Outfitting your new office with used waiting room furniture is a great way to keep your startup costs down.
We're not suggesting you go dumpster diving for threadbare sofas and beat up end tables (you want to create a good first impression, after all). We're just saying that you just don't need to spend an arm and a leg for quality reception seating.
While buying used will save you money, there are some drawbacks, including furniture wear-and-tear and limited style options. It's wise to see the furniture you're purchasing in person before buying it or, if that's not possible, at least look at several photos to make sure it's not broken, dirty or damaged.
Read on for tips on what you might need and where you can buy used waiting room furniture.
What do you need?
There are many different options for the types of seating you use in a reception area. Keep in mind, this isn't your living room, so no La-Z-Boy recliners needed. Look for clean, comfortable, well-made pieces that will put your clients at ease while they wait.
Before shopping, answer the following questions:
How big is my waiting room?
Measure the room to determine how much space you have for furniture. For smaller spaces, you might only have room for a reception desk and a couple of chairs. For a larger space, you might be able to have a desk, sofa, chairs and a coffee table.
How busy will my waiting room be?
If you expect a lot of clients or customers dropping in at any given time, you'll want to make sure to have ample seating. On the other hand, if most of your business is done online and meetings are handled remotely, then you might only need a couple of chairs.
What image do I want my business to project?
Your reception area is the first place clients and customers will interact with your business in person, so make sure it gives them clues about the type of company you run. For a forward-thinking tech company, you would want to select sleek, modern pieces that reflect the company's vision. But if you're starting a children's hair salon, you'll want brightly-colored, durable pieces that appeal to kids and their parents. No matter what style of furniture you go with, you'll want to make sure that it's clean, comfortable and solid. No matter how fancy the couch is, if it has a giant stain on the cushion or holes in the arms, nobody is going to want to stay for long.
What is my budget?
Deciding how much you can afford to spend on waiting room furniture will help determine where you can afford to shop for it.
Furniture shopping list
Once you've answered the above questions, then you can go on to making a list of what furniture and accessories you need.
Here's a list of what you might consider purchasing and how much you'll spend:
This will likely be the first thing your clients see when entering your office (even if it's not the first thing they see, it should be easy to find - you don't want anybody feeling lost). Desks come in several configurations including corner, U-shaped and L-shaped. The amount of traffic you expect and the size of the waiting room should help you determine what type of desk would work best. Make sure the desk provides front desk staff with enough space for the work they need to do (Is there room for a computer, phone, printer, etc.?) and that it is well-lit and has ample storage space.
Hopefully, your clients won't be left waiting for too long, but in case you get busy, you want to make sure that the waiting room seating is comfortable. Options include:
Sofas or Love Seats: Whether you want to create a cozier atmosphere or you frequently have clients that come in groups (say families), then picking out a sofa or love seat is a great option for your waiting area. You'll find office-ready sofas in everything from leather to vinyl. Just make sure whatever you pick out compliments any other seating you might need in reception. $400-$2,000.
Club or Lounge Chairs: Just like their name, these chairs are designed for visitors to settle in for the long haul if need be. These upholstered chairs can be found in a variety of shapes, textures and colors, and can suit just about any office's style. $150-$600.
Bariatric Chairs: similar to club or lounge chairs, these chairs are wide, sturdy and comfortable - built to hold clients of all sizes. They are often cushioned and have armrests and come in leather, vinyl or cloth upholstery. $200-$700.
Beam Seating: Best for offices with high traffic and limited space, this is the type of seating you'd find in an airport - a row of two to four (or more) chairs connected by a single beam underneath. While not the most comfortable, it might be the most cost- and space-efficient for your reception area. Beam seats come in a variety of styles and can be fitted with end tables. $300-$800.
Sled Base Chair: Probably the most common and affordable office seating, these chairs are named for the chair legs, which resemble the runners on a sled. They generally feature wood, plastic or metal bases with upholstered or plastic seats. $80-$200.
Coffee Table: If you have a larger room, a traditional coffee table paired with a sofa and/or chairs can help center your reception seating. Office coffee tables can be made of anything from metal and laminate to glass to traditional wood. $100-$800.
Side/End Table: For compact waiting rooms or rooms with several rows of seating, side tables are a great alternative to a bulky coffee table - and they're less expensive. Style options are similar to what you'd find with coffee tables. $75-$500.
Once you have your reception area furnished, don't forget to add something for your clients to look at. Potted plants, lamps, artwork for the walls, or even a small fountain can help them relax while creating more visual interest in the room. And reading material - whether it's company brochures, magazines or coffee table books - will occupy them while they wait.
Where to Shop
Used Furniture Dealers
Your best bet for finding better-quality used waiting room furniture is to go through a dealer like Arnolds Office Furniture, which has a wide selection of high-quality pieces at affordable prices that you can browse online. Dealers will generally clean and refurbish worn furniture as well, saving you time and money.
Companies that are closing or moving will often sell old office furniture at a great price. Check online and look at newspaper classifieds to see if any businesses near you are holding sales. Shopping locally will give you the added advantage of being able to inspect the pieces in person.
Second-hand stores: While you probably won't find reception desks, you might have luck finding tables, sofas or chairs at consignment shops and places like Goodwill and the Salvation Army. Just keep in mind you might have to give these pieces some extra TLC by cleaning them and mending broken parts.
You can find just about anything on the popular online auction site, including used office furniture. While you might be able to furnish your waiting area for next to nothing, keep in mind that shopping online is not without it's risks - mainly, you won't know the quality of the pieces you're buying until they show up at your door.