"I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member,” Groucho Marx famously said, reputedly resigning from the Friars’ Club in the 1940s.
The nature of private members’ clubs has adapted considerably since then, and many are now relaxed as to whom they accept. Bucking this trend, however, is Home Grown (sister to the quintessentially English Home House nearby), whose criteria for membership is highly prescriptive.
To join you need to be a thriving start-up looking for expansion and hungry to network with business angels. Home Grown is a matchmaker for innovative businesses and their funders, and has been designed so that its interior architecture, furnishings and décor creates flow, empathy, energy, excitement and comfort. It’s what we’ve come to expect when socialising, and now the boardroom receives the same treatment.
“Seventy per cent of our members are high-growth entrepreneurs who can demonstrate a minimum of 20 per cent growth sustained for at least three years, either in turnover or staffing,” says Chris Caffrey, head of membership (and the man to know).
“The club is all about making connections. Twenty per cent of our members are investors, looking to invest at Series A and beyond, and the remaining 10 per cent are service providers, from various industries, such as law, tech and finance. We exist to facilitate a meeting of minds.”
Where other clubs offer DJ residences, Home Grown has ‘in conversation with’ events featuring high-profile business leaders, such as Kelly Hoppen and Nick Wheeler of Charles Tyrwhitt. ‘How to’ talks might be on how to podcast or pitch ideas. ‘Breaking Bread’ are opportunities to join debates and discussions with experts over dinner. And the culture it encourages around entrepreneurship is less about slogging through the hours and more about productivity through wellbeing, balance, sociability and soft skills – all reflected in the decor. Laptops are restricted to the study café, and the interior designer, Russell Sage Studio, was tasked with creating rooms that inspire conversation rather than keyboard clicks.
“Work should be fun,” says Sage, “so we’ve tried to reset how people see their environment as a more social, inspirational, stimulating, yet relaxed space. Several members have said to me they really look forward to coming to work, which is what it’s all about.”
Sage’s use of colour, pattern and texture pops and fizzes as you wander through the warren of intimate rooms within a homely grade-II listed townhouse. “I wanted to make sure there was always something to catch the eye and make people smile,” Sage continues. “The building is a real adventure, with several fabulous staircases and interesting corridors that create a really lovely flow. There are plenty of natural break-out spaces so that people bump into each other or can step away from a meeting to take a phone call.”
Colour injects energy to interiors, and Sage dials this up and down. “We’ve turned up the colour volume in places to make sure that every room has a surprise. We’ve been quite free-thinking, with hand painted walls. My favourite is the Ikat Room which buzzes with creative energy. I love to think that members could move around the building as they work and socialise throughout the day. There’s a perfect space for every moment they are in the building.”
• Home Grown, 44 Great Cumberland Place, W1; homegrownclub.co.uk; Membership from £1,500, plus £299 joining fee; enquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org