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Office waiting room ideas: Layout plans and décor ideas

No-one ever wants to spend time sat in a waiting room, but sometimes — when your business is busy — it can't be helped. Even if you can't always see your clients right away, you can help to make that time more pleasant for your clients by designing a welcoming waiting area, so they can relax and feel comfortable before their appointment.

Your waiting room is the first place your clients and customers will see when they visit your office for the first time. And, what they find here could make a huge difference in terms of how they view your business as whole, as they will generally assume that the state of the waiting room is a reflection of the rest of your company. So, your reception area is an important aspect of the overall client experience.

In this guide, we'll share some waiting room ideas that will help you to design a stylish, professional-looking reception area. We'll cover:

• Waiting room décor ideas for different sectors:

3 waiting room layout ideas
What to consider when choosing waiting room seating
7 design tips for any waiting room

Waiting room décor ideas for different sectors

A stylish, comfortable, and thoughtfully designed waiting room will help to make any time your client needs to spend waiting for their appointment as pleasant as possible. When properly designed and furnished, your waiting room will signal to your clients that your business is well-run and organised, as well as help to ensure that their first impression of your company is a positive one.

But that doesn't mean all waiting rooms should look exactly the same. You'd probably expect the décor in a hairdressers to look quite different to the waiting room in a doctor's surgery, for example, as both businesses will want to convey a different image. So, the style and décor of your waiting room should be influenced by the type of business you run. To help you get it right, we’ve shared some waiting room décor ideas for different industries.

Medical

Medical and dental waiting rooms should project a calm, hygienic, and modern feeling, with minimal clutter. Guests are more likely to feel anxious before a medical or dental appointment, and sitting alone with their thoughts can make this worse. So, it's also a good idea to include some entertainment or activities to keep your clients occupied and help them to properly relax. Many clients can have concerns about germs and hygiene in these spaces, so you could provide wall-mounted hand sanitiser dispensers. Don’t neglect scent, either: a fresh, clean aroma will help remind guests that your waiting room is clean and hygienic.

Recommended colours: White, cream, light green, blue.

Legal office

In a law office, you want your waiting room décor to instantly convey professionalism, tradition, and success. So, stick to traditional furniture styles, like Chesterfield sofas and wingback armchairs: these are perfect for legal offices, as they project a feeling of heritage and luxury. Furnishings made using classic materials — like leather and dark hardwood — will also help to give your waiting room a stately, assured, and timeless feel.

Recommended colours: Deep red, dark green, brown, warm neutrals.

Accountants and finance

In an accountancy or finance office, you want to project a sense of efficiency, organisation, and success. The style of furniture you choose should be informed by the branding of your company: if you run a traditional, high-end accountancy office catering to older clients or businesses, a traditional style of furniture is best. Or, if your branding is more modern, go for trendier styles and mid-century pieces. Including a few gold and silver accents in your décor can also help to convey an air of prestige and wealth.

Recommended colours: Cream, beige, green, gold, blue-grey.

Beauty salons

A waiting room in a beauty and cosmetic environment, like a hairdressers or nail salon, should look glamourous and feminine. Thick carpets and rugs will help to create a sense of comfort and luxury, while velvet furnishings and buttoned sofas and ottomans can help to create that plush, glamourous feel. They'll be very comfortable for your guests, too. Accessorising the space with mirrors, flowers, and displays of beauty products can also help to set the tone.

Recommended colours: Pink, lilac, white, turquoise, silver accents.

Spas

For spas or massage studios, it’s essential you create a soothing environment that helps guests to feel relaxed before their appointments. Natural materials like wood, stone, and bamboo can create a simple yet calming space. Comfy seating is a must, as it will help your guests relax and settle in before their appointment, so choose sofas and armchairs with a sprung base to ensure they're of a good quality. You should also pay special attention to scents and sounds: a diffuser, water feature, and some relaxing music will really help your guests to switch off.

Recommended colours: Ivory, cream, gold, burnt orange, purple, deep blue.

7 design tips for any waiting room

While some aspects of waiting room décor should be tailored to the sort of business you run and the image you want to create, there are a few principles that apply to reception areas in any industry. Here, we've shared seven waiting room ideas that will help to make any space stylish, professional, and welcoming.

Choose the right reception desk

It should be immediately clear to any visitors where the reception desk is, so you want to choose a desk that is big enough for your needs and really looks the part. A messy reception desk will make your business look disorganised, so it should be clear and free from piles of paper and other clutter at all times. A great way to ensure your desk always looks presentable is to go for a split-level reception desk — where the customer-facing side is higher than the receptionist's side — as, this way, you can keep phones, computers, printers, papers, and other necessary equipment out of sight. Be sure to choose a stylish office chair for your receptionist that will complement the rest of your décor, too.

Create a focal point

Every room needs a focal point, and a waiting room is no exception. Aquariums and indoor water features are a popular focal point in waiting rooms across a huge range of sectors, because they provide a form of passive entertainment without being intrusive or annoying — like a TV or radio, for instance. They also create a very calming, serene atmosphere that can help put visitors at ease, which can be especially helpful in medical or legal environments, where your clients may be more likely to experience stress or anxiety while they wait.

If space is limited or these aren’t an option, you can always create a focal point on a wall, instead. Neon signage has become very popular in recent years, and is a great fit for trendy businesses, like hairdressers, beauty salons, and interior design agencies. It's especially useful if you want to create a space that's going to encourage your visitors to share photos of their visit on their social media accounts. In a more traditional industry, you could consider hanging some artwork instead — you could even consider using artworks of familiar local scenery to make your visitors feel right at home.

Provide an updated supply of magazines

Your visitors will want something to help pass the time while they wait, so offer them a choice of magazines. Try to choose a range of publications that are going to be relevant to your business as well as your clients' interests, e.g. hair and beauty magazines in a hairdressers, or wellness and health magazines in a surgery. If your business serves a lot of families, you might want to provide a separate selection of kids' magazines.

Remember, while a selection of magazines can be a good addition to your waiting room, a disorganised pile of those that are months out of date won't impress your clients. So, ensure your collection is refreshed regularly by taking out subscriptions to a few different publications, and then replacing old issues with new ones every month.

Offer free Wi-Fi

Let's face it: while some guests might appreciate the selection of magazines you’ve provided, in today's world, it's likely that many of your clients will still want to pass the time on their phones. So, you could consider offering free Wi-Fi and potentially even charging stations or sockets to help them do so. Your visitors will be sure to appreciate a chance to catch up on some emails, browse the news, or just use the time as an opportunity to charge their phones during a busy day.

Offer complimentary refreshments

A self-service station with some complimentary drinks and snacks can make a great impression on your clients, and they're often fairly easy and cost-effective to implement. It could be as simple as having a self-service hot water dispenser and some instant tea and coffee, or you could splash out on a bean-to-cup machine. You could also provide a mini fridge with a selection of soft drinks and water, as well as a basket with some individually wrapped biscuits and chocolate bars. Remember to include a notice telling guests to help themselves, as many guests may feel uncomfortable asking reception staff if the refreshments are free!

Add greenery

Any space can benefit from some lush greenery, and a waiting room is no exception. Plants filter the air, add visual interest to your space, and have a soothing effect on clients, so be sure to complete your waiting room with a few houseplants. If you're too busy to care for real plants, or don’t have much natural light in your waiting room, you can always use some artificial versions instead.

Don't forget about scent

It can be easy to overlook scent, but this can really make an impression of your visitors. So, you may want to consider diffusers or air fresheners to add a relaxing aroma to your waiting room. Just be careful it's not overpowering, as this could have the opposite effect.

3 waiting room layout ideas

Before you can start choosing furniture, you need to work out a rough floorplan. We've put together a few waiting room layout plans to suit rooms of different sizes and shapes, to help you create a space that provides plenty of comfy seating and a pleasant, calm environment for your clients.

Small waiting room with a corner sofa

In this small waiting room layout, a sectional corner sofa and low back armchair provide lots of comfy seating. Despite the limited space, there's still room to comfortably seat up to five customers at once, so it’s a good layout for smaller businesses. You could also swap the coffee table in the centre for an ottoman footstool, which can double up as extra seating during busy periods. In smaller or awkwardly sized waiting rooms, you could also get a bespoke couch made up to suit the exact dimensions of your space. A magazine rack and drinks station provide entertainment and refreshments, while a couple of plants help to add a touch of calming greenery to the space.

Large waiting room layout

In a larger waiting room, you can provide lots of different types of seating, which allows customers to choose the best style to suit their needs. Two rows of armchairs provide ample seating for lone visitors, while three- and two-seater sofas ensure there's enough room for families and groups to sit together. The aquarium creates a natural divide between the two areas, helping to make the space feel cosier and more welcoming, and also provides a soothing form of passive entertainment.

Large waiting room with clustered seating

If you have a very spacious waiting room and need enough seats to accommodate a lot of guests at once, try arranging your seating in clusters, rather than rows. This is especially effective if your business often serves small groups or families, as it allows them to sit together and gives them a little privacy to talk among themselves. And, by using smaller seating options, like 1.5-seater sofas and low back armchairs, you'll ensure that there are still plenty of options for lone customers without needing to share a couch.

Magazine racks positioned near the seating area provide guests with a way to pass the time as they wait for their appointment — you could also position an aquarium here, if you've got the space. Plants and small tables break up the seating and add greenery to the space, and the refreshment table is conveniently located next to the reception desk, where staff can easily access and refill it.

What to consider when choosing waiting room seating

Whatever industry you’re in, there's one element of your waiting room design that you won't want to overlook: your seating. You can have tons of entertainment options, free refreshments, guest WiFi, and stylish décor, but it won’t mean a thing if your guests aren't sitting comfortably or there aren't enough seats. We’ve shared some tips to help you pick the best seating for your space.

Comfort

Sitting on hard, uncomfortable seating for a prolonged stretch of time isn't going to put your customers and clients in the best frame of mind for their appointment, so prioritise comfort and support when choosing your sofas and armchairs. The easiest way is to test out your furniture by sitting on it yourself: if you don't think you could spend 20 minutes or more sitting on it, then it's not the right seating for your waiting room.

Quality

Don't be lured in by cheap seating. While it might save you a few pounds in the short term, it's ultimately a counter-productive strategy: your seating will be used day in, day out by scores of people, so cheaper, low-quality seating will show its age much faster. Instead, go for the best quality that you can afford. Look for sofas and armchairs with a real timber frame and a sprung base where possible, as these tend to stay comfortable for longer.

Fabric coverings

Once you've decided on a style, you'll need to choose a covering. Leather, vinyl, and synthetic leather coverings may be a better choice for medical settings, as more frequent cleaning is likely to be needed in these environments. Wipe-clean options are also a smart choice if your business serves a lot of customers with young children.

In professional settings, like law or accountancy offices, you will always want to go for real leather, as this will create a prestigious and traditional atmosphere. If projecting a glamorous image is important for your business — like if you run a hairdressers or salon, for example — then you may want to go for a velvet Chesterfield sofa, which will create a plush, modern look, as well as be very soft and comfy.

Match your seating to your clients' needs

You should also think carefully about the seating needs of the people who use your services. For instance, are your clients generally people on their own, or do they typically bring a partner, family member, or child with them? Are they mostly older or younger? If your clients are almost always alone, armchairs are likely to be a more appropriate option — people generally prefer not to share a couch with a stranger. Or, if your waiting room will mostly be catering to families, then a couple of large sofas might be more suitable.

If your waiting room needs to suit lots of different types of clients on any given day, then it's often best to provide a choice of different seating options, including smaller couches, armchairs, and three-seater sofas. Loveseats (sometimes called '1.5-seater' sofas) are a very versatile option for waiting rooms, as they can comfortably seat a couple, a small family, or a single person without taking up too much space.

It's also important to choose a style of seating that is appropriate for the age and health of your guests. Very low, deep armchairs and sofas might be comfy, but they can also be difficult for older or less mobile clients to get out of, so you may want to go for something higher, with armrests to help your clients support themselves as they move. Again, it's best to provide a few different seating options if you've got the space — this way, your guests can pick the best options for them.  Additionally, you always want to have space for guests who use wheelchairs or other mobility aids.

For more help choosing waiting room seating, read our sofa buying guides section, where you can find detailed advice on measuring for your sofa, picking a comfortable couch, and choosing the right fabric.

Hopefully our office waiting room ideas have shown you how to design a stylish and welcoming reception area that will make your customers feel right at home. If you’d like to find more inspiration, you can discover more brilliant décor ideas in our interior design hub.

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