When it comes to creating an appropriate color scheme for hotel lobbies – the first and often lasting impression guests have of the property – hospitality designers face an interesting challenge: Not only do they need to envision a welcoming space that meets the hotel owner's wishes, but their vision has to appeal to thousands of different hotel guests – with varying tastes and styles – walking through the door.
"Color sets the tone for how a person is going to perceive the space they're entering, maybe for the very first time," says designer Kenneth Walter of Gray & Walter in Chicago. "And depending on the hues used, they may never come back."
Sheri Thompson, national director of the hospitality market for Sherwin-Williams, couldn't agree more: "I have the opportunity to visit hundreds of hotels a year. To me, the hotel lobby defines the personality of the whole hotel. When I walk through the front doors of a hotel for the first time, I take in all the details of the lobby – colors, textures, accents. I especially take note of the lobby colors because they set my expectation for what I'm going to find in other public spaces and my room. I know that if there are warm, bright or energetic colors in the lobby, then the whole vibe of the hotel will follow suit."
While each hotel lobby project garners its own unique color palette, Walter says that certain common hues work well across the board. "Light colors such as creams, whites and beiges work universally," says Walter, who considers green a neutral color because of its prevalence in nature. Thompson also believes neutrals are a good choice: "Neutrals can create a wonderful lobby experience, especially since today's neutrals are anything but boring – sophisticated browns, greens, grays and whites are all great colors to create an inviting canvas."
"In the right space, it's edgier to paint a wall black or brown, but there are a lot of hotel operators who would never stand for it," says Walter. "Reds can be very warm and enveloping, but they can also make people feel a little uncomfortable. It's all a matter of how much color you use and finding the right balance."