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A well-appointed space reflects your business culture, mission, and professionalism. Smart looking and high functioning reception desks and suites provide the centerpieces for these public facing receiving areas.

From the first impression to every visit after that, your reception area speaks volumes. Not only about your business but also about how you care for both prospective and current clientele.

If you've been tasked with sourcing, a reception desk or reception suite for your company's lobby or your client's offices, you know the choices on the market are vast and varied. To help you wade through the ocean of possibilities, we've provided a comprehensive guide on how to choose reception desks and suites below.

What is a reception desk?

A receptionist sits at a reception desk. Their job is to greet customers, clients, and patients, check them in for appointments and perform various other tasks in between greetings. A reception desk is made to be aesthetically pleasing and highly functional for both customers and staff.

Typically, these customer-facing desks have a solid front and two sides and consist of two components:

  • Reception countertop - allows customers and receptionists to sign papers and conduct transactions.
  • Sitting desk - allows the receptionist privacy to do their work in between greeting customers or patients. This desk sits behind (and at least 12 inches below) the reception counter.

Reception desks can be found in a variety of business settings such as health care offices, government offices, stores, bank lobbies, office buildings, city apartment lobbies, hotel lobbies, high-end restaurants and lounges, hair and nail salons, spas, and more.

What is the Best Shape For a Reception Desk?

Besides the shape of your room, you'll want to consider your workspace requirements when choosing a shape for your reception desk.

  • Square. Ideal for small offices with just one receptionist working at a given time. It has three equal sides and an open back. Square reception desks offer a simple look perfect for offices without a distinct style.
Black Classic Wooden Rectangular Reception Desk
Gray Modern Wooden Reception Desk
Brown Classic Laminate Reception Desk
White Modern Metal Rectangular Reception Desk
White Modern Manufactured Wood Reception Desk
Brown Classic Laminate Rectangular Reception Desk
  • Curved. Saves space in small to mid-size areas. The bow out at the front with a curved edge facing the client. The desk behind takes up minimal space and can be situated in a corner or parallel to a wall.
  • Round. Offers mobility and ample desk and counter space from all angles. Works nicely with medium to large areas. Will often have an almost complete circle shape with cut out in back to enter and exit.
  • L-shaped. It connects two work areas behind the reception counter. It allows the receptionist to rotate easily from one worksurface to another.
Brown Modern Wooden L Shape Reception Desk
Brown Classic Laminate Reception Desk
Gray Modern Manufactured Wood Reception Desk
White Modern Laminate L Shape Reception Desk
White Contemporary Laminate Reception Desk
Brown Classic Laminate Reception Desk
  • U-shaped. Spacious enough for large reception areas to allow for multiple receptionists working at once. It offers a reception counter in the front with a desk behind and two additional work desks with or without counters above.
Brown Modern Laminate Reception Desk
Gray Modern Laminate U Shape Reception Desk
White Contemporary Laminate U Shape Desk
Brown Modern Glass Laminate Reception Desk
Gray Classic Laminate Reception Desk
Brown Modern Manufactured Wood Reception Desk

How to Choose the Right Size Reception Desk?

To ensure you get the correct size reception desk, there are some general rules of thumb you can apply when selecting the correct one for your space.

  • Measure and sketch out your space carefully.
  • Be sure to include any architectural elements that may get in the way, such as windows, inward swinging doors, built-in workspaces, etc.
  • Calculate how much room you will need to leave on all sides for staff and clients to move about freely.
  • Add at least an extra 60 inches or more for turning radius behind the desk.
  • Leave 3 feetor more between the reception desk and any surrounding walls or furnishings for traffic flow.
  • The width of your desk shouldn't overpower your reception area.
  • A single-person reception desk (48+ inches) works best in small areas.
  • A two-person reception desk (71-73 inches) will be more appropriate in a mid-size reception area.
  • In a large space, such as a bank or office tower lobby, a very wide desk (8 feet or wider) will balance out the expanse of the area.
  • Typically, there are three heights for reception desks between 28 inches to 34 inches. The choice will largely depend on the height of a person using it.

What are the Best Reception Desk Materials?

The busy reception area will see a constant stream of activity. As such, your desk will incur wear and tear from the rigors of daily exposure. The material you choose for your reception desk will be dictated mostly by desired durability and budget. Below we've listed the common materials used to make reception desks and suites.

  • Laminate - Affordable and durable. It does not scratch or dents easily. Available in a range of solid colors and wood grain prints.
Brown Classic Laminate U Shape Desk
Light Brown Modern Laminate Reception Desk
White Modern Laminate L Shape Desk
Brown Classic Laminate Reception Desk
Brown Modern Laminate L Shape Reception Desk
Brown Classic Laminate Rectangular Reception Desk
  • Wood Veneer - Falls in between laminate and wood in terms of cost and durability. Veneer is a thin layer of genuine wood adhered to particleboard. Gives the appearance of real wood without the cost. It requires some maintenance. Styles include traditional, transitional, modern, and contemporary.
Gray Modern Manufactured Wood Reception Desk
Brown Stylish Manufactured Wood Reception Desk
Dark Brown Modern Manufactured Wood Desk
Brown Modern Manufactured Wood L Shape Reception Desk
Dark Brown Classic Manufactured Wood Rectangular Desk
Brown Modern Manufactured Wood U Shape Desk
  • Solid Wood - Long-lasting and most costly of all the materials. Prone to scratching, denting, and scuffing. Most popular option for luxury venues such as hotels, banks, and law firms. Lends itself towards all décor styles.
  • Metal - Strong, durable, and affordable. Includes metal types such as aluminum, steel, and iron. Works nicely in industrial and minimalist offices. Can be combined with frosted or clear glass.
  • Glass - Durable, moderately priced, easy to maintain. Frosted glass provides privacy for the reception suite as clear glass would not.  As a design accent, glass is used for the countertop section of the desk with other components constructed from metal, veneer, laminate, or wood. Glass is contemporary or industrial in style.

What Features Should a Good Reception Desk Come With?

As with standard desks, reception desks offer an array of features and storage solutions to fit your needs such as:

Behind Desk:

  • Built-in drawers, cubbies, and storage cabinets.
  • Pre-drilled holes for cords and wires.
  • Power outlets at desk level for computers and office equipment.
  • Large desktop workspace.
  • Pull-out keyboard drawers.
  • Monitor platform.

Desk Front:

  • Customer-facing receding toe-kick to avoid scuff and dents from shoes and kicking.
  • Wider countertop overhang in the front for use with stools or chairs.
  • Flat front for business signage or customer greeting plaque.
  • Modular coffee bar unit for reception desk suites.
  • Decorative metal or glass accents.
  • Under-counter lighting on the desk front.