Creating a Business Lounge – How to give your clients the VIP treatment

An accounting client asked me recently why I design offices and Airline lounges; they are quite dissimilar sorts of projects.  To me they’re not, as often my clients are one in the same;  I’ll be in the midst of designing their office in Melbourne and they’ll discover that I was the chief designer for the Lounge they stayed at in New York or Gatwick.

The passenger that enters one of my lounges, has probably spent a busy day at the office, taxied to the airport and finally arrived at the lounge where they have the first opportunity of the day to rest & revive.  I’ve heard from clients who plan to arrive early to maximise their time at the lounge & catch up on emails and phone calls, whilst grabbing a bite to eat in a restful setting.  These spaces are the original activity-based working environments!

There’s no denying that airlines know how to give the VIP treatment.  I can show you how to Wow your client and give a great experience by creating a Business Lounge in your office.

Airlines do this especially well.  I’ve had the lucky experience of being treated as a guest by Etihad in their business, first class & VIP lounges so that I could understand how their spaces feel while business and first class passengers are having that experience.  Trust me,  a cocktail, an A la Carte dinner, and a spa massage experience before a flight from London back to Melbourne had me feeling well-pampered, cared for and got me really, really relaxed!  This was all in an environment that oozed luxury, sophistication, and had a high emphasis on service.  I had a really memorable experience.

While that level of luxury may not be appropriate to your business, it give a great example of business thinking that is aways thinking about new ways to serve & help their clients.  It could be as simple as being attended to offering a coffee during a meeting, having comfortable furniture & interesting reading material (that appeals to your customers) in your waiting area.  If it’s an client presentation your having, arrange for catering from the local cafe.  Give a memorable experience and clients will love getting away from their own office for a break.

I’ve had a couple of clients approach me to design elements of their office to give the airline lounge experience, and lots of my corporate clients are very interested in work I do for airlines, many of them having the opportunity to visit the lounges I have designed all over the world.

I’ve had the absolute pleasure of having designed airline lounges for Emirates, Etihad and Air New Zealand, for the last 13 years, and I thought I’d share a couple of tips I’ve picked up along the way on how to get that airline lounge style office:


Screen the lounge area for a degree of intimacy from other working areas, walkways and open spaces.


I’m not talking polished marble floors & floor to ceiling panelling.  It’s about selecting the best locally made quality furnishings and materials that are appropriate for your project, and attention to the little details that create an overall impact.

Coffee is the holy grail

If your client has just arrived on a flight, they’ll love you for it.  Your staff can serve your client, or offer a do-it-yourself approach.   It needs to be a decent coffee machine which is easy to use, and in the past I’ve specified Jura machines from My Coffee Shop.  (Offer tea as a backup for those odd souls that don’t drink coffee).

Armchairs only please

Ban all the sofas, this is not your home, and you’re not trying to cosy up with your partner.  Offer good quality comfortable single seater armchairs (with accent cushion), for your clients to relax in their own space.  Up the VIP factor by choosing a high back chair that cocoons the body and creates a sense of privacy.

Coffee tables

Coffee & side tables are an essential, and position within easy reach.  Now they are available with options like power ports and cantilevered bases specifically for using a laptop while sitting in an armchair so they can catch up on that backlog of emails.


Standard office lighting is cool white.  In areas where you need to make an impact, introducing warm white lighting into client areas with down lights, floor or table lamps  creates a more welcoming environment.


Easy & prominant access to a power outlet for recharging phones and laptops.  Coffee tables, bench tops and armchairs are now available with built-in solutions for charging via USB and even wireless.

Hotelling offices

These are half size offices with a desk and chair for use by Interstate & International visitors.  Essential for visitors that need a lockable temporary desk space and a room for private phone calls.


Interstate & International visitors will appreciate somewhere to stash their suitcase, and some clients ask for lockers to accomodate this.

Dressing the lounge

The final details are added by a designer to style the lounge.  Vases and books, etc. give the space an inviting character and warmth that offices very often lack.

With these elements in place, you’ll be ready to give your clients the First Class treatment they desire.