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The phrase “club interior design” often spurs a very distinct set of images in one’s mind: subdued colors, classic stripe and plaid patterns, dark woods, etc. In the past, this traditional style was pervasive among private clubs. But as the importance of enticing younger demographics increases to keep the dues flowing, clubs are beginning to look towards alternative styles for their interiors.
“Club design is far more stratified than it used to be. Many clubs are starting to become more exploratory in their interiors and embracing the idea of ‘transitional design,’ which isn’t a hundred percent traditional or contemporary,” says Chambers’ Vice President and Director of Interior Design Charlie Turner. While it’s important to keep in mind that every club is different, in today’s market, few clubs can successfully don the more formal designs of yesteryear.
Instead, clubs are embracing the kinds of interiors that today’s (and tomorrow’s) diverse memberships enjoy. These forward-thinking private club interior…
As member interests become more varied, spaces designed for hyper-specific purposes become less practical. Instead, clubs should focus on multi-purpose spaces that receive constant usage because of their flexibility.
Preventing dead space where possible is a must for a number of reasons. Obviously, it looks bad for members to consistently be passing empty rooms. But dead space isn’t just unsightly; it can actually translate to lost revenue. “When clubs use precious square footage for dead space, they’re missing opportunities to bring in F&B dollars or, more generally, provide membership value,” says Turner, “Utilizing space wisely is especially important for city clubs, where the cost per square footage is high.” Ultimately, designing spaces with versatility in mind gives clubs the best return on their investment.
Cutting-edge club design encourages comfort and socialization — elements that add tremendous value to the member experience. Many members not only join clubs to entertain their current friends, but also to form new bonds with people that have similar interests. Unfortunately, this is a value proposition that many clubs miss out on. “Private clubs were once community hubs. You would come by and spend the day socializing with everyone that came through the door. Today, most clubs are seeing members come in for just short periods of time and stay with their set group of friends,” says Turner.
This may sound like a problem that can only be addressed by reforming club culture, but rethinking furnishings and décor can be essential to creating a comfortable environment for communal interaction. “In a sense, many newer designs return to the original purpose of clubs. When possible, we select furnishings that can elicit opportunities for chance meetings. Static, antique furniture generally isn’t conducive to that,” says Turner. Traditional furnishings and furniture layouts tend to isolate groups from one another, while also conveying an air of formality that discourages true comfort. Turner points out that furnishings like banquettes and communal tables allow people to sit alone or within their own groups, while still having the opportunity to get to know fellow members and socialize with them.
When it comes to interior design, many clubs are attempting to shake off the stuffy image that people sometimes associate with “classic” or “traditional” styles. Even clubs listed on the National Register of Historic Places are moving towards more updated aesthetics, preserving certain rooms in their original state while incorporating more contemporary elements into other spaces. But that doesn’t mean they are leaving their storied pasts in the dust.
“Clubs are becoming more comfortable with the idea of moving away from ultra-traditional design, but they still don’t want to lose the connection with who they are,” notes Turner. Despite shifting demographics and growing demand for less formal spaces, clubs are ultimately institutions brimming with history, custom, and tradition. It is important that this shines through in the design by integrating regional elements into the space or decorative items that are significant to the club. Paying homage to these rich histories through design not only adds character to the interiors and makes more seasoned members feel comfortable in the space, but also subtly reinforces club brand.
Though it sounds like an impossible task, the private club of tomorrow is a welcoming space for members from different generations, backgrounds… and tastes. Unfortunately, interiors that may amaze a member who has belonged to the club for 30 years might not hit the spot for a young professional member. The key to universal appeal? Finding a happy medium.
“It’s all about balancing needs and wants. The design should avoid being aggressively contemporary and isolating more seasoned members, while still adapting for a younger demographic with more contemporary tastes,” Turner points out. In a sense, this battle over aesthetics reflects even greater challenges clubs face when it comes to preparing for the future. It is important to ensure that the club offers what prospective members desire without abandoning the needs of more seasoned members.
Finding that happy medium isn’t the only obstacle forward-thinking interior designers face. “It’s challenging to create a design that everyone appreciates, but also possesses character. Character can be divisive, but if you water down the design too much the space suffers,” says Turner. While this challenge is not for the faint of heart, it is possible to provide a healthy mix of traditional and contemporary elements in one cohesive space – creating an environment that everyone can enjoy.
Interested in learning more about designing private club interiors? Contact Charlie Turner!