Design / Experience

Smart choices: Decorating or Design

The use of colors and materials to develop the look of a club has been the traditional and standard staple in the development of interiors. Putting emphasis on the decorating of a club versus implementing a full interior design strategy has been a quick way to get a decent look without spending big bucks. The question is when is it appropriate to use “décor” i.e., just colors and materials to improve the look of your club, and when is this not enough? There are instances where this strategy can be counterproductive, and the wise choice is to design your club. The English dictionary defines Decorating as: “to make something more attractive by adding nonfunctional features to it” and Design as: “to make a detailed plan of the form or structure of something, emphasizing features such as its appearance, convenience, and efficient functioning”. The difference is adding elements to make your space more attractive versus creating a powerful space by an integrated and well coordinated design approach.

In renovation work, the ability to decorate using just colors and materials can dramatically improve the look and feel of a club. The renovation budget will very often dictate the extent of the work possible. It may not be financially feasible to demolish and re-arrange the physical spaces of the club, but that old and tired look will put your club at a market disadvantage! Doing a fresh makeover just using colors and materials is a fast and effective

way to redefine and reinvent your club for sales and retention. Since studies have shown that there will typically be a boost in memberships after a renovation, a new paint scheme, improvement on the floorings and even tile work can put you right back in the race as a new, or updated club. A relatively modest budget of $10-15 per square foot can yield excellent results and keep your staff and members excited about their club.

The challenge in decorating is to work with what you’ve got. It may not be in the budget to rebuild your front desk or replace the floor tile; however, selecting new colors that work with the existing materials and possibly re-laminating the front counter to get a new scheme and look will seem like a much bigger renovation.

Keep in mind when selecting new colors and materials; the modern mantra is “less is more”. Unless the scheme is very sophisticated and carefully worked out, selecting multiple strong colors may look dated rather quickly. We prefer to use some neutral base colors to set up the strong pops of colors, limiting bold color selection to only be one or two. Likewise, introducing some eye candy through new materials i.e. glass mosaic tiles, decorative light fixtures or cool new flooring options, like wood, can really bring a dull club back to life. This is a common practice in the front desk areas, entrance to the locker rooms and other primary spaces.

When developing a new club; however, using just colors and materials to improve on already designed architectural spaces can be the wrong choice. In new construction, nothing is yet built. Unlike renovation projects where physical changes can be too expensive, new construction allows the designer the ability to plan the design moves ahead of time. The issue is not to fix something to make it look better; it is to design it to be better from the start. Hiring one professional to draw the plans and then bringing in a designer to try to make it look good (decorate the space) after the project is drawn is doing more work with less results. It may look okay, but the point becomes one of missed opportunity. The ability to set up your design through what and where you build can actually save you a lot of money, rather than trying to fix a weak layout with decor.

Recently I was presented with this situation, and asked to participate as the designer. When studying the plans drawn by the local architect, it struck me that all the service spaces, such as the locker rooms, utility rooms and other areas were placed along the outside wall, while the fitness area was on the interior space without any windows. I commented on how great that work out floor would have felt with all the windows and how much we could save on lighting, as well as how spectacular the finishes and other materials would look from the natural light. I asked why they didn’t consider the option. The answer was that they weren’t concerned about the look at that point, but only fitting all the functions and spaces in the way they were used to. A big opportunity missed. An integrated design strategy would have saved them a lot of money and the result would have been a superior market dominating club. In this case the smart choice would have been to select a design service to create a great space versus simply trying to decorate it into existence.