What Sets Private Club Interior Designers & Residential Designers Apart

When it comes time to renovate your club’s interiors, it can be tempting to hire the residential designer that is a ‘friend of a friend’. After all, relationships and personal recommendations are a powerful thing. However, this line of thinking is a common pitfall for clubs, and often ends up costing hundreds—or even thousands—of dollars. “Furnishings must look like an extension of one’s home, but perform as if in a college dormitory” says Rick Snellinger, Chambers’ President and CEO.

What exactly makes an experienced private club designer more qualified than a residential designer for these projects? Here are some of the unique considerations that private club designers take into account during the design process…


Color is a surprisingly charged topic for many people; club committees and members not excluded. Though it is tempting to select colors that are emotionally gratifying, there is a kind of science behind choosing the right palettes for certain spaces. An experienced club designer knows how to cater to the club’s individual character and the members’ sense of taste without abandoning practicality.

“When it comes to carpeting, light tones and solid colors should be largely avoided because the staining and traffic patterns are more readily apparent. Instead, it is important to incorporate multi-toned carpets (even if they’re a collection of neutral tones) that will stand up better against heavy use,” says Robert Hickman, Chambers’ Chairman of the Board with over 45 years of experience in private club design. Ultimately, a thoughtfully selected color palette should complement the club’s brand, while still considering the space’s purpose and usage patterns.


Speaking of carpets, this is an important factor for private club spaces. Selecting an aesthetically pleasing carpet that complements the space is one challenge, but it’s also important to pick carpets with commercial quality. “Though it may seem like a small part of a space, clubs should purchase the best quality that their budgets will allow in order to stand the test of time,” says Snellinger.

A commercially-minded designer carefully selects fibers and carpet construction that can withstand heavy foot traffic and frequent cleanings. These carpets should be sourced from reputable manufacturers that will provide attentive customer service and resources for you, in the case that anything unexpected should arise – such as a challenging pattern match, crushed pile or unusual installation requirements.

Many commercial designers will also pair their commercial-grade rugs with dense carpet padding to relieve some of the ‘shock’ from foot traffic and carts, helping the carpet maintain its appearance and increasing longevity. Of course, even the best carpeting requires maintenance in order to maximize its lifespan. Since each one must be treated differently in order to look its best, it is important to adhere to the cleaning schedules specified by the carpet manufacturers. If a carpet is not properly cared for, no amount of thoughtful material selection will be able to combat the wear and tear that the carpet will face on a day-to-day basis at the club.


When it comes to selecting furniture for a private club space, there are many factors that seasoned club designers must consider: Do the furnishings fit into the design as a whole? Does it encourage a communal atmosphere, or a more individualistic one? Is it actually comfortable and inviting? Is it compatible with the club’s budget? Yet even beyond all of these factors, a designer must also consider how the furnishings they select will withstand constant use and movement. In keeping with today’s club trends, it is important to select furnishings that can be easily rearranged for multi-use spaces and flexibility, while also being durable enough to withstand this daily movement by the club’s members and staff.

Fire Code

Fire code may not be the most interesting topic in the world, but in order to create safe spaces in your club, you’ll need to find an interior designer who understands them well. “Fire codes need to be considered for every aspect of the club design, ranging from the furnishings, to the carpeting, to the wall covering and window treatments,” says Hickman. Though most products can be treated with flame retardants, some need to be treated repeatedly over time to remain fire code compliant. Some fabrics and carpet fibers are so flammable that they can’t be used in commercial spaces at all. Hiring an interior designer who is already familiar with the inherently flame-resistant fabrics will save the club money, lower the amount of chemicals that are present in the club’s furnishings and create a much safer environment for members.

Club Brand

It’s no secret that private clubs are special places. A club is a ‘home away from home’ for its members, and many clubs are also historic fixtures of their communities. Ultimately, private clubs are defined by their individual cultures and the regions in which they live — a fact that should resonate in their interiors. Interior designers who have prior experience working with private clubs better understand how to tastefully incorporate club history and brand, while also paying close attention to the function and purpose of each space. Professional club designers achieve this by artfully blending club memorabilia, branding and local heritage into the design without descending into an overly branded or ‘kitschy feel’.

Purchasing Power

Aside from having an ‘eye for design’ and a vision of how spaces can come together, one of the primary benefits of hiring an interior designer is for their purchasing power. While some residential designers may have good relationships with certain vendors, many will purchase interior products at a retail price, plus their own purchasing fee. In almost all cases, hospitality design firms and interior designers that specialize in private clubs often wield greater purchasing power with commercial-grade vendors. “Significant dollar savings can be realized by the club when deep discounts are available to the firm which are then passed on to the club at wholesale pricing. Even with the modest purchasing fee, clubs still save money when they utilize a hospitality design firm’s purchasing resources,” says Snellinger.

Political Entanglements

A good private club interior designer will have experience navigating the complex landscape of private club management, boards and committees. Most residential designers are trained to translate the vision and desire of individuals into a design, but may not know how to apply this skill set to larger groups of people with competing interests. Understanding how to create a design that serves the purposes of the entire club membership and stakeholders is essential. “A seasoned private club interior designer knows how to facilitate working with the House Committee and to understand their goals without applying their personal agenda to your club interiors,” says Snellinger. Having this political know-how will save all parties involved a great deal of time and frustration during the design process.

The Bottom Line?

Hospitality designers save time and money – and give you peace of mind. While it may initially seem more cost effective to hire a residential designer or that ‘friend of a friend’ with great taste in furniture to revamp your club’s interiors, there are many hidden costs to these options. When products are not built to withstand the wear and tear of a public space, or the fabrics you have painstakingly selected are not up to code, the hidden fees can add up quickly. Taking advantage of a hospitality design firm’s experience with commercial standards and intimacy with the singular private club industry will ultimately provide your club with more well-thought out spaces that stand the test of time!

Interested in learning more about designing private club interiors?
Contact Charlie Turner, Director of Interior Design.

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