How to Design Outdoor Hospitality Spaces

Find out how designer can successfully create multi-purpose outdoor spaces that inspire people to gather.

By GR Chair

Outdoor patio with Bowen Communal Tables and Bowen Benches.

Today, outdoor spaces are getting leveraged for purposes beyond the traditional neighborhood coffee nook or restaurant patio. Designers are now challenged to incorporate outside gathering spaces into corporate headquarters, higher education campuses, and healthcare facilities. In fact, many business owners consider their outdoor spaces to be a competitive advantage when it comes to attracting new customers and employees. 

According to Workplace Insight, when people look for a place to work, connect with colleagues, or recharge, they are increasingly attracted to ‘hotel-style’ amenities like outdoor spaces. A new poll from MRI Software reinforces the desire for hospitality environments. The poll stated that almost two-thirds (64 percent) of respondents said hotel-style features impact their decision on whether to work for an organization. So how can designers successfully create multi-purpose outdoor spaces that inspire people to gather? 

Design Discovery Phase

To design a great outdoor space, start by understanding the needs of the audience. Engaging employees and customers in the discovery phase is a great way to gather insights and expectations that people may have for an outdoor space. The following list of questions is a great conversation starter. 

  • What are your goals for the room/ space? 
  • How do you intend to use the space? 
  • What will be the primary function of the space and who will be using it? 
  • Do any users of this space have special needs that should be considered?
  • How would you describe the ideal style of the room?
  • What does success look like for this project? 

Selecting the Right Outdoor Furniture

After capturing user requirements, select furniture that helps support specific tasks and work styles identified in initial conversations. Tables, like the Bowen Outdoor Community Table, help to create versatile spaces ideal for after-hour cocktails or team brainstorming sessions. On the flip side, a student seeking a quiet place to sip coffee might seek a smaller café style table, like the Bowen Pedestal Table.

Lastly, ensure that the furniture you’ve selected will withstand all types of weather conditions. Encourage human connection in your outdoor social spaces with durable, comfortable pieces such as the Rita Lounge Chair and Rita Loveseat.  Both pieces are constructed with powder-coated steel frames and dri-fast foam, making them ideal solutions for a variety of outdoor settings and weather conditions.  For commercial use, BIFMA certification is an excellent indication that the item you’ve selected will stand up to the test of time! 

Today, the appeal of outdoor hospitality spaces extends well beyond cafes and restaurants. This trend poses a challenge to designers who are fielding requests for outside social spaces in corporate, education, and even healthcare settings.  Considering the needs of the audience early in the process, and selecting furniture built to withstand the elements are key considerations in designing a successful outdoor space.