What happens when you walk into a hotel lobby, an office reception, or any space for the first time?

We’ve all been taught never to judge a book by its cover. But let’s face it, we can’t help but jump to conclusions. Try as we may to rationalise and give someone the benefit of the doubt, if our first impression has been tainted, it is often hard to shake that feeling off.

Thankfully for us (and for them), fine hotels have come to understand the amplitude of this arrival experience. Gone are the days when hotel lobbies were nothing but a dull, uninspiring space for customers to dash through on their way to their room.

Today, hotel lobbies are designed to set the bar high. They are designed to welcome, make a striking first impression, and let us not forget, make profit. So what can commercial real estate landlords learn from the hospitality industry? How can hotel lobbies inspire better office receptions?

Let’s go around the world to find out.

1. Make a statement, show your personality

Green wall inside Icon hotel in Hong Kong
Hotel Icon in Hong Kong houses Asia’s largest indoor vertical garden in its lobby. Credit: Patrick Blanc.

The rule is simple. If you want to stand out, you have to be different. And hospitality developers often bank on this element of surprise to attract more guests and consequently, more profit. Inspiring hotel lobbies often boast a particular style, they set the scene, they feature thought-provoking art, high-end lighting fixtures and an inviting space to unwind or hold informal meetings.

2. Integrate revenue streams

CitizenM hotel canteen
A canteen lies at the heart of CitizenM Hotel's lobby in London. The bar is surrounded by various relaxing eating, and working spaces.

A coffee and a croissant can go a long way. Integrating amenities and services such as coffee shops, bars, restaurants and even retail is a sure fire way to enhance your revenues. When guests are short on time, there is nothing more convenient than in-house offerings and exciting retail experiences at your doorstep. Mixed-use office receptions can hope for the same results: it’s all about drawing more traffic.

3. If you want to be the best, hire the best

Office reception desk by Ron Arad
Ron Arad designed Milan's DuoMo Hotel striking reception desk, a stainless steel loop, reminiscent of a futuristic flying saucer. Photo by Simon Tegala

World renowned, French botanist Patrick Blanc designed the living wall in Hong Kong’s Hotel Icon. Similarly, the DuoMo hotel in Milan hired Ron Arad, one of the most influential designers of our time to design a slick reception desk for their striking hotel lobby. If you want that unique first impression, you have to be ready to invest in the best. Ceilings, walls, floors, lighting, furniture can all compete to become the feature of the space.  

Yes, we do tend to judge a book by its cover but in the hospitality industry, as much as in commercial real estate, prejudgements are are the good kind of bad. They inspire landlords to realise the potential of those key public spaces and put an emphasis on them.

Made in Bulgaria, raised in Morocco, "matured" in the UK, Elissaveta is our Editor-in-Chief. Her career started in the field of architecture and design where she developed a talent for creative thinking and an eye for aesthetics. In 2014, she found her calling in design journalism and now has over three years’ experience in writing about design & architecture.