Summing It Up
Renovating clubhouse decore doesn’t have to mean complete overhauls of the building. Small changes can go a long way.
Sure, you have a first-rate championship golf course, perfectly manicured grounds, and gourmet culinary operations. But how does your clubhouse itself measure up? Too often, “showcase” main buildings are built, and then forgotten. After about five to seven years, their interiors show signs of wear and tear, with stained carpet and furniture, and lackluster wall coverings and finishes. No matter how beautiful everything else may be, these problems can be the most noticeable—and unfortunately memorable—part of your property.
Don’t panic: Clubhouse renovations don’t have to be drastic to be dramatic. Simply switching out carpet, applying fresh paint or wallpaper, or selective re-covering and re upholstering can make for effective facelifts, without dipping too deeply into funds. More extensive additions like new furnishings and fixtures can also rejuvenate a clubhouse.
Maintaining clubhouse design and décor is more than just a cosmetic necessity; renovations can give clubs a competitive edge and increase usage.When the members of the River Wilderness Golf & Country Club in Parrish, Fla., took control of the club from its developer in 2003, they wanted to stay competitive. So they renovated the dining room, grille room, bar and locker rooms, all with an up-to-date, casually elegant design.
“After the renovation our membership went up; members are bringing more guests, and coming here themselves more often,” says Kevin Paschall, General Manager. Specifically, he reports, after an 8% increase in membership, club usage increased 25% among existing members, and outside banquet business grew 20%.
Small Change, Big Drama
Less extensive décor improvements can go a long way. The Old 19th bar area at the Salem Country Club in Peabody, Mass., was added to the 81-year-old club in 1945, and had not been touched since. The club knew change was necessary, but did not want to completely overhaul the entire area. Instead, it kept the wood paneled walls and incorporated new furnishings and fixtures to complement the original architecture.
First, the old-fashioned wooden plank tables with pointed square edges were replaced with maple-topped tables that have contemporary rounded edges. To establish a homier atmosphere, the room’s original wooden spindle chairs were replaced with rich, burgundy leather chairs with saddle studs and comfortable, padded arms and seats. To finish it off, new carpet was installed throughout the room.
The entire renovation cost under $40,000, which was quickly earned back through increased usage. “Just some new tables and chairs put a whole new look in that bar,” says Guy Bytof, General Manager. “People walked in and instantly knew it was great. It was the talk of the town for three months.”
One effective way to update interiors is to reuse existing assets. Clubs can benefit from re-covering furnishings that are still in good repair with new fabrics and slipcovers. The Salem Country Club has recovered several pieces in this fashion. “It’s a good way to add new looks to [older pieces],” says Bytof.
Designers can mix up fabrics to meet any club’s needs. For example, they often use leatherette, which looks similar to leather, but is easier to maintain, has a longer life, and is less costly. For dining room chairs that suffer the most abuse, the seats can be covered with leather or leatherette, and more delicate fabrics can be used on the backs to introduce stylish colors and patterns, without sacrificing the life of the chair.
Simply rearranging existing furniture and artwork in the room can also establish entirely new looks, at little to no cost. As part of the renovations at the Atlanta Athletic Club in Duluth, Ga., some pieces of furniture and antiques will be refinished and cleaned and then placed in new areas of the club, to change the personality of different rooms.
Furnish With Flair
Clubhouse furnishings have changed through the years due, in large part, to the trend of comfortable elegance. Rather than traditional “claw-andball” mahogany furnishings with ornate, adorned accessories, clubs are moving toward cleaner, more contemporary designs—filling more clubhouses with overstuffed sofas, cleanlined tables and chairs, and simple, yet elegant light fixtures.
When replacing furniture within the clubhouse, it’s important to recognize how some rooms have evolved through the years. For example, the Interlachen Lounge has become a social center of the Atlanta Athletic Club in the last six or seven years. So the club replaced a sea of cocktail tables with upscale, soft, oversized seating arranged in “conversation centers,” and added area rugs for a more homey setting.
“It is more like people’s living rooms and entertaining in your own home,” says Chris Borders, Secretary and General Manager. “The trend here is to make it look more like you’re welcoming someone into your home, rather than a bar.”
Similarly, the goal for redoing the sitting area in the grille room at the River Wilderness G&CC was to create a functional, yet relaxing social space. “A lot of people do things for the look and not the use; we wanted to do it for both,” says Paschall. The club arranged comfortable, overstuffed loveseats, chairs and coffee tables around the room’s fireplace. (One downfall to remember about oversized furnishings, though, is that moving things around can be tough.)
Changing the furniture does not necessarily mean clubs need to change their entire style. In fact, when Addison Reserve Country Club in Delray Beach, Fla., replaced 98% of its clubhouse furnishings, the club’s underlying style did not shift dramatically.
“We hired the interior designers who did the original clubhouse and asked them to take it up to this decade,” says Gene Paul Stifter, General Manager and CEO. “We wanted them to stay with the same virtual theme and modernize it to fit more with modern-day colors and things like that.”
While the clubhouse maintained more timeless, traditional furnishings, brighter colors were used to modernize the look. The clubhouse’s original beige color palette was replaced with shades of gold and yellow. For instance, the club kept the original bar and bar stools, but re-covered the stools with a brighter, striped fabric, and stained the bar to match the new tables and chairs.
Keep It Up
Once a renovation is completed, the work is hardly over. Maintaining new fixtures, furnishings and features maximizes the new look. To ensure the longevity of fabrics and carpeting, it’s important to understand the cleaning and maintenance instructions for them. For example, clubs that opt to use leatherette can simply wipe it down with a multiuse cleaner, while leather must be treated with specific leather-protection products.
After design professionals complete a club’s renovation, they often provide a maintenance manual to help clubs maintain the new assets. “The design company we used gave us instructions on how to care for everything from the carpet to the couches and chairs,” says Paschall. As a result, River Wilderness Golf & Country Club cleans its carpets every 90 days, and the furniture is treated two times a year.
Obviously,maintenance is easier to plan and execute if all clubhouse renovations are done at the same time. However, the reality is that most clubs must structure a maintenance schedule, depending on when the renovations were made.
All Together Now…or Later
Club managers and design professionals often agree that it’s a good idea to tackle all renovations at one time. Addison Reserve Country Club redid its entire clubhouse at once, which made a big impression on members. “It definitely has a better impact,” says Stifter. “If you piecemeal it together, members see subtle changes—but not like when they see it all put together and what a difference it makes.”
Realistically, however, many clubs do not take a holistic approach to renovations. “Generally speaking, you would get more bang for your buck if you do a lot of the renovations at the same time,” says Bytof. “Once you have someone to draw the plans, it is easier and cheaper to include more than to do it piecemeal; efficiencies in scale take place. But the higher the price tag, the more difficult it is to get membership to sign off on it.”
Often the issue comes down to money. Economic conditions typically control when renovations can be made. For example, the Atlanta Athletic Club planned to renovate a few years ago, but had to adjust its plans for fiscal reasons.
“Every successful business has some type of financial plan, but you’re constantly adapting the plan because economic conditions change on a quarterly basis,” says Borders. “We were caught in the economic crunch in 2002-2003 and already had other projects, so we were unable to do the work we’re doing now. It took us a couple years to steady things out and dedicate funds to it.”
Thorough financial planning is the key to successful renovations. Salem Country Club is currently creating a master plan by doing an inventory of every room of the clubhouse, noting details such as when the carpet was installed, the roof was put on or fixed, HVAC units were installed, rooms were painted, furniture was recovered, and so on. The extended life of each element will then be determined, to estimate what each project will cost so the necessary funds can be set aside. “It makes sure we prioritize where we are going to spend the money and what we are going to do,” says Bytof.
The club then puts funds for these projects in a savings account specifically for renovations. “We take about 60% of our depreciation and earmark that for the savings account,” says Bytof. “So each year, hundreds of thousands of dollars are going into this account for these long-range projects.” Having such a substantial stockpile for renovation projects means the club can ask for less extra funding from the members. “The least amount you have to ask for, the better your chance is of getting it done,” says Bytof.
Regardless of whether a club is embarking on a costly construction project or a less extensive renovation, one thing is clear: Keeping the club’s décor fresh is a worthwhile investment. “If you’re not investing in your own business and constantly putting money back into it, you’re never going to have the cutting edge to be competitive, attract new members, and retain the members you have,” says Borders. “They want something exciting and want a new look, so you need to have a plan.” C&RB