No Country Club for Old Designs

Contributing Photographer

A country club’s clubhouse serves many purposes. It’s the face of the club, a retreat for existing members, an attraction for new members.

The Hurstbourne Country Club couldn’t have a more impressive face. The red brick Gothic Revival building tucked away on more than 1,000 acres off of Shelbyville Road was built in 1854, and had all the grandeur any country club would need when the property was acquired in 1965.

It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places. But “historic” can also mean “old.” So the club’s board called in Lucy Layton Shaver, senior interior designer with Barry Wooley Designs, to restore the house to its original splendor, beginning with the foyer and sitting room on the first floor.

For these past six years, she has been working closely with club president Bill Wagner.

Nobody walking in could fail to be impressed by the staircase in the entryway, with dark wood banisters and iron railings that wound around a glass chandelier and up to the second floor. This was indeed what a grand old country club should look and feel like.

But the space hadn’t been redesigned since the 1980s. Design styles and trends change, of course, but as Shaver points out, “this is not somebody’s trendy residence. It needs to be timeless.”

It also needed to be commercially viable. “These rooms are revenue-generators,” the designer said. “The club rents them out for weddings, parties, banquets and a lot of business functions. And, by the way, people attending these functions are potential members if they’re sufficiently attracted to the space.”

The redesign work can be intense. The club closes for three weeks every January for general upkeep and maintenance, and those three weeks became Shaver’s window for all the work that needed to be done.

“I wanted to keep these spaces true to the character of the house – the heavy wood and iron trims and the leaded glass windows,” she said. “The big marble fireplaces and some of the chandeliers and sconces were original to the home and needed to be preserved.”

But Shaver had to apply an entirely new color palette. She chose Antique Cream from Porter Paints. All the strong design elements in the room – the wood and iron, the marble tile, the leaded glass – should not have to compete with strong wall colors. But she had a more practical purpose in mind, as well.

“If you have a lot of weddings in here, you need to have the wall colors complimentary to the color choices,” the designer said. “Also, an elegant but neutral color palette is more complementary to the bride’s complexion. Soft blush tints enhance the wedding party’s flesh tones. Something more harsh, like green, produces a kind of pallor on everyone’s faces.”

While the front rooms may be the face of the clubhouse, everyone knows the heart of any club revolves around golf. So Shaver’s more recent concentration has been on the men’s locker room.

It started with a complete refurbishment of the back staircase that leads from the dining room to the locker room. Working with Brandon Bailey of Bailey Remodeling & Construction, Shaver replicated the wood and iron staircase of the entryway, even researching the hand-forged iron of the original.

For the locker room itself, Shaver asked the club members for lists of suggestions. The responses were overwhelming. The room is now well-lit and elegant with dark wood lockers and benches. There’s now a lounge area with a shoeshine service and a bar tended by long-time club stalwart James Bell. There are grooming stations, steambaths with glass doors and showers fitted with new Speakman shower heads.

The bathroom itself was completely gutted. It now has brighter lighting, basket weave Carrera marble floor tiles, absolute black granite-topped sinks and light Colorado Gray paint on the walls from Benjamin Moore.

A new sitting room with wood wainscoting has large masculine brown leather club chairs and a flat-screen TV. Display cases feature the club’s long history with Ryder Cup competitions.

Shaver’s next project will be the two dining rooms, badly in need of some elegance, she says. “It’s a restaurant, but that doesn’t mean it has to look like a restaurant.”

She has already renovated the women’s powder room on that floor with wood, louver doors on the stalls, travertine tile on the floor, reupholstered furniture and silk raffia wallpaper from Philip Jefferies.

As for the men’s bathroom, Shaver said it “looked like a gas station restroom from the 1960s.”

Photos by CHRIS HUMPHREYS | The Voice-Tribune