Winter in New York City can be quite challenging. Although a big snow can transform our fair city into a gorgeous winter wonderland, the minute it begins to melt, here comes a wet – and often treacherous – mess.

If you live in an apartment building, particularly a busy one, you know how disgusting the lobby can get when it’s awful outside. Puddles of water mix with dirt and street grime and suddenly, there’s mud inside your building! It’s slippery and dangerous. Even the bad weather mats, which are dutifully laid out by your building staff, become so saturated that you feel like you’re walking on wet sponges.

Not only are wet lobby floors dangerous and ugly, but the mixture of dirt, salt, and water causes significant damage to floors.

As a lobby interior designer, I take floors seriously. My clients make a significant investment in their lobbies, and a large percentage of their renovation budget often has to be used to rehabilitate or replace the floors. Floors damaged by years and years of lousy weather and mistreatment.

To protect the welfare of residents and floors, here’s what I recommend.

Install Sidewalk Heating Elements

Heating elements installed under the sidewalk at the entrance to your lobby is a fantastic way to keep moisture outside. They ensure the lobby floor remains dry and your building staff will love you for it. The need to shovel and use harmful ice-melting chemicals to keep the sidewalk dry and clear is eliminated.

Sidewalk heating elements can be installed outside any building. Many residential developers tout them as an amenity.

Invest in the Best Mats

Let’s face it, most NYC apartment dwellers don’t have the luxury of heated sidewalks. So, mats are necessary. If the idea of bad weather mats conjures up visions of those soppy black runners you see all over town, the good news is lobby mats don’t have to be ugly. Today, mats are available in a myriad of colors, styles, and textures.

Here’s how to properly use mats to winter-proof your building’s lobby:

High-Low Textured Nylon Mats

High-Low nylon mats are an excellent choice for lobbies because of the way they handle water and dirt. The high pile dries off the bottoms of shoes while the nasty grit, salt, sand, and dirt drops into the low pile areas.

Today, high-low mats are available in a wide range of colors and borders. They can even be embossed with your building’s address and logo to complement your building’s architecture and style.

Cocoa Mats

If you want a natural look, cocoa mats can fit the bill. However, they do not wear as well as nylon mats and can be ruined after a couple of severe winters. However, when our clients request them, we teach building staff how to use them in conjunction with other, more weather-resistant mats.

“Cocoa mats” made from synthetic materials are now on the market. But, they don’t have the luxurious, textural look of the all-natural mats. But with the recent innovations we see in other types of materials, I wouldn’t be surprised to see truly natural looking synthetic on the market soon.

Inset Mats & as Needed Runners

If your lobby has recessed entry vestibule mats – be mindful of the height of the well in the floor and the thickness of the material when replacing them. I’ve worked on many lobby rehab projects where a well-meaning staff had ordered a way too thick replacement mat. Mats that are too thick will create tripping hazards.

Augment your inset mats with runners only during inclement weather. Many buildings leave them down all year round which is not only ugly but causes them to wear out quickly. Runners are not intended to be a permanent design element no matter how lovely they are! They should complement your lobby, not detract from it.

Just as with high-low pile mats, runners can be custom-designed to reflect your building’s personality and included the building name, address, and logo.

Rubber-Backed Mats

While many mats used in lobbies are made from vinyl, I do not recommend them. While they provide traction, they do not absorb water and become soggy messes in bad weather.

Synthetic rubber-backed mats with carpet-like material on top are a much better choice. Absorbent and lightweight, they come in a huge selection of patterns and colors to coordinate with lobby interiors.

My Favorite Mat Resources: Mats Inc., Van Gelder, Proform, & Robert M. Weiss & Co.

If the floor of your lobby is new, or still in good shape, follow the winter-proofing tips above, and it will serve you well for years to come. (And enable you to invest your renovation budget in other things.)

Water-Resistant Upholstery

Floors aren’t the only part of a lobby that must stand up to the elements. Your lobby furniture is at risk of the damage caused by lousy weather, too.

Many buildings have a nice convenient bench positioned right inside the lobby doorway. It’s there so residents can stay inside while they wait for a car service or school bus. This bench, however, often becomes a repository for wet umbrellas, rain gear, shopping bags, and even small dogs!

It doesn’t take long for the bench to get ruined. But if you plan in advance for severe weather by using water-resistant upholstery, you won’t have to replace the bench every couple of years.


Pleather is a vinyl that requires very little maintenance and is perfect for lobby seating because it is water resistant and durable. It looks just like leather and comes in tons of colors and textures.

My Favorite Pleather Resources: Ultrafabrics, Kravet, & Arc Com

Water-Proof Upholstery Fabric

As I often mention in my posts, today interior designers have an incredible selection of fabrics to choose from that are durable, easy to maintain, and weather-resistant, as well.

My Favorite Water-Proof Upholstery Resources: Sunbrella & Crypton

Now that you are armed with the best ways to winter-proof your lobby – Let It Snow!

Sygrove Interior Design Services

Sygrove Associates Design Group is an NYC interior design company. Our company’s founder Marilyn Sygrove is the lead interior designer on all projects. And she’s as tough as you are when it comes to quality, aesthetics, and coming in on time and on budget.

It all starts with a design consultation with Marilyn. She takes the time to thoroughly understand your design needs then personally directs all interior design, planning, and installation activities. Her work has been delighting clients, co-op and condo boards, and homeowners for over 30 years.

You can reach Marilyn by email at or call her directly at 212.757.0631.

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