When it comes to business, the brand you present to your clients is of the utmost importance. This applies to your interactions with clients, your social media presence, your advertising efforts – and your office design. If you have clients coming into your space, you’ll want to ensure that your reception area sets the right tone by matching your business brand while also offering a welcoming, yet professional, space.

This emphasis on brand was something Mary Anne van Gaal, of Otta Decorate in Ottawa, Ontario, considered in her award-winning submission to the Canadian Decorators’ Association annual awards. She placed silver in the “Commercial” category for her “Start-Up Reception Area” submission.

“My clients were young, hip and environmentally conscious, so I wanted to design a funky space that reflected their taste and image,” she explains. “Also, Granite is in the company name, so it had to be included in the design as well. I convinced them that having the concrete floors finished would be really cool, environmentally conscious, durable and would look almost like granite with the small stones in the concrete.” She carried the granite and environmental theme with a barn wood feature wall, retro-style chairs, a barn wood desk and green granite to top the receptionist’s counter.

When it comes to redecorating a reception area, van Gaal recommends starting with basic paint. “Paint is the cheapest way to update a space,” she says. “Colour can invigorate a tired space and brighten it up. It doesn’t have to be on all walls; create a focal wall, which is usually the wall facing you when you walk into a room.”

She also suggests artwork as a way to quickly change the look of the room – and it doesn’t have to be expensive. “It is possible to get large canvases at places like Homesense and IKEA that don’t cost a lot, but can have a huge impact,” she says.

If you have a bigger budget for renovations, van Gaal suggests opting for a finish such as wood panels, tile, plaster treatments or wood mouldings on the focal wall, rather than just basic paint. New furniture can also update a space, but van Gaal points out that you need to ensure the furniture is comfortable, durable and practical. “Chairs are more versatile than sofas,” she says. “A pattern or texture would add interest and hide wear.”

The importance of a stylish, welcoming reception area can’t be overestimated. “The reception area sets the entire image for your company,” says van Gaal. “The first 10 seconds can make or break you!”