Project Spotlight: Viva Veranda

Murphy Brothers Contracting and architect Jim Fleming seize moment to upgrade crown jewel of New York’s Larchmont Yacht Club.

May 28, 2014
Project Spotlight: Viva Veranda

For the Larchmont Yacht Club, architect Jim Fleming envisioned an extensive set of glass doors around the quarterdeck porch that could be removed—weather permitting—and would establish a vivid perspective of the harbor from the dining area.

For nearly four years the Larchmont Yacht Club in Westchester County, New York, worked with local architect Jim Fleming on plans to renovate the organization’s dining area and kitchens. The clubhouse—originally the residence of railroad magnate Benjamin A. Carver—had expanded considerably since its purchase in 1887 and presented logistical hurdles for current club members and staff.

Over time the building’s quarterdeck, which overlooks the Long Island Sound, became the primary dining space for members and guests. The club’s two kitchens, however, remained on the opposite side of the building, forcing employees to cross the formal hallway each time they ushered a tray or cart to the dining room. This setup proved especially problematic during functions such as wedding receptions, when the bridal party would have to contend with intersecting staff members as they walked down the hallway to the banquet.

Once Fleming and the club agreed on a redesign for the structure, they sought out local firm Murphy Brothers Contracting, which previously had remodeled the club’s bath houses and junior sailing house, among other projects. Murphy Brothers anticipated tearing down the roof and walls of the quarterdeck and refurbishing the dining area, but shortly after starting construction the company discovered extensive rotting underneath the adjacent veranda, which exceeded 120 years in age.

Company Snapshot

Company: Murphy Brothers Contracting
Owner: Chris and Sean Murphy
Location: Mamaroneck, N.Y.
2009 sales volume: $19 million
2010 sales volume: $20 million
Website: www.murphybrothers.com

“There were basically old tree trunks holding it up on top of things that really weren’t considered footings,” says project manager Vinny Hackett, who eventually removed the entire porch after Murphy Brothers consulted with the club and Fleming. The team made sure to rebuild the veranda in time for sailing season and, with the help of a new glass door system, transformed the quarterdeck space into the showcase of the project even though no one had expected to replace the main porch beforehand.

History

On Memorial Day in 1880, five young men returned from racing their boats and warmed themselves by a bonfire on the shore of Horseshoe Harbor in Larchmont Manor. The group discussed assembling a boat club there and ultimately decided to establish one called the Larchmont Yacht Club. After using a small neighboring church to serve as their headquarters for more than a year, the founders leased a nearby residence and then an even larger property to accommodate growing membership.

In 1887 the Larchmont Yacht Club became legally incorporated with the acquisition from Carver of its present site—11 acres at the head of the harbor. The organization added east and west wings to his original residence and, by the 1980s, simultaneously ran an a la carte kitchen on the main floor and a banquet kitchen on the lower level. After the main dining area relocated to the quarterdeck, the club found it increasingly difficult to coordinate the two kitchens and ensure staff served upwards of 250 dinner guests the same course at the same time.

Murphy Brothers began to gut the a la carte kitchen but had to be mindful of the banquet kitchen directly below because the club remained open during construction and continued to use the lower-level galley. “We also had a substantial amount of mechanical work to do in the ceiling of the lower kitchen in order to accomplish what we needed to do upstairs,” Hackett says.

At a certain point, Murphy Brothers needed to restore the banquet kitchen, so the firm devised a special schedule to avoid impeding the club, which typically shut down on Mondays and Tuesdays. “I would basically have crews working around the clock on Monday and Tuesday when that kitchen was closed, so we could get into the kitchen and actually perform work,” says Hackett, who has completed a number of other jobs in the same timeframe—Labor Day to Memorial Day—required by boat clubs in order to be ready for the opening of sailing season. “The schedule was certainly a challenge, but it’s always interesting and can be kind of fun when it’s a race against the clock,” he adds.

Hafsco, a foodservice company, designed the revamped kitchens and installed all of the new equipment, wedging everything in tight quarters down to the inch where the club chefs requested, says Fleming, who specified an industrial manlift next to the dining area to bring up items from the banquet kitchen. “We could put the hot carts in that, take them over to the other side of the building underneath, and then come up on the right side,” he adds. An existing elevator abutting the banquet kitchen previously performed a similar duty but forced employees to cross the formal hallway on their way to the dining area once they reached the main floor.

The new lift borders the staff locker rooms in the basement of the club, which benefited from a fortuitous makeover after Murphy Brothers determined the veranda must be reconstructed.

Discovery

Following the demolition of the existing porch, Murphy Brothers chipped out a substantial amount of rock near the building’s foundation to improve footings and create more space for the remodeled staff locker rooms on the lower level. “It’s a really nice asset for the club because they have a very loyal staff and they wanted to do that right,” says Fleming, who also developed an innovative idea for enhancing the quarterdeck and veranda after addressing their infrastructure.

Product List

Glass door system: NanaWall
Elevator lifts: PFlow
Roofing: GAF
Ceramic tiles: Dal-Tile
Exterior trim: AZEK
Windows: Marvin
Truss joist: Weyerhaeuser

Through various media Fleming had heard about the growing popularity of contemporary glass wall systems and their ability to facilitate open floor plans and seamless indoor-outdoor living. For the Larchmont Yacht Club, Fleming envisioned an extensive set of glass doors around the quarterdeck porch that could be removed—weather permitting—and would establish a vivid perspective of the harbor from the dining area. “[The veranda] was very limited in use because they really couldn’t use it year round,” says Michael Murphy, director of new project development for Murphy Brothers.

NanaWall, a manufacturer of operable wall systems, supplied more than 180 lineal feet of glass doors for the commercial application. The installation of the system fell to Hackett, who relied on his previous experience working with a similar product on a much smaller project to guide him. For example, the bottom part of the doors acts as a glide and must be level, and the track on top of the doors supports all of the weight and must be mounted to something immovable. “We opted to create a steel framework and a steel flange and beam that would accept this head track so, therefore, we wouldn’t have any movement,” Hackett says.

Prior to this renovation, the old 2-by-6 ceiling rafters of the existing porch had been paneled over and lacked insulation. Murphy Brothers installed new 2-by-12 rafters but kept the same proportions on the ends, eaves, and overhangs, while Ecologic—an insulation contractor—applied spray foam insulation throughout the structure. In fact, maintaining the historical features of the club continued to a key consideration of the project from the outset.

“Everybody wanted to feel like they were in the same building. It was really about getting it back what it was 100 years ago—only better,” says Fleming, who remembers feeling a little anxious about preservation at times during the process. “Each one of the members thinks of that place as their other home, their other living room and dining room. They know every nail and piece of wood in that place,” he adds.

Murphy Brothers offered to strip down four large wood columns between the quarterdeck and veranda, but the club wanted only to remove the lead paint and otherwise keep the posts—turned by hand and almost a foot in diameter—as close to their original form as possible. “We did temporary shoring and removed those posts and then just put them off to the side,” Hackett says.

The historical columns remain a focal point of the quarterdeck but must share the spotlight with the glass door system, which can convert the space from an acclimated dining area into an open veranda in less than an hour. When hundreds of sailors visit for the annual Larchmont Racing Week, the biggest event the club hosts, they have more options after they come off the water at the end of the day. “In years past they wouldn’t go into the quarterdeck because everybody wanted to be outside on the porch,” Hackett says. “Now, weather permitting, they just open those doors and they have a veranda that’s twice the size.”

Synergy

When Michael Murphy tells people he works for Murphy Brothers, they often respond, “You’re the guys who did the Larchmont Yacht Club.” The firm values this organic publicity because the recognition drives the company in both its residential and commercial work. “If someone’s looking for a way to promote their high-end residential work, one of the best ways is to be doing renovation work at clubs,” he says.

Undertaking club remodels such as Larchmont also guarantees the firm will stay on schedule and not be hampered by the indecisiveness common in residential jobs, for club projects always must be completed by the beginning of the next sailing season. “The most important to us—in order to get a quality professional project—is to be able to run it accordingly to the timeline,” Murphy says.

The work Murphy Brothers and Fleming performed during this particular project even withstood Hurricane Sandy the following autumn. Some structures, such as the club’s dance hall, could not claim as much. “I was out for 24 hours straight before, during, and after the storm just handling clients,” Hackett says. “I did go by Larchmont Yacht Club about six hours before the peak of the storm as well as afterwards, and the glass doors and the quarterdeck held up substantially well.”

Fleming, too, has accepted more commercial jobs and diversified his business since the housing downturn, but he admits his personal affection for history and preservation has shaped his practice indelibly. The architect recalls a “very pleasant reception” upon the completion of the most ambitious project yet for the Larchmont Yacht Club. “They had an opening ceremony and everybody said, ‘We’re home again,’” he says. PR

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