open front reception desk

What to Look For in a New Reception Desk

How to go about deciding on a reception desk? Well, there are a number of factors to keep in mind. And remember…the reception desk is the very first thing your potential clients see when walking through the front doors into your business. It should say something about your company. Is it classic, modern, or eclectic? It needs to convey the right message while being neither ostentatious nor too humble. The coordinating reception furniture (i.e. the guest seating and accent tables) should complement but not upstage the focal point which is the all-important desk.

l shape reception desk

When narrowing down your choices, bear in mind the basic reception desk shapes:


        • Curved:  The curved design is a favorite as a modern reception desk choice as it creates a minimal footprint for smaller spaces. A crucial factor to bear in mind is the nature of the work that the receptionist will be doing. If he or she will be handling copious amounts of paperwork, this design may create limitations in terms of desktop space.
        • L-Shaped:  This style desk connects two desk surfaces together at a 90-degree angle to form a single unit. While it generally yields a more low-key appearance, it does provide for a larger desktop area as well as more storage options.
        • U-Shaped:  This style of the desk provides the greatest amount of space of any desk. It wraps around both sides, providing a desktop on both sides, as well as the option for under-desk storage on all sides. For this reason, it’s a good option for businesses whose receptionists handle a lot of paperwork or have more than one receptionist working at a time.

Some other factors to consider:


      • Space:  Consider your space. Scale plays a key role. The way a reception desk appears in a 12’ x 15’ windowless room vs. how it appears at the end of a long, pillared lobby with high ceilings is vastly different.  Consider the sight lines and how the desk appears from a distance as well as up close. A curved reception desk may end up almost looking like children’s furniture if it is too small for the space. Conversely, a U-shaped desk may overwhelm a smaller room even if the dimensions physically fit the space. When taking measurements, allow for ample room to navigate the desk from all sides.


    • Customer Experience:  What is the nature of the business? Will the receptionist essentially be serving as a concierge, where a standing desk with a minimal footprint will fit the bill? Or will he/she be dealing with payment processing or other confidential information such as in the medical field? If so, providing generous counter space, perhaps with partitions or privacy options may be in order.


    • Materials: When brainstorming your reception area’s appearance, also bear in mind the materials from which the furniture is made—not only for their effect, but also for their properties.
      • Laminate is made from particle board or MDF, most likely with a wood grain image adhered to the outermost layer. It’s a popular choice for its ability to keep clean and its tendency to not scratch, not to mention its budget-friendly price.
      • Wood veneer, like laminate, is generally made of particle board or MDF, but is upgraded with a thin layer of real wood on the exterior. It’s a practical choice for those who want the rich look of solid wood without the price. Since the outer layer is real wood, it does tend to scratch more easily than laminate.
      • Metal desks provide a sleek effect that often appeals to those who favor an ultra-modern or mid-century modern aesthetic. Generally speaking, metal desks are made of steel, but most consumers opt for a different material, such as wood or glass for the desktop. The contrast provides visual interest and a sense of lightness.
      • Glass desks, like metal desks, are usually a mixture of materials, such as a glass top combined with a wood or metal base. Tempered glass reduces the risk of shattering, and it’s a solid choice for promoting a light, airy feel.
    • Style:  I think this is everyone’s favorite part. The reception area is the gateway into your office. Have fun with it! Do a little brainstorming. Think of your brand and the image it represents. Are you a traditional, family practice law firm? Maybe a cherry wood, U-shaped desk speaks to you and fulfills the features you require. Or perhaps you’re an up-and-coming cosmetics company and have a minimal, curved standing desk with a sleek quartz desktop in mind. Or you could be a tech company who adores all angles and steel.  

Once you’ve started to narrow that down, consider the wall behind the reception desk; the backsplash likely to contain your brand’s logo. Will you choose crackled glass, or opt for peaceful bamboo? Or perhaps a shimmering tile mosaic? If you think of it, it can be done.

One popular feature that has been gaining popularity in recent years is the use of LED light across the desk or backsplash. Any shade of the rainbow; it provides a pop of color and energy which is memorable to all of those who visit.

And don’t forget about coordinating artwork!

Charged up over your upcoming reception revamp? Reeling over reception chairs? Our team of office design professionals at D2 Office Furniture + Design would love to inspire and assist you throughout this process. We are a four-generation, family-owned business proudly offering the only ground level office showroom in Midtown Manhattan. Call us at (212) 288-0800 today!