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Hello. And welcome. The impact a reception desk can have on visitor experience

Updated: Jan 20, 2022

The (not so) humble reception desk isn’t just the place to store Post-its and the Visitor Book — it’s the heart of your reception area and, therefore, the most important part of your visitors’ ‘first impressions’ experience.

When someone walks into your building for the first time, the desk, the space, the atmosphere, they all combine to create the perfect moment you want for your guests — and for your business.

How can a reception desk be so important? Pull up a seat and we’ll tell you…

When is a desk not just a desk?

The reception desk is the literal welcome to your business and it defines your brand: with the look, style and materials communicating your vision, personality and values. Ditto tenants on subfloors with their own receptions and desks.

The desk and reception aren’t just about pleasing aesthetics that reflect your brand colours, though — they’re also about considering the needs of your visitors, guests and employees.

Your visitors’ needs

For your employees, they’ll use this space regularly and will want to feel proud of where they work. For your visitors and guests, the key word is ‘reassurance’.

We’ll say it again: the desk - and the receptionist - reassure us. They let visitors know they’re in the right place, let them know where they’re meant to be going, let them know what they should do on arrival. They make us feel secure, too — ensuring guests (and employees) know their safety, security and health has been considered and is paramount.

And never more so than during the COVID pandemic. At first, receptions were closed or physical barriers/screens were put in place — but now, with human contact - and therefore receptionists at their reception desks - being craved, the move is back towards an ‘in person’ visitor experience. But one that’s still safe. There’s the spacing of people, reception desks laden with masks and sanitiser bottles, and receptionists asking after new high temperatures and coughs to think about.

Which desk is best for you and your guests?

Consider these basic points… First of all, let’s make the desk super-comfortable and super-useful for the receptionist - giving them easy access to the tools they need - and then think about the layout, the finishes, the longevity.

The desk, as established, has to have a welcoming function and, in its presence and materials, reflect the company and its business interactions. Interestingly, not every client wants their reception desk to make a grand impression. Some, a charity or Government department for example, might not want a desk that projects too much wealth. They’d be looking for their visitors to see their reception area as ‘appropriate’ to how they interact and what they represent, so often look for understated finishes to reflect this. The quality still needs to be on point though.

Conversely, if your business is used to appealing to wealthy customers, you could choose to go all out on the extravagant finishes…

Bradley Fielden, Clarke Rendall’s Sales & Marketing Director, provides more ‘choose your desk’ advice: “There’s a lot to think about”, he says. “The brand, the impression, the function, the quantity of flow through the building, how many people are going to sit at it… You also need to consider the available space, visitor seating, refreshment points, storage and Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) accessibility is of course vitally important, too.

“It’s vital to get the desk right. The desk, the area, the receptionist - being the first and last point of contact - set the tone for every visitor’s experience. Whether you’re aiming for subtle expression or standout impact, Clarke Rendall can advise you on the most suitable reception furniture for your space.”

Our desks in situ

Here are a few Clarke Rendall projects that show the wonderful impact a well-designed desk and reception area can have on visitor experience.


A multi-use reception area was required at this YMCA residential centre. High-quality finishes in modest colours were used to give a contemporary look for this charity — but to also deliver a hygienic and robust entrance. COVID measures of protective perspex sneeze-guards were cleverly incorporated into the bespoke curved reception counter — and a mix of urban materials and textures created a cool look that reflects the YMCA’s brand.


Organic, seamless lines support the smooth flow of people at 6 Kean Street — the newly-refurbished office space in central London.

With a prestigious postcode and high-end brief, the reception furniture and layout had to set the right tone — bringing 21st Century styling to a classic 17th Century building.

Using the coherent lines of this bespoke, split-level, solid-surface reception desk, alongside the curved stairs and ‘serpentine’ bench section, the flow of people entering this space is managed perfectly.

This elegance is also reflected in the finishes. Using HI-MACS® Andromeda, oak veneer, antique brass and a leather desktop, the reception counter creates a stunning.

Providing an inclusive entrance experience was crucial to Kean Street, and this was achieved by incorporating an internal ramp behind the curved balustrade.


If you want to strike an informal, warm, welcoming tone - whilst maintaining quality - take inspiration from City Asset Management.

The receptionist is front and centre and ready to welcome visitors across the low-level, black walnut, crown-cut veneered reception desk with aluminium sled base.

The design is understated, and the reception counter unobtrusive, but the high-end finishes and clean-desk policy creates a feeling of class and professionalism.


Visitor experience doesn’t just mean of the human kind… Delivering world-class veterinary medicine and care for animals, it was important for Fitzpatrick Referrals to create somewhere animal-friendly when designing their reception desk and waiting area: alongside clinical considerations, the experience and wellbeing of the patients was key. To that end, the minimal-yet-welcoming reception desk is finished in medically-approved materials, and there are two separate waiting areas for dogs and cats — so they can’t see each other and freak each other out. The custom-made seating areas are also animal-proofed — with medically-approved seat pads that can withstand regular cleaning and can be individually replaced if they get damaged. Clever and practical.

Want some guidance on how to create a great welcome for your visitors, get in touch on 01908 391600 or email We’re always happy to share our experience.

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