Bob Hickman Shares the Finer Points of Interior Design

Bob Hickman
Gone are the days when a club can rely solely on the exquisite taste of one or two of its members to ensure  the club’s interior design meets the demands and sensibilities of an increasingly diverse membership.

As executives, owners and boards consider their options for updating or even overhauling critical club spaces, Chambers Chairman and Lead Interior Designer Bob Hickman takes a few minutes to share his 18-point checklist for kicking off any design project thought process.  A little behind-the-scenes insight from the industry veteran who has created designs for hundreds of America’s best and most dynamic clubs:

  1. Location. Location always drives design. What’s the surrounding environment like? Light considerations? Traffic patterns to be aware of? “This is never a one-size-fits-all process,” says Bob.
  2. Club Views.  We are always looking to capitalize on great views! Interiors are meant to complement and enhance the view — not compete with it.
  3. Age and Demographics.  First we need to understand the club’s make-up.  Then we can balance our design solutions for the broadest appeal.
  4. Previous Successes and Failures. What works well with the current experience and environment? What doesn’t?
  5. Flexibility. How is it used…and how can it be used? We always look to maximize space usage, very often creating flexible spaces that members can use in a variety of ways.
  6. Architectural Constraints. Is there a big column we have to keep because it’s from the 1870s and the membership couldn’t bear the thought of moving it? Are there low ceilings we’re forced to work with or perhaps a load-bearing wall that would impact our ideas? All of these things affect design and member experience in the end, so we need to know about them up front. Planning on the front end saves time and dollars.
  7. Traffic Flow. We like to have an understanding of traffic patterns throughout the footprint of a club. It’s also our job to ensure that the staff experience is just as positive as the members’.
  8. Desired Experience. What end experience does the club envision? Is it child-friendly? Formal? Energetic? Relaxed?
  9. Acoustics. There are so many elements that go into decisions on noise control. We need to understand where sounds come from (voices, equipment in the next room, music from down the hall, steps across the floor overhead, etc.). Then we can develop solutions that may include a mixture of carpeting, wall treatments, upholstered ceilings, window treatments…
  10. Lighting. One of our most important design considerations, lighting is critical to creating the right “experience.” And there are so many ways to introduce lighting into an interior…overheads, natural light, wall sconces, table candles… The possibilities are endless and all contribute significantly to an interior.
  11. Budget. This is an obvious one. Dollars impact every decision we make. We’re always figuring out how we can get the biggest impact at the best value. As an example, we look carefully at how we might be able to leverage current furnishings and/or reuse assets, versus bringing in new ones.
  12. Performance. Performance also influences virtually every choice we make. Not everything in a club has to perform at the same level.
  13. Growth. Can our ideas support growth of different kinds down the road?
  14. Technology. We always need to have an idea of technical needs. Will the space have computers in it? Are there business needs we have to support? Will the club be using technologies that need to live in the space?
  15. Home Away from Home. How do we design it to make this space a home away from home? We are always striving to create spaces that have warmth and friendliness but can also hold up to commercial standards.
  16. The Environment. Whenever possible we’re considering products and/or design solutions that are more healthy for our environment. As the market evolves, we fully expect to have more and more options for consideration.
  17. Club Culture. In each project, we try to interpret the overall culture of a club.  If we have a clear understanding of the membership’s collective taste sensibilities, we have more success throughout the decision-making process.
  18. Sense of Arrival. This is so key when working through designs. We always want members and guests to know they’ve entered the club and aren’t wandering around trying to figure out where to go. 

Traditional, transitional or contemporary, lighted used or heavily trafficked, for the old guard members or suitable for the youngest generation…every design project begins with a few key questions.

Can Bob help you with a design challenge?  Email him at

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