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Conference room design

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I found a great site today that gives several examples of different ways to set up a meeting or conference room.  

Three of the styles that I liked are:

Boardroom Style

This is the classic style that most are familiar with.  A large oval or rectangular table is surrounded by chairs on both sides and ends. Most Board of Director meetings, and committee meetings use this style.  This set up promotes interaction during the meeting.  Stoneline Designs boat shaped conference tables are slightly rounded on the longer sides to provide a better line of sight between the conference attendees. 

Frosted Glass Conference Table

U Shape

A grouping of conference tables are set up in a U shape. The chairs are placed on the outside.  This style is good for discussion groups, committee meetings and  audio-video presentations.  Make sure there is a minimum of 24" of space per person.

Hollow Design

Several tables are arranged in a square or rectangle with a center opening.  The chairs are place around the outside of the tables.  This set up is good for large meetings, especially if a larger table is not available.  When set up as a square, this layout provides good visual lines for each person in attendance. 

Of course, we believe the best way to seat a large group is by using one of  Stoneline's many large conference tables.  We custom build large conference tables in sizes from 7' to 30' and beyond!


Five Conference Room Mistakes

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Make the most of your conference table investment, and avoid these five common mistakes:

The table is the wrong size for the conference room.
A table which is too large for a small conference room will feel cramped. If the overcrowding is extreme, it may even cause the room to be too warm during full meetings due to lack of airflow. On the other hand, a small conference table in a very large room will appear lost. Either way, a conference table which is the wrong size for the room may make meeting attendees feel uncomfortable. We recommend a minimum of 42" around the conference table on all sides. This leaves room for chairs and to move around the room. 48" of space is preferred for a spacious feel.

The conference room serves too many functions.
A formal conference room is often the least frequently used room in the office, and the temptation to use it for other purposes can be irrestistable. Your conference room can multi-task as long as you don't go overboard. For instance, storage in the conference room is fine, if it means tidy bookshelves full of reference volumes. But cardboard boxes stacked to the ceiling or the pile of "old computer parts to be recycled" should stay out of the conference room.

We once saw a conference room which also served as the connecting passage between two halves of an office suite! When the conference room was in use, employees were forced to exit the suite and walk all the way around to the back door to access the kitchen or bathroom. That was an attempt to economize which resulted in continual inefficiency and inconvenience.

Not enough space per person at the conference table.
Do you know the maximum number of people who will use your table at one time? We like to allow at least 30" per chair (28" minimum), and for an executive conference table, 36" per person spacing allows larger chairs and a more spacious feel. You don't want to buy a conference table designed for 10, and then find that you have 14 people shoulder-to-shoulder at your monthly meeting. 

On the other hand, you may be a small organization with only a few attendees at typical meetings, and only need to completely fill the table once a year or so. In that case we often recommend storing most of the chairs, only leaving enough chairs out for everyday meetings. Sitting at one end of the table, surrounded by empty chairs, may make your regular staff feel uncomfortable. Removing the extra chairs except when needed will help make your table feel like the right size even at smaller meetings.
See our Conference Table Seating page for more information.

The room is not set up for power and wiring in the conference table.
Before ordering a conference table, think about how the table will be used and whether power/data will be necessary. Ideally this decision will be made while the conference room is still in the planning stages, as floor outlets are often placed under the pedestals. If this is overlooked, or is impossible due to structural issues, cables can be run from the base of the pedestal to a wall outlet. But this is both unsightly and a potential safety hazard.
See our posts on Conference Table Power for more information.

The conference room is poorly lit.
Proper lighting is essential for a productive conference room. The harsh lighting often found in commercial office spaces may make attendees feel uncomfortable, while lighting that is too dim can leave attendees unable to focus during long meetings. Windows which bring in natural light can brighten a room, but they can also ruin meetings if the sun shines directly into the eyes of half the people at the conference table. If your conference room has windows, check the room at various times of the day to see if direct sunlight will be a problem. And if you have any concerns about the lighting in your conference room, consider hiring an interior designer or space planner.

Conference Table Design: Seating

When designing your conference table, there are several factors to consider. 


pictured: Crescent Cherry and Granite Conference Table. Cherry panels and cove detail. Boat shape, Solid Wood (Cherry) and Granite Stone top in 3 pieces.

How many chairs will there be? With a Rectangular or similar table, the placement of the pedestals will influence the seating on the long side of the top. We like to allow at least 30" per chair (28" minimum), and when possible we place pedestals in between seats. For instance on a 10' table we would place pedestals 60" apart for seating four people on the long sides. With 1 chair on each end, the 10' table would seat 10 comfortably. At 12.5' we would use 2 pedestals placed 87-90" apart, depending on whether the top is a Rectangle or Boat shape top, and place 5 chairs on each side.

How large is the conference room? A table which is too large for a small conference room will feel cramped. On the other hand, a small conference table in a very large room will appear lost, and may make meeting attendees feel uncomfortable. We recommend a minimum of 42" around the conference table on all sides. This leaves room for chairs and to move around the room. 48" of space is preferred for a spacious feel. If space is at a premium, 36" around the table is the bare minimum. 36" will work better with a round table, as the tightest point will be at the edge of the circle, not the entire length of a rectangular table.

How will the table be used? For an executive conference table, 36" per person spacing allows larger chairs and a more spacious feel. Training tables might use as tight as 27" spacing with appropriately sized chairs.

Will the top be in one piece or multiple pieces? 10' is the maximum size top (116" for shaped Glass) that Stoneline can fabricate and ship in one piece. If planning for a top that size, it is important to prepare. Check access into the building, elevator size, stairwell layout, etc. and make sure the table top will fit before proceeding.

When the top is divided into multiple sections, we also plan the break between tops to fall between chairs. For example, we would divide a 10' top into 2- 5' sections so that the break occurs between the 2 center chairs. A 12.5' table would typically seat 5 on each long side, so dividing the top in 2 is not advised. We would instead make a 12.5' top in 3 pieces: the center section 87-90" long to seat 3, and breaks over each pedestal. Two 30" - 31.5" sections on the ends of the table each seat 1, for a total of 5 on the long sides. We use this same principle for dividing larger tops as well. With careful planning a conference table can be designed so that no chair is placed in front of a pedestal or break in the top, even up to 30' long.

Desk Feng Shui

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Feng Shui your desk. Does that sound silly? Feng Shui is simply a set of aesthetic principles designed to help people live in harmony with their environment and increase positive energy (qi). There's nothing silly about that.

Feng Shui is more commonly thought of for use in the home, but there's no reason why the principles of Feng Shui can't also be applied to the office. Most people spend more time in the office than in any other single location (besides asleep in bed). A few simple adjustments can make your desk and office a more harmonious environment. And you might even improve your qi.

1. The Elements of Style. Feng Shui is based on five elements: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, Water. Office spaces are often sterile and heavily unbalanced towards metal and away from earth, water and wood. Use color to bring the elements into your office: green or brown for wood, red, yellow, orange, purple or pink for fire, light yellow, tan and light brown for earth, white or gray for metal, and blue or black for water.
You can also incorporate natural elements such as potted plants, earthenware pots or a small fountain on your desk. Use these natural elements in a practical way, for instance store paper clips and pens in pottery on your desk.

2. Avoid Poison Arrows. Feng Shui says that poison arrows, or shars, are straight lines pointing towards you. The longer and straighter the line, the more negative the energy. For instance, a long railing pointing directly at your front door.
Practically speaking, in most business environments you will not able to move your entire office to avoid shars. But you can work with this principle on a smaller scale. If you have a long, straight railing, hang plants along it to break up the line. If your office or cubicle is at the end of a walkway so that people are walking directly towards you, move your desk away from the direction of traffic.

3. Line of Sight. When you are sitting at your desk and someone comes to the door, can you see them immediately, or do you need to twist in your seat? If at all possible, move your desk so that you can see the door without having to turn around. If you cannot rearrange the furniture in your workspace, place a mirror by your desk which allows you to see the door.

4. Simple Shapes. According to feng shui, rooms should be simple, unbroken square and rectangular shapes. Many modern offices include structural elements that jut into the room like exposed pipes or protruding corners. If this describes your office, try to conceal the protruding element with a screen, wall hanging or plant. If there are exposed beams on the ceiling, hang a pendant, small bamboo flute or windchime from the center of the beam.

5. Think Round. Though your office should be a square or rectangle, it should also incorporate round office furniture. Round shapes symbolize prosperity, making them particularly appropriate for the office. If you have the space, a round meeting table and round rug is ideal. If you can't add furniture to your office, you can still incorporate round shapes: hang round mirrors or hangings on the wall, and collect round objects on your desk. Not only will this improve your feng shui, it will make your desk more attractive and comfortable to sit at all day.