Whether you’re outfitting a small or large waiting room, your choices in reception seating are vast and varied. So, where do you begin? This guide to waiting room seating explains your choices in reception seating and will help you decide which options will work the best in your office.


Guest chairs are standard-size seating options that are also referred to as side chairs. Guest chairs may come with or without arms.


Bariatric chairs are guest chairs that can accommodate more than the standard 250-pound weight capacity. Weight limits vary from 300 pounds to well over 700 pounds. 

Club chairs are guest chairs that are more padded and plush. This type of seating is commonly used in a lounge or other area where visitors will be seated for longer periods.

Sofas are commercial-grade couches that are often added to a reception area to give the space a more homey feel. Sofas can typically accommodate up to 3 average-size people. They are similar to club chairs in that they are plush and commonly used in a lounge-type setting.

Loveseats are smaller versions of sofas and can typically accommodate 2 average-size people.

Benches are similar to sofas and loveseats in that they can seat multiple people in an area; however, benches have a lower profile and are not as plush as sofas and loveseats. Benches may come with or without a back and with or without arms.

Ottomans are plush single-user benches commonly used in combination with club chairs or sofas and can be used as tables or additional seating in a lounge.

Tandem seating includes 2 or more guest chairs connected by shared legs and/or arms. Tandem seating may also be referred to as multi-chair sets.

Beam seating is similar to tandem seating, but chairs are connected via a single beam that runs along the seats.

Special Features

Tablet arm chairs have a small, movable work surface attached to one or both arms. Tablets are often attached to lounge-style seating and are ideal for waiting areas where paperwork must be filled out or business professionals must get work done while waiting.

Motion back chairs have a backrest that moves with the user to provide additional comfort during extended waiting periods. This type of chair is commonly used in healthcare facility waiting rooms.

Armless chairs are chairs without arms. This type of seating takes up less space because it can be placed closer to other chairs in the room.

Green chairs are also referred to as eco-friendly. There are many different levels of eco-friendliness, including Greenguard and Level certified seating, but all chairs in this selection are designed to improve indoor air quality in commercial interiors one way or another.

Stacking chairs are guest chairs that can be stacked on top of one another. This type of seating is helpful for areas that need to be frequently cleaned or rearranged, as stackable seating can be quickly and easily moved and stored away whenever needed.

Nesting chairs are similar to stacking chairs, but instead of stacking on top of one another, their seats flip up to allow them to be nested into one another for quick and compact transport and storage. Nesting chairs are almost always mobile.

Mobile chairs are chairs with either 2 or 4 wheels. This type of chair is best for areas where seating needs to be moved around often.


GSA-approved chairs are part of NBF’s GSA contract. These chairs are approved for sale to the US government.


Fabric upholstery is a woven material that helps give furniture a homey look and feel. Fabric is available in many colors and patterns but is not appropriate for use in medical waiting rooms due to its porous nature.

Genuine leather upholstery is either full-grain or top-grain genuine cowhide. Full-grain leather shows its grains and natural imperfections and is as close to its natural state as possible. Top-grain leather is the most common type of genuine leather upholstery—it’s thinner and more flexible than full-grain leather. Top-grain leather is also sanded down to remove any imperfections, giving it a more polished look.

Faux leather and vinyl upholstery are manufactured alternatives to genuine leather. Faux leather and vinyl are made of either polyurethane (PU) or polyvinyl chloride (PVC), both of which give the look of leather at a lower cost.

Mesh is a textile that provides more breathability than any other type of upholstery. Mesh is durable but can be trickier to clean due to its porous design.

Seat Type

Pocketed coil systems are made up of a number of individual pocketed coils that help evenly distribute weight for user comfort. The coils are usually outfitted with a layer of foam on top and bottom, with the top layer being less dense to create a cushioned feel.


Fabricated foam is one of the most common materials used in upholstered office chairs. This type of foam varies in density; the denser the foam, the firmer it will feel.

Molded foam is formed when a liquid foam material is poured into a mold—hence the name. This type of foam offers more consistent support and can hold its shape for longer than fabricated foam. This allows for more contour and a more comfortable feel.

Memory foam has a unique chemical makeup that allows the seat to adjust to your body temperature. The seat retains more heat than others, which allows them to mold their shape as the user moves. Memory foam seats are well known for providing superior customized support. In addition, this material is hypoallergenic and resistant to dust mites.


Healthcare Considerations

Furnishing a healthcare waiting room involves additional considerations for the safety and comfort of your guests: 

  • Seating must be covered with Crypton, vinyl, or IC+ upholstery. 

  • Provide 15–20% bariatric seating—more if your practice commonly sees patients with these needs. 

  • Select chairs with a clean-out space between the back and seat. This will ensure that each chair can be cleaned safely and completely.


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