• Snelling dining chairs in the Oregon Room.

129 Macquarie Street, Sydney, 1947

Located in one of Sydney’s earliest houses, built of local stone and with substantial cedar doors, the American National Club (later abbreviated to American Club) was a gathering spot for Sydney-based Americans, and their local friends, from 1947 to 2013.

The club's founders commissioned Snelling to insert a men’s dining area and men’s bar in its basement, with a ‘mixed bar’ (for men and women) on the first floor. A 50th anniversary brochure produced by the club in 1997 referred to one dining area, furnished with Snelling chairs, as the Oregon Room.

The dining room and men’s bar were separated by an existing archway. In the dining area, Snelling painted rough stone walls a mid-tone of yellow (‘as a good light-reflecting color’), wrapped the lower walls with three timber shelves with free-form outlines, and provided maple tables with brown linoleum tops. Against a wall curtained with a green checked wool fabric, a custom-designed wooden servery allowed waiters to store cutlery. Dining chairs and tables were his own designs, then being manufactured by Functional Products.

In the adjacent men’s bar, dominated by a large sandstone fireplace, the dark-stained cypress floor was cut back to reveal its woodgrain. Snelling also used cypress boards for the bar and wall behind, converting them to open slatting on the upper part of the wall for cross-ventilation. Behind the bar, an illuminated niche with glass shelves provided a glistening display of bottles. Beside it, a door led staff to a long, narrow room used for storage, rubbish and staff breaks. Timber bar stools with tapered legs and padded seats of green leather were provided along the bar, and Snelling line dining chairs, with green cotton webbing and bent arms of laminated wood, were placed around the room, matching those in the dining area.

Upstairs, the mixed bar also featured polished floorboards adorned with a shaggy blue rug with a free-curved outline. To modernize the room, Snelling covered the old Victorian fireplace with drapes in a fashionable graphic pattern of red-brown tones relieved by white motifs. Beside these, a large mirrored panel was installed to optically enlarge the space. The curved bar was made of maple ply with horizontal strips of silver ash mounted on the fascia. Walls were painted grey-blue and the ceiling a dark brown. Illuminated bottle display cases were suspended behind the bar; they were fixed with floor-to-ceiling metal pipes. Along the bar were leather and timber high stools. Snelling also supplied his own 464B model lounge chairs, in maple and ash with bent laminated arms and webbing in cyclamen and navy.

Sources

—American National Club, 50th anniversary brochure extracts.

—Australian Timber Journal. 1948. ‘Cypress pine for rustic atmosphere’. February, p.35.

—Building and Engineering. 1948. ‘The American National Club’. 24 January, pp. 20–21.

—Decoration and Glass. 1948. ‘New interiors for American club: designer Douglas B. Snelling and Associates’. January–February, pp. 20–24.