Clubs and resorts know the value of making a good first impression: Greet members and guests with direct eye contact and a warm smile, dress to impress no matter the function, and always make sure the clubhouse is spotless.
The same rule that “you’ll never get a second chance to make a first impression” applies when designing or decorating the clubhouse, too—but is especially critical when it comes to lobbies and entrances.
A lobby is more than just a way to enter a property. Instead, it’s a space that presents the personality and style of a club, and can go a long way toward ensuring the best—or worst—possible experience for members and guests.
SUMMING IT UP
“People form their decisions on first impressions,” says Jack Hrad, General Manager of Brynwood Golf & Country Club in Armonk, N.Y. “If someone walks into a clubhouse with a dingy or poorly decorated lobby, no matter what happens after that, they will be looking at the club through a flawed prism. It is harder to impress members and guests who start out thinking that this is a tired, old place. The lobby is our chance to make that critical first impression.”
At the same time, lobbies are becoming increasingly functional spaces for many more purposes than just welcoming members and guests. When arranged and decorated properly, a lobby can help to enhance a function, assist with overflow, or even be an attractive, stand-alone event area, in and of itself.
The goal for the lobby renovation at Brooklake Country Club in Florham Park, N.J. was to give the pastel-heavy lobby, designed in the 1980s, a contemporary makeover. Bedecked in pink and teal fabrics and heavy wallpaper, the space was notably out of style.
“Prospective members and guests that are attending functions enter through here, and it was setting the wrong tone for what was to follow,” says Mario Fastiggi, General Manager. “It needed to be updated.”
As a private country club with a public catering facility, the owners wanted the lobby to be a comfortable, inviting space with broad appeal. “The intent was for it to look like a boutique hotel with rich tradition—very warm and comforting,” says Fastiggi. “It’s classy, but not overly glitzy.”
Brooklake’s lobby is set up with three distinct seating areas. Directly across from the front door, plush armchairs and a coffee table sit in front of a fireplace with a marble surround. To the left, a seating area with comfortable couches and a coffee table is provided, and high leather chairs and a grand piano round out the right side of the room.
The new lobby is both classic and current. Rich wood wainscoting, paneling and moldings warm up the space, while off-white and gold-toned wallpaper soften it. The new green and maroon carpeting helps to establish a classic country club vibe, while brass wall sconces and brushed-metal fixtures offer understated elegance.
Rather than hanging traditional crystal chandeliers, the club opted for more modest high-hat and pin-spot lighting. The pin spots are built directly into the ceiling and can swivel in any direction. “If we have a centerpiece on the table in front of the fireplace, we can dim the light and concentrate on just that one space,” says Fastiggi.
Strategically placed mirrors that reflect outside light add dimension to the space. “This way, you get a view of both the inside and the outside as you walk through the lobby,” says Fastiggi.
Keeping the lobby design attractive but unfussy has allowed the club to appeal to a wider range of members and catering clients. Since the lobby and banquet space renovation in 2007, the club’s catering business has almost doubled.
“We’re big on first impressions, and our lobby tells people this is an inviting place,” says Fastiggi. “We then maintain that throughout the rest of their visit.”
Setting the Tone
A well-designed lobby can reenergize a property as a whole. The goals for the $1.7 million lobby renovation at the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa in Acme, Mich., were to increase the usage and modernize the tired, dated space, which was originally built in the 1980s.
During the renovation, several walls were knocked down to expand the front desk area and add large picture windows, which created an open and airy ambiance. Further, the addition of the lobby bar, a water wall and several comfortable seating areas instilled the space with a renewed energy.
The resort does a lot of meeting business, and the different seating areas in the lobby offers guests a comfortable and lively gathering space. “This layout has brought life back into the lobby,” says Mark Fischer, Director of Hotel Operations. “People stop to enjoy the space, rather than just pass through it. The lobby has become a place to gather, socialize and network.”
To maintain the lobby’s appeal, the resort updated its furnishings this past summer. “In the resort industry, you need to change your furniture every several years, because the wear and tear takes its toll,” says J. Michael DeAgostino, Public Relations Manager. “It also gave us an opportunity to take a fresh look at how we want the lobby to feel.”
Using cherry woods and bright, aqua-blue fabrics, the interior designer injected the resort’s lobby with dimension, depth and color. Artwork includes a combination of natural dimension pieces and colorful abstracts. The overall result? A sophisticated design that further complements the warm, casual comfort of the northern Michigan resort.
Form and Function
Lobbies that have both flair and functionality add an edge to any property. For example, the main lobby at Brynwood Golf & Country Club is often utilized for special events, holidays and the club’s catered functions. Located on the upper level of the clubhouse, the lobby is adjacent to the club’s Grand Bar and its ballroom. Its proximity to these areas requires that the lobby not only be an attractive entrance, but also an extension of the event space.
The club, which is managed by Troon Golf, regularly hosts private events that utilize the lobby. In fact, during a recent weekend, the lobby took on three different utilizations on three consecutive nights. At a Friday night event, a photographer and backdrop were set up in the lobby for guests to get their pictures taken; on Saturday night, the area was used as a pre-function space to hold place cards while a waiter passed champagne; and on Sunday, the local Philharmonic set up a grand piano to ensure that it was both visible and audible from the event in the Grand Bar and ballroom.
“One of the goals for the lobby was to make it highly functional,” says Hrad. “The worst thing you can do is create a beautiful space that nobody uses.”
Brynwood’s lobby has an open welcoming area, which houses a contemporary rosewood concierge desk. A number of soft seating options surround a centralized open staircase that descends into the lower level of the clubhouse.
“We have a sophisticated clientele, but they are not fussy,” says Hrad. “The lobby had to be an extension of their homes.”
To achieve this, several seating options are available. Side chairs are set up along the perimeter, while living room-style arrangements are in the center of the room. Ivory sofas and loveseats are paired with orange, rust and ivory-toned chairs. “There is some contrast in the color and fabric used in the seating,” says Hrad. “It’s attractive and pleasing to the eye.”
The lobby has a nature-inspired color palate of tan, brown, bone and ivory, with splashes of red and orange in the cushions, accessories and artwork that also help make the room stand out. The all-glass entry wall fills the space with natural light, and soft floor-to-ceiling ivory and medium-brown paneled draperies add further warmth. “Our lobby is fresh, bright and colorful in a modern sense,” says Hrad.
Brynwood members and guests have embraced the new lobby. Since the renovation was completed in May 2010, the club has more than doubled its banquet business in 2011, and has triple the level of pre-renovation business on the books for 2012.
“We’re growing by leaps and bounds,” says Hrad, a 10-year Troon Golf veteran who became Brynwood’s new GM earlier this year.
Looking for ways to rejuvenate your lobby? Here are some tips: