Design from Drexel University.  She also holds a Bachelor of Arts, Art History from Wake Forest University. Based on a thorough understanding of universal design strategies, she blends creative design ideas with careful documentation and detailing.