Practical measures define pool room’s décor

Inspiration is defined as “a divine influence directly and immediately exerted upon the mind or soul of a man.” It’s that heavenly muse that all creative people ultimately rely on, and it must have been operating at warp speed the day my wife, interior designer Barbara Woolf, and I were touring the new beach home of a client that asked us to design his little cottage by the sea.

Located in one of Los Angeles’ swankiest and loveliest beach communities, this elegant 6,000-square-foot home had it all: marble floors throughout the first level, a grand staircase with beautiful iron work, two master suites, numerous guest quarters and baths, formal living room and dining room, family room with a view to die for, and a space that the client wanted dedicated to his favorite pastime of smoking cigars, watching sports and shooting pool with his fellow Englishmen.

It was the pool room that seemed to be his main focus that day, judging by his enthusiasm as we entered that space. With so many years in design between my wife and me, we instinctively sensed that this now-empty space would be the one that would eventually mean the most to him. And so we looked at each other with a knowing wink, fully realizing that whatever suggestions we would make at that point had better be spot on. And that’s when divine inspiration came knocking.

Knowing him as well as I did, with his fondness for kicking back with his buddies and a few shots (or more) of his favorite drink at a Santa Monica English pub, I blurted out, quite without thinking, that it would be great fun if we designed the space almost as an elegant English-style pub where he could while away the hours in his own, private inner sanctum, watching soccer matches and playing pool into the wee hours of the morning. That suggestion came off like gangbusters and off we went on a designer’s dream job: a great client and no budget to challenge our creativity.

Instinct, or inspiration if you like, must have told me that this design concept would touch a nerve with our client because the pub style would remind him of the way that billiards is played in England. And besides, his décor was to be elegant and European and so, naturally enough, we would be working with a classic look throughout the home.

Having done a number of pool rooms of varying styles for clients over the years, my wife and I were both cognizant of the fact that we needed to begin with the pool table first since it is the center of the room and the focal point. Our subsequent design for the space would be based on the look of the table. Trust me, it’s the right place to begin a pool room design, although I had another focal point in mind as well.

I knew that even more basic than the look of the room is the most fundamental requirement of all — space. A pool table takes up a great deal of space and ideally needs a room dedicated solely to that purpose. It stands to reason that a pool room has to be large enough so that a player can hit the cue ball from any angle and station around the table. This often means that you need to allow 8 feet of free space all around the table. Our client’s table would be 9 feet (which is the most preferable size) and, even though the space was adequate, I sadly realized that my other focal point would have to be compromised.

There is a formula, by the way, that can be used to calculate the amount of space adequate for the size of pool table you may have in mind. To find out if the table of your choice will fit in your space, add 57 inches (the average length of a cue stick) to each side of the width and the length and that will determine the minimum amount of space necessary to ensure the success of your game.

Even though the classic, carved European pool table with its stunning jade green top would be sitting on a superior Persian rug under an ornate iron chandelier from Arte de Mexico (to the trade only), it was my goal to create a wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling wall unit that would house the client’s flat screen TV, a fridge and ice smaker, and tons of storage space for glasses and bottles as well as display areas. I saw it as the real star attraction of the room even though I had to forgo the beautiful front bar due to space constraints, which would have given the room a real pub effect.

We had to allow space for the players, who would be making their shots with the beautiful, custom 57-inch-long cue sticks that our client had ordered, as well as dedicated ringside spectator-high tables and chairs along the perimeter. I promised him no ordinary bar tables and designed a graceful fluted column to be used along with traditionally masculine leather-covered bar stools from Italmonde (to the trade only).

Hand-painted drapes, foliage and art work completed the look.

I imagine the client has spent countless hours enjoying the fruits of our collaboration. Though I bet he still stops for a pint, every now and then, at that Santa Monica pub.

Stephen Leon is a licensed interior designer and president of Soleil Design International; he has been designing and manufacturing custom furniture and cabinetry for more than 25 years. He has served on the board of directors of the Central California/Nevada Chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers. Questions can be sent to stephen@soleil

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