Sunday, December 12, 2010

Country Club Redux

By Beth Herman

When members of Lakewood Country Club in Rockville, Md., mulled over a makeover in 2007, the architectural equivalents of Botox, Juvederm or Restylayne simply weren’t going to cut it. In short, and because the two-story, then 34-year-old facility found itself addressing the needs and requirements of a young, progressive membership, cosmetics were only part of the picture.

According to designer I. Michael Winegrad of I. Michael Interior Design, with members on the younger side and despite cutting edge classes that included “cardio tennis,” the emphasis was still on golf with an eye to the club’s Rees Jones-designed course. At the same time, a demographically different club roster wanted anything but a staid country club crown-molding-and-wainscot environment. “They are much more contemporary,” Winegrad said of his clients who were seeking redesign of the venue’s three restaurants, conference rooms, boardroom, locker rooms, ballroom, foyer, pro shop and more. “They wanted to emphasize food and d├ęcor as much as golf. They wanted to create real atmosphere.”

Under the Knife
Renovated several times, including facelifts and more invasive changes in 1988, ’92 and ’95, according to Lakewood General Manager and CEO Eric Dietz, the 33,000 s.f. club house was somewhat outmoded in its design and features and had anemic function space in some areas that undermined both its goals and ledgers. While a commercial or hospitality renovation is often precipitated by circumstances that may include a leaky roof, worn carpeting, peeling wallpaper and frayed or damaged furniture, and Lakewood’s redesign was propelled primarily by the 21st century lifestyle of its members, the comfort card also factored in. “The foundation for the project was something that a member told me,” Winegrad said. “He called the club a second home,” so the renovation needed to reflect that.

To that end, Lakewood’s Rees Jones Grille –a heavily-trafficked but tired 1,600 s.f. space accessible from the golf course where, with no dress code and cleats on their feet, golfers could relax over a burger and beer–received a 1,713 s.f. addition. Winegrad said because the popular Grille was really the focus of Lakewood’s renovation, multiple concepts were explored with the end result a defining, masculine, upscale sports bar that includes a marble bar, recessed lighting, dropped ceiling of sapele wood veneer for intimacy over the bar, fabric and sapele wall panels, a sturdy porcelain tile floor that emulates the look of wood and various flat screen TV’s visible from every angle. The addition itself, which for view purposes at most country clubs would have reverted to an all-glass structure (an attempt was made to do this by Lakewood’s architect), was redirected by interior designer Winegrad who had his own philosophy about framing views vs. bringing the outside in, the latter of which is a common request.
“For me, uninterrupted glass is not a good thing and I limit it,” the designer said, adding that it does not allow definition of the space. “You need to have a sense of human scale to the room to feel secure and comfortable. It’s the same reason people are so much more comfortable watching TV in a small room than in a big one,” he explained. To achieve that balance between comfort and view, Winegrad used wood panel separations between the glass, where lighting and art could further define the space and help frame the view.
In another area of the Grille, the floor had been dropped about 10 steps down, Winegrad said, like a dated pit. The resulting space was unusable and enigmatic at best, with a small TV stuck in a corner, so he raised it to a two-step drop and created a functioning card room atmosphere, delineated with bifold glass doors so it wasn’t quite as open or susceptible to noise.
Guest Augmentation
In Lakewood’s foyer, dramatic in scale but muted slate grey upholstered wall panels (textile panels also punctuate the hallway) and wall sconces characterize a sophisticated space. According to Winegrad, the club decided to make this area more of a concierge point, as the original reception desk was not located here, and it was important to create a signature first impression.
In the ballroom, which can accommodate 265, among other moderate changes doors were relocated for flow, and crystal-droplet-and-fishing-line lighting fixtures add sparkle to formal functions. Possibly paramount to the ballroom changes, Winegrad combined a space across the hall used to store tables and chairs with another room, converting them into a single 300 s.f. bride’s changing suite. “This is a big selling point for the club,” Winegrad said, in that Lakewood’s ability to host weddings was mitigated by its inability to support their casts. In the new design, the bridal or wedding suite has an elegant, ample changing area, full bath, multiple bays for hair and make-up furnished with Swaim white leather chairs, wall sconces, silk tasseled draperies and other graceful notes. “This is income for Lakewood,” Winegrad stressed.
Prescription for Prosperity
With hundreds of residential, commercial and hospitality designs on his dance card, Winegrad admitted Lakewood, whose redesign met with considerable acclaim by its members, was one of the few country clubs he’d ever undertaken as an interior designer (Seawane Country Club in Hewlett Harbor, NY, was his first). Establishing that each club is different, with some choosing to emphasize tennis over golf, or children’s amenities, swimming and the like, he said he applied the same principles used in the balance of his work to the Lakewood project, completed in 2009, with function being the only changed element.
“My approach and aesthetic value and judgment are always the same,” he reflected. “Designers have a position they come from – their design criteria. What’s important, even more than individual materials, is what the space looks like, its feeling – the end result. I guess that’s what you would say is the signature of any designer.”


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