Travel

A First Look Inside Chattanooga’s New Common House

It’s fun to stay at the former Y-M-C-A, where a new private social club opens its doors for overnight guests

“This Italian renaissance revival-style architecture is like a piece of Tuscany dropped in Chattanooga—the building resembles nothing around it,” says Derek Sieg, whose new Common House club and boutique hotel recently opened inside a circa 1929 YMCA there. “And the YMCA itself was a version of what we are now—a social club.” Sieg is a co-founder of Common House, a modern social club with locations in Charlottesville and Richmond, Virginia, that recently opened its third location in Chattanooga after working with the Tennessee-based firms Pfeffer Torode Architecture and Studio BOCA. The artistic team kept much of the original building’s architectural details, such as terra-cotta tile and massive stone fireplaces, and layered in eclectic furniture finds and pieces by local artisans. “It’s a private club that is as inclusive as a private club can be—you don’t have to know people—and we even have a program called Common Ground that offers free membership,” Sieg says. Guests of the fourth floor’s six-room hotel get a day pass to access the bar, restaurants, pool, coworking spaces, and the opportunity to chat with some of Chattanooga’s locals in a preserved historic space. Click through for an exclusive look at the club.

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The circa 1929 YMCA building in Chattanooga’s historic Southside neighborhood.

photo: Photo Courtesy Chattanooga Public Library

Original cubbies behind the concierge desk. “Every member gets one of these brass keys when they join,” Sieg says. “They open the front door.”

photo: Ali Harper

Common House’s lobby is the original YMCA social space. “All architectural details, including the folk-art-painted exposed timber beams are original,” Sieg says.

photo: Ali Harper

The YMCA reception desk is now a concierge desk. “The large opening is new and made to reflect the outstanding original architectural details in the other arches and doorways,” Sieg says. “The terra-cotta tile is original and runs throughout the first floor of the building.”

photo: Ali Harper

A welcoming seat in the lobby, which Sieg says draws inspiration from an Italian mountain lodge.

photo: Ali Harper

The second floor social hall is a Mediterranean-inspired bar and lounge. “The arched colonnade was literally cut into what was an existing terra-cotta brick wall,” Sieg says. “The ceiling lights are supposed to suggest a night sky, and the bar is sheathed in rattan. Through the arch on the left you can see a door that opens on outdoor stairs to the roof terrace.”

photo: Ali Harper

“The billiards table we found on eBay and is a model from Brunswick that was made specifically for YMCAs in the 1920s,” Sieg says.

photo: Ali Harper

This corridor leads from the concierge past the gym, locker rooms, and out to the pool.

photo: Ali Harper

A guest room.

photo: Ali Harper

The Tea Room is part of the restaurant on the second floor. Local woodworker Cabeen Originals made the furniture.

photo: Ali Harper

The roof terrace opposite Ruby Hall, originally a basketball court with a viewing mezzanine that now functions as an event space.

photo: Ali Harper

A terrace view to Lookout Mountain.

photo: Ali Harper