The Planning Process — Preparing for Renovations

PHOTOS COURTESY OF KERI KNOWLES

Before any structures could be erected, any stone could be laid, or any walls adorned, the painstaking and complex task of planning The Manor’s renovation first had to be defined. There may never have been a doubt that The Manor would continue to evolve and offer new amenities (as it had over the course of its almost 60 years prior), but deciding on the timing and scale of the project required a great deal of consideration, forethought, and scheduling. Committing to a multi-year, multi-million dollar project and setting the plans into motion was no small task.

The Knowles family, whose experience in construction and design has been hard-earned through the growth of The Manor as well as extensive renovation projects at their other properties, which are no-less grand in scale and required similar deference to the historical nature of the structures. The revitalization of what is now Highlawn Pavilion from a mere shell of a building, the re-imagining of the historic Pleasantdale Chateau estate, and perpetuation of the colonial charm of Ram’s Head Inn all offered their own unique challenges. Adding to their experience was the Knowles family’s ground-up construction of The Manor’s neighboring hotel, the Marriott Residence Inn West Orange at The Manor.

This new renovation venture assembled the varying talents and know-how spanning generations of the family, from The Manor’s founder Harry Knowles to his grandchildren Keri Knowles and Kurt Knowles, Jr.  The breadth and scope of The Manor’s renovation project called upon the input and influence of each of those involved to contribute their own distinctive perspectives to maintain what has always been the classic, refined and authentic appeal of the venue, while improving upon its designs and fulfilling the needs of the modern guest.

The family also carefully hand-picked and assembled a team of architects, engineers and designers to leverage their input and expertise in ensuring the successful planning and execution of what the Knowles envisioned as essential to the renovations.

The Knowles family have long-planned for an opportunity to put in place many of the changes that are now in effect.  Countless discussions lead to the concept of brightening and opening up the foyer to create a grand, two-story reveal. Realizing the potential of The Manor’s rooftop also led to their development of plans for a more exquisite, expanded banquet space that would overlook the majestic waterfall.  More savvy floor plan configurations as well as integrating new technologies and amenities that would improve the customer experience and the staff’s ability to provide better, more efficient service were also at the top of the family’s to-do list. The work of moving from concept to implementation however required significant planning, a complete understanding of the existing structure, and extensive engineering analyses.

Working within the scope of a historic building whose architecture is as unique and as varied as the decades that have witnessed changes to it, created a specific set of requirements that the Knowles family had to surmount.

A great deal of investment and much of the hard work undertaken to enhance The Manor will never be seen nor experienced by its guests, and yet they were vital to making all of our public spaces as grand as they are today.  Projects such as retrofitting and installing structural support columns, beams and trusses, while working within and around the confines of existing spaces, enabled new construction on The Manor’s rooftop to support a more expansive design of the new banquet spaces. Roof levels were raised, floors were removed, elevator shafts were installed, and much more, all within the footprint of the existing Manor structure.

Once the structural possibilities were established, then the family could apply their proficiency in design to begin the research and groundwork that would cover every square inch of the renovated spaces. Innumerable design decisions had to be made, from floor to ceiling. Identifying available products and sourcing items was a behemoth task in and of itself.  For each of the spaces, decisions needed to be made, from stone for the flooring to trim and treatments for the walls and ceilings, decorative elements and finishing flourishes, furnishings and fixtures, hardware and wall coverings, colors, textures, patterns, and on and on—all which would have to result in a cohesive feel and flow that would make guests feel at home in our manor house, while still being sturdy enough to remain beautiful through all the traffic of years worth of guests and parties.

It may have been difficult to conceptualize early-on in the process, but now as the majority of the renovation phases have been successfully completed, the significance of the changes, the resulting visual and functional appeal, and the overwhelmingly positive feedback from guests have proven to be well-worth the effort. The results of extensive planning, the sizable expenditures, and the meticulous workmanship required to refresh the look and appeal of The Manor and bring it to a new level of refinement and splendor are already demonstrating that we will continue to be a sought-after destination for celebrating life’s most important events well into the future.

(Pictured above: Members of the Knowles family looking over architectural drawings for renovation construction. From L to R: Kurt Knowles, Jr. Wade Knowles, Kurt Knowles, Harry Knowles.)

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