Choosing the Best Color Schemes for Lobbies and Conference Rooms

Choosing the right color palette for public areas such as lobbies and more specific and focused spaces such as meeting or conference rooms requires focusing on both the dedicated purpose of the area and the types of people who will be gathered there. Years ago, it was thought that simply painting a wall according to the suggested personality of a color could affect certain desired results. For example, painting jail cells or the visiting sports teams’ dressing rooms pink was an attempt to minimalize aggressive behavior. It was also thought that bright, warm colors would stir creativity while cooler blues and greens would actually create a relaxing atmosphere that might impede productivity. Recent research suggests that choosing effective color schemes is actually more complex.

Current color trends do play a part in designing attractive meeting rooms and lobbies. For many businesses, the walls will become a backdrop for the style of furniture or artwork incorporated into the overall feel of the room. A lobby may showcase the flagship colors in an oversize model of the product or service offered. In these cases, the background colors will support this advertising statement. Usually 2–3 of the main colors will be pulled and added to opposing walls or trim for a cohesive and unifying overall effect. Currently popular neutral colors such as chocolate brown, gray or taupe may be added to balance the look and connect the lobby seamlessly to adjoining rooms or hallways.

In meeting rooms, functionality is key and color schemes are more often chosen to meet lighting requirements for those sitting at conference tables that need to be able to easily see their computer screens and papers. However, research indicates that individuals have different levels of distractibility and a red that might stir one employee to think creatively and energetically, might cause another employee to feel angry, frustrated or even trapped. Some workers might feel inspired by a palette of cool blues and greens in the room, while others might feel too relaxed to focus and others might just feel uncomfortably cold.

The answer for both situations, the board room and the lobby, seems to lie then in clearly outlining the purpose of the space and then choosing the color, if not as a total wall covering but as a color accent to subliminally suggest the desired mood, attitude or action. The size of the room is also a consideration. The larger the space, the freer you can be with adding walls of vibrant, colors, either warm or cool. On the other hand, small lobbies or conference rooms must be more conservative so that the walls do not feel overpowering or closed-in. In those cases, a rich neutral color with accents that coordinate with the furniture or other room focal points will be the best choice.

Studies show that as much as 60% of your feelings about a product, or place such as a lobby or conference room will be influenced by the colors you experience. This means that not just the color but the value (lightness, darkness) of the shade and the saturation (dullness, brightness) must also be taken into consideration. Current recommendations suggest keeping the main surface area with a high (light color) value and a low (dull) saturation for maximum effectiveness. Any secondary color should be medium in value and saturation. The accent trim can have either a high or a low value, and a high saturation for the most appealing but not overpowering overall combination color scheme. Taking the time to choose your colors carefully is an important part of making your lobby or conference room as welcoming and utilitarian as possible.