Country club living is a prominent part of South Florida’s flourishing residential lifestyle. Not only does it provide a sense of community, but for many residents, it also inspires the design of their own homes. While many design firms are equipped to decorate a clubhouse, few can genuinely call it their “specialty.”
Wells Design Group, a full-service organization servicing the region for over 25 years, is the connoisseur of country clubs. Owner Susan Welzien considers each clubhouse a “dream job.” “It’s a
commercial project, but with the warmth of a large home,” she describes.
Having specialized in clubhouse renovations for more than 15 years, the firm knows all the ins and outs to make each project a rousing success. Unlike a private home, the process of clubhouse
renovation takes on a different spin. A major departure is the necessity of numerous meetings with the design committee. “They are very involved but they must report to the Board of Directors. This requires us to manage groups of people while not losing sight of the finished product.” Beauty is of course an essential, but so is functionality, timeliness, and budget-consciousness. Again, unlike some residential jobs, permitting is crucial. Wells brings in an architect, and once the plans are complete, general contractors bid on the work to be done and then the plans are submitted for permit. Detailed color boards with computerized, interior renderings are presented to allow the client to visualize the final product. It’s particularly exciting to anticipate the outcome, and even more so to watch it come
Wells Design Group is utterly hands-on throughout the process, visiting the project site countless times during the renovation. They oversee the work and as the end draws near, they develop
what is referred to in the industry as a “punch list” — the last remaining items requiring attention
and completion. Yes, it all sounds very business-oriented, but it’s also a lot of fun, especially for a professional like Welzien who has lived and breathed interior design since early childhood, where
she was coloring home elevations while her peers were simply trying to stay within the
broad lines of their coloring books. The daughter of a father who was an architect and home builder, she would visit construction sites. “Becoming an interior designer was a lifelong dream come true!” Welzien states. Her resume includes study at Southern Illinois University where she majored in interior design and minored in architectural technology. She has worked in both hotel and residential design, and was even an interior design instructor at The Art Institute for three years before leaving
to start her own business.
It’s been hard work, but sheer enjoyment for Welzien. Clubhouse design brings a welcome set of challenges, like selection of interior finishes and furnishings, or custom-designing large light fixtures for the lobby or ballroom. Window treatments and artwork, while finishing touches, are an integral part of the overall design and thus play into the finished picture. According to Welzien, most clubhouses will close for 4-6 months, depending on the amount of renovation being done. But that “Grand Opening” party and ribbon-cutting ceremony that happens thereafter is well worth the wait. The big reveal is undoubtedly a thrilling change from the look most residents have been accustomed to for at least a decade. “Today’s trends have made a huge change,” Welzien states. “Gone are the “Old World” traditional designs that were popular for so long. The gold tones, cherry finishes, and abundance of walnut woodwork have been replaced with a fresh crisp look, with gray or blue tones, and accents in teals, oranges, even lime green or plum!” she elaborates. She describes her signature look as the innovative use of large polished porcelain tiles on walls, linear fireplaces, even a water
feature with polished chrome accents, and crystal light fixtures which throw a cascade of shimmering highlights around the room.
For Welzien and her staff, the most gratifying thing about the work is not only to be part of the transformation of the space from old and tired to light, bright and exciting, but also to see people’s faces as they walk in for the first time. “It’s addictive and magical, and I would not trade what I do for any other profession,” she says