Since 1887, the Denver Country Club (DCC) has been a members-only hub for social events and activities such as tennis, golf, and ice-skating. But a series of hodgepodge design updates throughout its history had left the club’s main gathering space—the dining and bar area—lacking two pillars of a welcoming environment: cohesive style and a practical layout. Enter Ruggles Mabe Studio’s Emily Lindemann and Melissa Mabe, who orchestrated an elegant renovation of this beloved space inside the oldest country club west of the Mississippi. Here’s how the design duo pulled it off.

They (literally) made an entrance. The DCC dining room’s awkward entry lacked a “strong sense of arrival,” Lindemann says. “You entered from the side, and you never knew where you were supposed to meet the host to be seated.” The design team created a vestibule that funnels guests to the front of the bar and provides what Lindemann calls “a resting moment” before the layout unfolds.

They prioritized function and flow. Though Lindemann and Mabe liked that the dining area comprised multiple sections (an intimate formal dining room, a casual lounge space, an adjacent room for private meetings), they weren’t so fond of its closed-off and disjointed layout. “It felt like a bunch of small rooms patched together,” Mabe says. Their solution? Take down a load-bearing wall and position the bar in its place. This move created a more open, light-filled environment, while still providing a clear delineation of spaces between the casual cocktail area and the more formal dining room (pictured below).

They tied it all together. To create a visual connection to the club’s west wing, which was renovated in 2007, Lindemann and Mabe used its palette of classic finishes and elegant textures to inform the dining area’s new, timeless style. Brass Ralph Lauren light fixtures from Visual Comfort hang overhead and cream-colored leather dining chairs with nailhead trim and a plaid fabric panel complete the classic look. To keep the building’s historic charm alive, the design team refinished and reused certain design elements, including carved ceiling beams (some original, others added during a renovation in the 1920s) and the limestone fireplace and pine inglenook (also added in the ’20s). “[Our intention was to] preserve that classic aesthetic of the club while making it feel relevant to younger members,” Lindemann says.