As part of a redesign for the nearly 50-person global Admirals Club network, the new lounge at Washington Reagan National’s (DCA) Terminal E will open later this month. With it comes a fresh look that will eventually grace each of the airline’s Admirals Clubs.
Designed by Chicago-based DMAC Architecture Interiors, the look of the lounge marks a rather elegant departure from the previous contemporary design of most renovated clubs in America.
This is the first airline lounge project for DMAC, which has traditionally focused on hospitality projects. As a result, the redesign shows remarkable attention to detail and efficient use of space with a mix of living and working spaces to cater for diverse traveler interests.
This lounge is set up in two ‘booths’, separated by the softly lit arrivals desk. To the left is the main seating area surrounded by wooden rails plus a high table for working and feeding devices, a drink and snack station, customer service desk and phone booth rooms.
To the right is the main bar and various seating arrangements in the dining room, including high tables, tables for two or four, private booths with under-seat bag storage, a row of bar-style seating by the window and a corral. of telephone booth spaces in pieces, standup. In this area, an open lattice canopy is extended by a wooden column with ceiling lights that slowly dim after sunset to create a relaxing mood.
Another clever feature of the dining area is that many of the seats have open spaces so that food and waste do not get caught in the folds, but can be swept away. The fabrics selected have nanotechnology to repel liquid stains. Many of the lounge’s hard surfaces, from tables to side walls, have thin metal design edges that help reduce nicks and scratches from passing luggage.
Subtly woven into the design is the airline’s logo, which is visible in the latticework of the dining room, the slope of some of the table and bar areas, and some of the light panels. If you look closely, you’ll notice local scenes behind one of the walls with a logo sign meant to look like you’re looking at the sights of Washington DC through an airplane window.
The food and beverage concept will remain the same as other lounges, featuring rotating menus that change three times a year, including macaroni and cheese bowls or tacos with a variety of toppings. A selection of new wines was recently added to the beverage menu, part of the airline’s partnership with the James Beard Foundation and its wine consultants, for the premium bar list. This includes labels from McBride Sisters, the largest black-owned wine company in the US, founded by two sisters.
While not all Admirals Clubs received a recent facelift in the past decade, this latest revision will eventually make its way into every living room in the coming years. However, updates to each lounge will take time due to local regulations and airport permits.
All lounges will have the same framework, but each will have destination-specific nods in art and interior design thanks to collaborations with local designers. A large-scale limestone design featuring the airline’s logo sits in the lower lobby lounge with similar stone used elsewhere in a nod to what is used in the city’s many monuments and museums.
Locally sourced American walnut furniture, modern leather seating with swivel chairs (some with ottomans) and various seating arrangements fill the lounge. The designers took into account that some people travel alone, but may occupy a two-person seating area by effectively using two single-person seats. The ability to turn the chairs sideways allows for more privacy while making more efficient use of the seat.
Other spaces feature televisions above lounge-style tables to create a more residential feel than wall-mounted, and a striking fireplace is flanked by floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the DC skyline. The Washington Monument and the Capitol are in view.
In a separate section of the living room, three decorative dome-shaped structures hang from the ceiling with excerpts from important political speeches made at pivotal moments in history that are revealed as you read them below.
According to Dwayne MacEwen, founder and principal of DMAC Architecture & Interiors, “we’d like to say there are four domes in the nation’s capital, and three of them are at the Admirals Club.”
MacEwan and his team are responsible for revising the entire lounge concept for American. In his words, the focus is to create “a collection of carefully designed memorable spaces with opportunities for guests to engage, retreat and rejuvenate.”
A unique feature of this lounge is the VIP room directly behind the reception. It is reserved for those who require more privacy, which at this airport is likely to include politicians, dignitaries and perhaps the occasional celebrity. The room has a boardroom style layout with a TV and lounge seating. It can also be rented by anyone for a small fee.
The designers added their own clever touches, including rows of vintage books inspired by the Library of Congress that had their bindings removed. It is possible for visitors to sign the spines of the book, which over time helps to tell the story of the vast line of VIPs they have passed through. The new DCA lounge does not have a shower. Also, since fewer families pass through this lounge than others in the system, it does not have a family room.
The DC living room incorporates many other local features, including a stunning wall of handmade silk cherry blossoms that drapes from floor to ceiling on a mirror. The endless display of rows of pink flowers marks the entrance to the bathrooms. It gives off nightclub vibes rather than traditional airport bathroom design. Bathrooms have softer lighting, floor-to-ceiling mirrors, counters with lights that indicate when occupied, and dark wood finishes instead of chrome and laminate counters.
Sustainability is another important part of the design with high efficiency LED lighting that can be synchronized with the time of day. Automatic shades adjust to outdoor light to maximize energy efficiency. The wall panels around the lounge have specially designed insulation to reduce noise.
The designers of the DC salon focused on maximizing usable space so that the back of the house is rarely visible and the food stations can be refueled from behind. Even the bathrooms have individual storage closets so the cleaning staff don’t have to roll carts around the common areas.
The new look launches with the Admirals Club at DCA, which will become the largest lounge at the airport with 14,500 square feet and 236 seats. The two additional clubs at the airport will remain open and will eventually get the new look.
Beyond Washington, DC, the first clubs to receive the redesign include Austin, Denver and Newark. American’s Flagship lounge (the premium lounge for international business and first class passengers) will not be part of this redesign as it is relatively new and that differentiates them from the Admirals Club product.