Grand Designs

24 November 2016

Great interior design makes a statement and redefines how customers feel the minute they step through the door.

Redesigning or developing a new interior space is one of the biggest challenges a club can take on. Not only is it a substantial financial investment but the stakes are high - design sets the tone of your establishment for years to come.

Great design doesn't happen by accident and the results of getting it wrong can be far reaching.  Looking great is important, but an interior also needs to function well for both customer and staff.  The wrong acoustics can kill the atmosphere quicker than a terrible music act.  Instead of soaking in a buzzy and vibrant vibe, customers have to yell to have a conversation and staff feel drained by the constant noise exposure.

Bad design can affect your staff productivity and turnover and the scale of it may surprise you.  The Commission for Architecture & the Built Environment and the British Council for Offices found that the workplace accounts for 24 per cent of employees' level of job satisfaction and can affect their performance by five per cent.  One call centre doubled output and cut turnover by 11 per cent by moving to better designed offices.

If that isn't enough, clubs also deal with a number of unique challenges.  They have to cater to a wide range of clientele than other dining and entertainment venues and need to juggle designing a number of spaces that each has a distinct purpose while retaining a consistent overall aesthetic.  That balancing act is complicated by another contradiction; clubs are often large places, which makes them ideal to cater to the community's needs, but at the same time, nobody wants to have dinner in a soulless aircraft hanger - so retaining an intimate feel is important.

There can also be external factors constraining what you can do, which makes partnering with the right builders vital, cautions Ed Kenny, director of Giant Design Consultants. "Food construction is particularly tricky with so many regulations and codes to comply to and can go horribly wrong with an inexperienced builder," he says.

When sitting down to create a new space, one of the key things to remember is not to be constrained by past convention says Tom Bergstrom, Director of Bergstrom Architects.  "The way we work, the way we relax, the way we love, the way we play - all these things are changing and interior design is constantly moving forward," he says.

We don't use the areas in the club the same way our parents and grandparents did, and any new design needs to bear that in mind.  This doesn't mean that clubs should all be redesigned as virtual reality spaces with cold pressed juice bars and change points for iPhones, just that the customer should be front and centre of any design.

"Designing for a club is no different to designing for other spaces," says Kenny.  "The more time you spend understanding who your end user is (or would like to be), the better the result.  I think a lot of clubs fall into the trap of designing to their current customer and not targeting people who wouldn't normally go there." Which is a problem when a club is struggling for members and competing with a range of eating establishments and entertainment venues.

But that competition to spurring some clubs into new directions, turning their venues into places that people come to, not because they are local but because they offer something that patrons can't get elsewhere, whether that's good, locally sourced food or an environment where retirees, families and younger people can all find an experience they will enjoy.  Design is increasingly becoming another point of differentiation.

In launching any design project, it's vital that venues have vision, which is why the first question that Bergstrom and Kenny ask a client when starting a new project is who they are designing for and what they want those people to do.

The often broad answer is what makes work in this sector so exciting from architects, says Gabrielle Mokrzycki, Marketing Coordinator at Scott Carver.  "It's great because varying needs and wants must be taken into consideration to make a space successful, so it requires a bit of creative problem-solving and presents the opportunity to create a range of experiences."

"It is very important that people are provided not only different experiences but a choice in how they engage with the space." Mokrzycki also emphasised the role of design in creating a unique experience for the patron, while ensuring their comfort.

Large spaces also allow designers to play with lighting, which for Kenny can really make or break a space.  "You could design the most beautiful space in the world but if it is poorly lit, it will kill the look," he says.  "Spend money on getting the right lights and controller to set the scene and you are laughing."

THe other important piece of the puzzle is for the club and designer to work together, not necessarily in a hands-on sense (so put down that drill), more in terms of their belief in the project.  It's very important that the project is a collaborative effort" says Mokrycki.  "Our dream projects are simply those that have a team behind them that are as equally excited about the opportunity and design process as we are.  Ultimately we strive to connect people through design in order to make our cities more live-able."

Design Trends

The challenge in creating a new design is in crafting something that looks of the moment but won't look horribly dated a few years down the track.  So what are the dominant trends this year?

Modern Warm Metallics - Metals such as brass, copper, nickel and rose gold are popular, often as an accent or focal points.

Black steel - Don't count this one out yet.  It will endure beyond the tail end of the industrial look as a classic modernist feature.

Geometry - The introduction of strong geometry, through both texture and colour is a great way to create visual interest in an interior space.  Carrying that geometry and texture through all finishes, including furniture creates consistency but also the ability to create distinct spaces.

The Statement Pendant - Pendant lighting creates just enough drama without extravagance.

Raw Luxe - Similar to the statement pendant, stripped back raw interiors combined with luxe finishes give a high contrast.

Colour - Pantone announced pale pink Rose Quartz and powder blue Serenity as the colours for 2016, the first time a combination of colours has been selected.  They work well with metallic accents.  That doesn't mean that brighter and bolder colours are yesterday's news - deeper, moodier colours complement the pastels and the use of two tones creates a strong impact.

Marble Accents - Accents of marble add luxe sophistication

Nordic Style - The combination of pale timbers, light and bright space, and minimal detailing with pops of greenery is always a winner.

(SOURCE: Kerrie Murphy, ClubLIFE October 2016)

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