This Isn’t Your Dad’s Old Golf Course
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This Isn’t Your Dad’s Old Golf Course

Golf’s popularity is on the rise among younger generations. Inness, a new Hudson Valley resort, responds with a cooler kind of country club.

By Darrell Hartman
Wed, Jul 7, 2021 10:47amGrey Clock 5 min

One summer day in 2016, Taavo Somer was driving around the Hudson Valley in his Dodge pickup, scouting for locations for his next hospitality project: a small hotel with a restaurant, pool and farm shop that could serve as a hangout for both locals and weekenders. In Accord, New York, he passed a rolling swath of rural acreage dotted with drooping willows, with a view of the Shawangunk and Catskill Mountains. It was properly zoned for his purpose. Perfect, that is to say, in just about every way.

Somer’s first instinct was to drive on by, as he had plenty of times before. The reason: The place was a golf course—in other words, hopelessly uncool. “I was carrying some heavy baggage against golf,” Somer admits.

Somer made a name for himself in the early aughts as a hipster prince of New York City nightlife, creator of witty, vintage-y downtown bars and restaurants like Freemans. His forays into hospitality and fashion helped turn a generation of urban men on to taxidermy, barbershops and hand-stitched hunting moccasins.

Even as his tastes evolved, Somer recoiled at the thought of golf. And relocating two hours north of the city, to the pastoral Hudson Valley, didn’t change his mind. Somer’s idea of a typical golf club was a Caddyshack cliché of polished mahogany, coat-of-arms motifs and stiff dress codes—“all things that give me the willies,” he says.

On that day five years ago, Somer decided to visit the Rondout Golf Club, as it was then known. One of the owners treated him to his first-ever ride in a golf cart. A conversation about renovating the restaurant escalated, and Somer and a group of co-investors soon found themselves in possession of the entire property—including the 18-hole golf course, which they planned to raze in order to make way for their high-design country resort. But the local community balked at the idea of destroying the course, prompting Somer and his partners to reimagine it as a nine-hole feature that was somehow in tune with the rest of the project: Inness, a 225-acre hotel, restaurant and semiprivate country club. Much of it has just been unveiled, with a spa slated to open next summer.

The new course, created by golf industry mavericks King-Collins, sits at a remove from the scattered main compound. Of the roughly 200 people Inness is aiming to sign up for club membership, only 30 will have golfing privileges. For some guests, the course will barely register. They will be drawn instead to the resort’s mix of Scandinavian minimalism and Northeast vernacular.

The 12-room farmhouse evokes a multigenerational family home, with panelled walls, a billiards room, screened-in porches and sunset-facing Adirondack chairs. The 28 black cabins have the cool austerity of a modern Swedish or Japanese forest retreat—including, in some cases, woodstoves and outdoor soaking tubs.

A round pool (one of two on the property) complements the naturalistic landscaping of garden designer Miranda Brooks. Coffee, pastries and fresh produce from the resort’s three-acre organic garden are for sale in the greenhouse-inspired shop. It’s just outside the barn-style building that houses the main bar and restaurant, where chef Jordan Heissenberger serves local vegetables, house-smoked meats and wood-fired pizzas. The property’s 65 acres feature hiking trails and a pair of tennis courts.

For golfers, however, the whimsical nine-hole course—which is open to the public—will be the main reason to visit. And while it is true that other resorts similarly split their clientele, and that other courses allow outsiders to share the fairways with dues-paying members, Inness is a stylish anomaly, a near-accidental hybrid that is bound to get people talking about the state of recreational golf today.

Golf had a banner year in 2020. More than 500 million rounds were played in America—the highest total in 14 years, according to the National Golf Foundation. The number of first-timers was up 20 percent from the year before, the largest jump on record. The year-over year surge in participation hasn’t been this high since 1997, when a pro newcomer named Tiger Woods decimated the competition at the Masters.

The Covid-19 pandemic has been largely responsible for this spike, and it is hard to know how long its impact will last. For the moment, though, golf is riding a wave of youthful enthusiasm. Juniors (players ages 6–17) flocked to the sport in 2020, and, according to Beditz, in a recent NGF survey asking people how interested they were in playing golf now, the most affirmative respondents by age group were millennials.

According to Joe Beditz, president and CEO of the National Golf Foundation, America has more golf courses than Starbucks cafes, and 75 percent of those courses are public. Beditz likens the evolution of the sport to church, and its minority of traditional private clubs to cathedrals. “There’s always going to be St. Patrick’s,” he says, “but there are [also] new ways that church is being delivered in our culture.”

Somer enlisted Leigh Salem and Jou-Yie Chou of Post Company, a New York firm, to help with the design and architecture at Inness. The three men, non-golfers all, noticed their attitudes toward the sport change as they began discussing the project with friends and colleagues. “We got comfortable with it as we got more educated. And we realized a lot of our peer set actually golfs, which was news to us,” Chou says.

They warmed to descriptions of Scottish links where hikers and picnicking families make themselves at home, where the courses feel almost like public parks and where dogs join their owners on the fairways. An image of a different kind of golf course emerged, Somer recalls, even if he struggled to articulate it: “How it can be not this, like an organic apple that has russeting, it’s not a perfectly spray-painted red or green apple.” The team tracked down a course designer who spoke their language: Rob Collins, creator of Sweetens Cove Golf Club, a norm-busting nine-hole course in Tennessee that has bested PGA Tour hosts on must-play lists despite opening with a porta-potty for a locker room. Since then it has developed a cult following that includes Peyton Manning and Andy Roddick, both of whom are now investors. When Sweetens’s Thursday-to-Sunday bookings during the seven prime months of 2021 went on sale, they took all of 31 minutes to sell out.

Real estate developer Lee Pollock, one of the only Inness partners who golf, asked Collins if he could re-create the “wit and variety” of Sweetens Cove at Inness. He expects golfers attempting to solve his 70-acre puzzle to be alternately rewarded and flummoxed. “It’s a kick in the nuts one time around and a bowl of cherries the next time,” Collins says. Notably, it’s also the first King-Collins course to open since Sweetens Cove.

The most striking feature is the pair of double greens, each of them nearly an acre in size. “That’s fabulously different,” Beditz notes. So, too, is the fact that players can make freestyle decisions like playing the seventh hole from the second tee, assuming course traffic is light enough for this to be tried safely. The vegetation is allowed to do its own thing, too, with acres of naturalized terrain turning brown and crispy as the season wears on. The mowing plan is intentionally simple: Greens are cut one way, the drought-tolerant fairway grass another, and the rest is left to go naturally shaggy, as so many of us did during lockdown.

The multibrand outfitter—don’t call it a pro shop—is stocked with input from Adsum, a young sportswear label with a boutique in Williamsburg. It carries hiking, cycling and cross-country skiing gear, in addition to golf and tennis equipment. There will be no caddies. The course rules essentially amount to: Don’t be a jerk, and keep it moving. The word fun comes up repeatedly in discussions with all involved.“We’re not reinventing golf,” says Inness consultant Michael Williams, founder of ACL Golf and a longtime friend of Somer’s. “It’s an alignment of our values, our aesthetics [with the game].”

“Architectural school was about dropping preconceived notions,” Somer says. He’s abandoned some of the ones he had about golf, even if he still has never teed off in his life. Somer does like to walk, he points out, and it is either a genuine insight or a sign of his naivete that he considers this a meaningful way to connect with 21st-century golfers. “Being in nature is the unifying thing. It’s really about that.”

Reprinted by permission of WSJ. Magazine. Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: July 5, 2021


This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

35 North Street Windsor

Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

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Playful 1950s style spotlights details like coloured cabinets, checkerboard and mosaic tile patterns, vintage lighting, and SMEG appliances

Mon, Apr 22, 2024 6 min

The 1950s spawned society’s view of kitchens as the heart of the home, a hub for gathering, cooking, eating and socializing. Thus, it makes perfect sense that the same decade could inspire today’s luxury kitchens.

“The deliberate playfulness and genius of the era’s designers have enabled the mid-century style to remain a classic design and one that still sparks joy,” said James Yarosh, an interior designer and gallerist in New Jersey.

That playful style spotlights details like coloured cabinets, checkerboard and mosaic tile patterns, vintage lighting, and SMEG appliances—all of which are a conspicuous rejection of the sterile, monochrome kitchens that have defined luxury home design for years. One of the hottest brands to incorporate into retro-style kitchens, SMEG is turning up more these days. But the question is: How do you infuse a colourful refrigerator and other elements from this nostalgic era without creating a kitschy room?

“The key to a modern, fresh look in your kitchen is to reference, not imitate, signature looks of the 1950s,” said New York-based designer Andrew Suvalsky, who often laces retro style throughout the rooms he designs. He said using the period as inspiration will steer you away from imagining a garish space.

“When it comes to incorporating that retro-esque look, it’s a fine dance between looking beautiful and looking kitschy,” added Lisa Gilmore, a designer in Tampa, Florida. Gilmore suggested balancing contemporary pieces with vintage touches. That balance forges a functional yet attractive design that’s easy to live with while evoking a homey atmosphere––and ultimately, a room everyone wants to be in.

Colour Reigns Supreme

Suvalsky said one way to avoid a kitschy appearance is to mingle woods and colours, such as lacquered base cabinets and walnut wall cabinets, as he did in his Montclair, New Jersey, kitchen.

“Mixing colours into your kitchen is most effective when it’s done by colour-blocking––using a single colour across large areas of a space––in this case, zones of cabinetry,” he explained. He tends to lean toward “Easter egg colours,” such as baby chick yellow and pale tangerine. These soft pastels can suggest a starting point for the design while lending that retro vibe. But other hues can spark a vintage feel as well.

A mid-century-inspired kitchen by Blythe Interiors.
Natalia Robert

“Shades of green and blue are a timeless base foundation that work for a 1950s vintage look,” said designer Jennifer Verruto of Blythe Interiors in San Diego. But wood isn’t off the table for her, either. “To embrace the character of a mid-century home, we like a Kodiak stain to enhance the gorgeous walnut grain,” she said. “This mid-tone wood is perfect for contrasting other lighter finishes in the kitchen for a Mid-Century Modern feel.”

Since colour is subjective, a kitchen lined with white cabinetry can assume a retro aesthetic through accoutrements and other materials, emanating that ’50s vibe.

“The fun of retro designs is that you can embrace colour and create something that feels individual to the house and its homeowner, reflecting their tastes and personality,” Yaosh said. He recommended wallpaper as an option to transform a kitchen but suggested marrying the pattern with the bones of the house. “Wallpaper can create a mid-century or retro look with colours and hand-blocked craftsmanship,” he said. “Mauny wallpapers at Zuber are a particular favourite of mine.”

Suvalsky suggested Scalamandre wallpapers, for their 1950s patterns, and grass cloth, a textile that was often used during that decade. He also likes House of Hackney, a brand that “does a great job reinventing vintage prints in luscious colours,” he noted. “Many of their colourways invert the typical relationship between light and dark, with botanical prints in dark jewel tones set over light, more playful colours.”

Materials Matter

Beyond wall covering, flooring, countertops and backsplashes can all contribute to the 1950s theme. Manufactured laminate countertops, specifically Formica, were all the rage during the decade. But today’s high-end kitchens call for more luxurious materials and finishes.

“That’s a situation where going the quartz route is appropriate,” Gilmore said. “There are quartzes that are a through-body colour and simple if someone is doing colorued cabinetry. A simplified white without veining will go a long way.” She also recommended Pompei quartz Sunny Pearl, which has a speckled appearance.

A kitchen designed by James Yarosh that incorporates pops of yellow.
Patricia Burke

But for those who welcome vibrant colour schemes, countertops can make a bold statement in a vintage kitchen. Gilmore said solid surface materials from the era were often a colour, and quartz can replicate the look.

“Some brands have coloured quartz, like red,” she said. But keeping countertops neutral allows you to get creative with the backsplash. “I‘d pull in a terrazzo backsplash or a bold colour like a subway tile in a beautiful shade of green or blush,” Gilmore said. “Make the backsplash a piece of art.”

Suvalsky also leans toward bright and daring––such as checkerboards––for the backsplash. But depending on the kitchen’s design, he’ll go quieter with a double white herringbone [tile] pattern. “Either version works, but it must complement other choices, bold or simple, in the design,” he explained.

Neutral countertops with a bold backsplash, designed by Lisa Gilmore.
Native House Photography

Likewise, his flooring choice almost always draws attention. “My tendency is more toward very bold, such as a heavily veined marble or a pattern with highly contrasting tones,” he noted. Yarosh suggested slate and terrazzo as flooring, as these materials can make an excellent backdrop for layering.

Forge a Statement With Vintage Appliances 

As consequential as a kitchen’s foundation is, so are the appliances and accoutrements. While stainless steel complements contemporary kitchens, homeowners can push the design envelope with companies like SMEG when making appliance selections for a retro-style kitchen. Although Suvalsky has yet to specify a SMEG fridge, he is looking forward to the project when he can.

“I think they work best when the selected colour is referenced in other parts of the kitchen, which helps to integrate these otherwise ‘look at me’ pieces into the broader design,” he noted. “They are like sculptures unto themselves.”

“For our mid-century-inspired projects, we’ve opted for Big Chill and the GE Cafe Series to bring a vintage look,” Verruto added. Similar to SMEG, Big Chill and GE offer a vintage vibe in a wide selection of colours and finishes, alongside 21st-century performance.

Can’t commit to a full-size appliance? Sometimes, a splash is enough. Gilmore tends to dust her retro kitchens with a coloured kettle or toaster since her clients are likelier to add a tinge with a countertop appliance or two. “Mint green accessories make it pop, and if in five years they are over it, it’s not a commitment,” she said. “It’s a great way to infuse fun and colour without taking a major risk.”

Deck out the Breakfast Nook

Kitchen dining areas present the opportunity to introduce retro lighting, furniture, and accessories to complete the look. Flea markets and antique markets are excellent places to hunt for accompaniments.

“Dome pendants and Sputnik chandeliers are iconic styles that will infuse vintage charm into your kitchen while also easily complementing a variety of other styles,” Verruto said.

A retro breakfast nook desinged by Andrew Suvalsky.
DLux Editions

Suspend a vintage light fixture over the classic Saarinen table, and you can’t go wrong.

“Saarinen Tulip Tables are almost always guaranteed to deliver a home run in nearly any interior, especially a 1950s-themed kitchen,” Suvalsky said. “The simplicity of its form, especially in white, makes it nearly impossible to clash with.”

To really channel the vibe of this era, Verruto suggested local vintage stores and brands such as Drexel Heritage and Lexington. Dressing the windows counts, too. “Cafe curtains in a chintz pattern will make for a fabulous finishing touch,” she said.

Meanwhile, Yarosh delights in selecting tabletop items, including novelty stemware and other trappings ubiquitous in the 1950s. “Mid-century kitchens also need to have pedestal cake plates and maybe a cloche to keep a cake,” he mused. “I love the opportunity to curate these details down to the correct fork and serving pieces.”


This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

35 North Street Windsor

Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

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