The 12 Key Aspects of a Hotel Lobby Layout That Guests Love

Bryan Michalis
Bryan Michalis
May 1, 2024
February 21, 2024
The 12 Key Aspects of a Hotel Lobby Layout That Guests Love

The hotel lobby is the nerve center of almost any hotel. It’s where guests come to check-in, check out, ask questions to the front desk staff or concierge, wait for taxis or shuttles, and engage in with other guests. A vibrant and aesthetically pleasing hotel lobby design sets the tone for a guest’s entire experience at a property and can help make a lasting, positive impression.

The renowned artist, Andy Warhol, once quipped, “The lobbies are always the best-looking place in the hotel — you wish you could bring out a cot and sleep in them.”

With all of this in mind, it’s crucial to think through your hotel lobby’s layout down to the most minute detail.

Here are some of the key aspects of a hotel lobby layout that property owners and managers should consider when designing the lobby space:

  • Strategic lighting
  • Enhanced sensory experience
  • Communal space
  • Amount of open floor space
  • Types and styles of furniture
  • Biophilic elements
  • The shape and size of the front desk
  • Location of the concierge
  • Locations of food and beverage stations
  • Location of luggage carts and related equipment
  • Location and presentation of information about the surrounding area
  • Disbursement of electrical outlets and charging stations for guests

Let’s walk through each one of these aspects in a bit more detail.

1. Strategic Lighting

Hotel Lobby Strategic Lighting

There are two key elements to lighting design in a hotel lobby layout:

a. The color and strength of the light

It’s important to strike a balance between hue and intensity. The color or warmth of white light is ranked on the Kelvin scale — the warmer the color, the lower the color temperature. Choosing the right temperature and strength for your lobby depends on the atmosphere you want to create. Candlelight is around 2000 degrees Kelvin while daylight is typically between 5,500 and 6,500 degrees Kelvin.

b. The location and style of individual lighting fixtures

From ceiling chandeliers to wall sconces and floor lamps, the type of fixtures you choose will help define your aesthetic. Combine elegant chandeliers with ambient floor fixtures to create a modern, sleek, or cozy vibe.

Let’s start with the brightness and color of the light that will greet guests when they first set foot in a hotel lobby.

The best hotel experiences are the ones in which guests feel comfortable and welcomed. Extremely bright white lighting may enable you to see every last detail in a room with perfect clarity, but it’s likely to create the impression of a sterile, cold and harsh environment.

Lighting professionals recommend that hotel lobbies opt for soft, warm ambient lighting between 2700-3000 Kelvin that is more yellow than white or blue. Conveniently, this is the same Kelvin range as the standard incandescent light bulb.

While there is a recommended temperature range for the light that emanates throughout hotel lobbies around the world, there is no such standard for the types of lighting fixtures hotels should deploy.

The types of lighting fixtures that adorn a hotel lobby are largely dependent on the overall design and size of the space that needs to be lit. A combination of table lamps, chandeliers, recessed lighting and footlights evenly spread across the lobby will provide a warm and even ambiance for every guest.

2. Enhanced Sensory Experience

Enhance Sensory Guest Experience

Done right, a hotel lobby can engage all five senses, making for a more memorable guest experience. Scent marketing, for example, can be a powerful motivator for spending. Some ideas for designing a space that engages all the senses include brewing hot coffee, lighting candles, offering freshly baked snacks and playing soft music through the sound system.

These efforts allow guests to quickly attribute your hotel with a feeling and emotion — one they’ll carry with them long after checkout.

3. Communal Space

Hotel Lobby as Communal Space

More hotels are creating multi-use spaces where guests co-mingle with locals and staff. Your hotel lobby can evolve beyond a place for guests to just check in or out and become a place of community and convenience. Hybrid lounge and dining spaces can coexist with libraries, outdoor terraces and convenience corners.

If your venue caters to digital nomads and business travelers, allocate one section of your lobby for working. These ideas can transform a traditional lobby into shared spaces where guests can gather and engage.

4. Amount of Open Floor Space

Hotel Lobby Open Space is Important

It may seem like a somewhat obvious point, but the amount of open space in a hotel lobby is a delicate balance between stylistic design and practicality. Too little floor space and a lobby will feel cramped and uncomfortable. Too much and it will feel empty and devoid of life.

To ensure guests always feel comfortable when they walk through the lobby, hoteliers should aim to have enough open floor space to accommodate roughly 10-15 percent of the hotel’s guest capacity at any given time. This will ensure the lobby retains a healthy balance of breathing room and coziness.

5. Types & Styles of Furniture

Hotel Lobby Furniture

When considering the types of furniture to include in your hotel lobby layout, it’s best to keep things relatively simple. Coffee tables, wingback chairs, ottomans, couches and loveseats are standard elements in almost any hotel lobby. Properties that wish to convey a more rustic and homey aesthetic may also want to consider rocking chairs and fainting couches.

The style of furniture chosen for your hotel lobby depends on the overall brand of the hotel, the surrounding area, and the architecture and history of the property.

Furniture styles can be broken into three main categories: historical, modern and contemporary.

The historical category includes styles that date back hundreds of years, including:

  • Jacobean: Dark wood finishes and geometrics designs inspired by medieval style and the Renaissance in the 17th century. Curved lines and motifs are common.
  • William and Mary: Elaborate woodwork inspired by 18th-century England. The pieces are substantial, sturdy, and ornate, as most commonly seen in the furniture’s legs.
  • Queen Anne: Smaller, lighter, and more delicate than the pieces above, this style often features curved cabriole legs, padded upholstery, and wingback chairs.
  • Pennsylvania Dutch: Most commonly characterized by decorative, hand-painted motifs seen in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Its utilitarian chests, cabinets, and tables feature simple turnings and straight lines.
  • Louis XVI: Featuring fewer curves than other European designs, these pieces feature straight lines, crisp angles, and symmetrical patterns.
  • Sheraton: Wood-style pieces in a rectangular shape with thin, straight legs. Furniture in this style is often more delicate and elegant.
  • Federal: Rooted in neoclassicism, this furniture style features clean lines, shapely inlays, and minimal curves. Can appear modern, sleek, and simple.
  • American Empire: Dark, rich woods like Mahogany blend with ornate carvings and upholstery. Common features include clawed feet and curved headers, made popular in the mid 19th century.
  • Victorian: Dark finishes, ornate upholstery, and eclectic shapes define this furniture type. Its pieces are feminine, bold and floral.

The modern category of furniture style was developed in the early 20th century and includes:

  • Minimalist: Simplistic, clean, and monochromatic, this furniture type focuses on functionality. Smooth, flat surfaces and minimal artwork create a sleek look.
  • Relaxed Modern: A more sophisticated version of the minimalist style, this furniture type combines natural colors and fabrics to create a clean, comfortable piece.
  • And more

The final category of furniture style is contemporary, which consists of the styles that are largely popular today:

  • Shabby Chic: Mixes vintage vibes with glam for a softer approach to furniture. These pieces often look distressed and feature muted colors.
  • Casual Luxe: Sleek and sophisticated with a cozy, comfortable vibe. This furniture is larger — perfect for spacious rooms — and some couches may be upholstered.
  • And more

No matter what style you choose for your hotel lobby layout, it’s best to keep your furniture consistent and avoid mixing and matching — Jacobean and Relaxed Modern hardly go together.

6. Biophilic Elements

Biophilic Elements in Hotel Lobbies

Biophilic design is a relatively new discipline with ancient roots.

As Stephen R. Kellert wrote in the design and architecture publication, Metropolis:

“Biophilic design seeks to connect our inherent need to affiliate with nature in the modern built environment. An extension of the theory of biophilia, biophilic design recognizes that our species has evolved for more than 99% of its history in adaptive response to the natural world and not to human created or artificial forces. We became biologically encoded to associate with natural features and processes.”

Simply put, human beings are most comfortable when we are surrounded with elements that remind us of the natural world. Plants, animals, water features, natural light and views of the outside environment are all essential to biophilic design. Hotel managers and owners should incorporate as many of these elements as possible into their hotel lobby layouts to immediately put guests in a calmer and healthier mindset from the moment they arrive at the front desk.

And speaking of front desks…

7. Shape & Size of the Front Desk

The importance of the Front Desk in the hotel lobby

The front desk is a mainstay of almost every hotel in the world. It’s where guests check-in, checkout, and receive answers to any inquiries during their stay. This turns the seemingly innocuous task of selecting a front desk design into one of the most important decisions a hotel owner or manager will make regarding a hotel lobby’s layout.

Much like the amount of floor space allocated in the lobby, you want the front desk to reflect the overall size of the hotel. If you expect to deal with a large influx of guests throughout the day, it’s best to choose a front desk design that provides adequate space for multiple agents to engage with new arrivals.

For smaller hotels, a desk accommodating only one or two agents will suffice.

Whether large or small, hoteliers would be wise to construct a front desk that is reflective of the furniture style you have selected for the rest of your lobby.

8. Location of the Concierge

Hotel Lobby Concierge

A concierge is an essential part of many luxury hotel operations. However, unlike the front desk staff — which normally deals with inquiries from guests about the goings-on and amenities at the hotel — the concierge generally deals with guest needs that extend beyond the boundaries of the property.

This key difference sets the concierge apart from the rest of the front desk staff and many hotels provide them with a distinct desk set away from the front desk. Where this concierge desk sits in the lobby is entirely up to the discretion of a hotel owner or manager; however, concierge desks are commonly situated next to the main entrance and exit of a lobby as it allows guests to ask questions on their way out the door.

9. Locations of Food & Beverage Stations

Beverages in Hotel Lobby

Depending on the type of hotel, a lobby may include designated areas for coffee and small snacks that guests can enjoy as they travel to and from their rooms. These amenities are particularly valued among business travelers with limited time on their hands.

Food and beverage stations of this type are generally found away from the front desk and close to any hallways or corridors that actually lead to guest rooms. This ensures that people queuing for coffee won’t interfere with the operations of the front desk or concierge. Food and beverage stations may also be found outside any dining rooms, cafes or restaurants that are connected to the hotel lobby.

10. Location of Luggage Carts & Related Equipment

Hotel Lobby Luggage carriers

Luggage carts are useful tools for carrying large amounts of baggage to and from guest rooms, and it is a normal occurrence to see them gliding in and out of hotel lobbies throughout the world.

However, these essential tools have to be stored somewhere when they aren't in use.

Hoteliers should consider designating an area in their hotel lobby where these important instruments are stored when not in use. Generally speaking, this area should be located near the main entrance to the hotel so it can be easily accessed by guests looking to bring large amounts of luggage to their rooms.

11. Location & Presentation of Information About the Surrounding Area

Make information easily available in your hotel lobby

Whether a guest is traveling for business or pleasure, they will likely want to know something about the area in which they are staying. Providing guests with information about local attractions and the area surrounding the property are appreciated by every type of traveler.

Customarily, the distribution of this information takes place in a brochure rack of some kind near the front desk or entrance/exit of the hotel.

Though this is an entirely appropriate element of a hotel lobby layout, it may be beneficial for hoteliers to digitize this information and make it available to guests via their mobile devices — nixing the entire need for a physical information center and creating a more streamlined hotel lobby experience.

12. Disbursement of Electrical Outlets & Charging Stations for Guests

Make Electric outlets available in your hotel lobby

When thinking through the aesthetics of a guest experience in a hotel lobby, the placement of electrical outlets and power charging stations may come last (as it does in this blog post); however, that doesn’t make it any less important than the rest of the above outlined aspects of a hotel lobby layout. In fact, this may be one of the most important logistical challenges a hotel owner or manager thinks through when designing a hotel lobby.

Too many outlets or chargers in one place will leave guests crowded and fighting for elbow room — not exactly the experience hoteliers are looking to impart to their customers. Instead, be sure to evenly space charging stations and power outlets throughout the lobby so every guest can access a plug without banging into another guest.

Summing Up

A hotel lobby layout is largely up to the discretion of the hotel owner or manager, but there are some general rules that should be followed no matter what. Finding the balance between beautiful design and practicality is the quintessential challenge that comes with designing a hotel lobby. By following the advice outlined above, you will lay the groundwork for an outstanding hotel lobby that welcomes and comforts every guest who checks in.

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