The word hospitality traces its origin back to the Latin words hostis, which means stranger or enemy, and the more positive hospitem, which means guest or host. The English terms hospital, host, hostel, hotel and hospitality all come from these same roots. Interestingly the first hospitality venues were hospitals, which in their initial inception provided lodging and entertainment for pilgrims traveling to religious shrines. This eventually led to our current concept of hospitality which encompasses friendly reception and generous treatment of guests or strangers.
We take many of our design cues for a wide range of senior living, healthcare, educational and other commercial spaces from today’s hospitality venues, the best of which set the standards for brand identity, style and guest comfort and enjoyment. The following hospitality trends are examples of contemporary interior design techniques and finishes that will add visual interest, subtle sophistication and personality to a wide range of settings.
Do your reception area and lobby create a positive first impression that reinforces your organization’s brand? From the moment they arrive, people start making assumptions about your business and the products or services you offer. There is no one-size-fits all solution, since the best solutions are unique to your brand, location and profession. (Check out these unique office lobbies at The SquareFoot Blog that reflect the brands of the companies they represent.) However, there are basic rules that apply to every lobby space, regardless of your organization’s business focus.
MAKE IT A POSITIVE EXPERIENCE: You want to create a lasting impression, but make sure it’s a good one. This starts with the basics of making the front door easy to find and then providing a clear indication of where to go once inside. Have you ever gone into a restaurant and been forced to pause in the foyer unsure of where to go next? We’re all about creating a “wo w”, but the first priority must be to make everyone feel comfortable and welcome as soon as they open your front door.
YOU ARE INVITED: Create an open, inviting and fully accessible experience. Seating areas should feel intimate, but avoid cluttered or segmented vignettes that compromise circulation and visual access to other spaces. Optimally the lobby should provide views to adjacent areas to help with wayfinding and reinforce a sense of positive energy and hospitality. In our office, a gallery featuring local artists provides a nice transition space between the lobby and work areas.
HOW MAY WE HELP YOU? The front desk should emulate hospitality venues with the visible functionality of a concierge desk rather than an office work station. Table height is preferred. Any equipment should be screened. Think respectful, welcoming gesture versus imposing barrier.
THE QUEST TO IMPRESS: Create a focal point (like our before/after example below) that reflects your organization’s brand and typically is not the front desk. This could be a fireplace, water feature, distinctive artwork or even a vase of fresh flowers. If you opt for flowers, just be sure someone has responsibility for keeping them looking fresh.
LIGHTING THE WAY: Light levels should adapt to avoid glare issues when entering or exiting the building. Maximize natural light and outdoor views whenever possible. Decorative lighting can be a simple, inexpensive solution to easily adjust light levels throughout the day and reinforce your design style.
BRAND LOYALTY: The lobby should define your organization’s brand; with updated furnishings, finishes and accessories. If the physical setting of your lobby conflicts with your brand or lacks impact, then the consumer experience is one of confusion and uncertainty. Recognizing that this is typically a high traffic area, finish selections should be not only esthetically pleasing, but also durable and easily maintainable to avoid looking dingy or “tired” over time.
This article from Homedit highlights the endless possibilities for reception desks including the Chic and Basic Hotel front desk pictured at left. We also like the recycled books used for a library front desk.
UNIVERSAL DESIGN: Stylish yet functional furniture should accommodate users of varying ages and abilities. This makes a positive impression by signaling your organization’s commitment to serve the needs of all individuals including those with limited mobility.
In today’s marketplace, attracting consumers and meeting their expectations starts with making a positive and lasting first impression. More examples of noteworthy entry spaces can be found at Office Snapshots.
Charlotte Stoudt, IIDA, LEED AP, has 16 years of experience as a commercial interior designer. Her appreciation for the value of a “wow” first impression goes all the way back to the 7th grade when she stepped into the foyer of the Philadelphia Academy of Music. She strives to create that kind of lasting impression for our clients today, for projects large and small.