You could always walk into this downtown woman’s club and order a drink and a bite to eat, but members seldom did. Maybe it was asking a staff member to retrieve a glass of wine from another floor or deciding whether to sit down for a full lunch or dinner in the formal dining room that discouraged you from stopping in for an impromptu use of the club’s food and beverage offerings.
There was also no dedicated space for members to meet a friend for a casual chat over a cocktail.
Fortunately, the clubhouse contained underused spaces that could be repurposed easily. Our firm helped identify the cause of this missing amenity and quickly found just such a space that could solve the problem.
Members loved a beautiful, quiet paneled library space but rarely used it. Busy lives no longer allowed a leisurely afternoon of pulling a book off the shelf and settling into a comfortable chair. Likewise, an adjacent vestibule was rarely used, except as a room to walk through.
Following a strong recommendation, the board approved the addition of the club’s first legitimate dedicated bar to be located in the unused vestibule. Now members could walk right into a lovely room, stroll up to a bar, sit at a stool and enjoy a drink alone or with a friend without seeking out a staff member.
The casual but elegant atmosphere feels at home with the club’s historic public rooms yet suits members’ busy lifestyles. And the location enjoys dramatic views right from the bar stools of the downtown shopping boulevard just outside monumental windows. And all of this was accomplished without any significant architectural changes to the room.
A mahogany paneled bar and leather upholstered banquette seating was added to the room but none of the existing finishes required renovations. This fall, a dramatic black and gold mural will be installed…a painting featuring Diana, the club’s icon described in the 1920s as “a girl running, graceful and restrained, but intent on the goal.” Adjacent back of house spaces allows for bar storage and service.
Next door to the new bar the existing library offered new opportunities. Our quick studies showed that with a few subtle changes the room could accommodate casual dining that would work easily with the new bar. Food could support beverage!
Four tops, café tables and comfortable lounge chairs and sofas replaced library furniture. A beloved and highly important, but barely visible, Baroque portrait was highlighted with a recessed ceiling fixture. Original wood paneling was restored and burnished. The dark former library suddenly became a light and airy food and beverage venue – a comfortable and relaxed enclave within the historic club. And for the first time, the club added small plates to their dining offerings.
Now members have the opportunity to stop by the club easily, at any time and enjoy a leisurely drink and snack, invite friends to join them or run into fellow members, all within original club spaces. They now enjoy the views of downtown in rooms that have been gently given new lives and purposes! BR
Kevin P. Lichten AIA is with LICHTEN CRAIG, Architecture + Interiors, New York. He can be reached at (212) 229-0200, ext. 120, or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org