Design Focus: The Corner House
When Buzzworks announced its return to its hometown Kilwinning, anticipation in the area was high. On entering the company’s new bar restaurant The Corner House, one glance proves the venue is worthy of the hype.
Situated on the corner of the main Cowgate road, it replaces the Stag and Hound pub and the next door bookies. Thanks to a major redevelopment costing upwards of £750,000, the space is now unrecognisable.
Buzzwork’s MD Kenny Blair admits that the company had been looking at Kilwinning for some time. He says, “The Stag & Hound has been closed for years, but we had identified it as a venue. The only problem was there was a bookies at the corner, so we ended up buying that too. ”
The two buildings have been knocked through to create an open plan restaurant and an adjoining traditional bar area – both with their own street entrances. Designed by Glasgow-based Surface ID, the final result is modern and luxurious but equally warm, comfortable and welcoming.
Following a design brief of “traditional with a modern, aspirational twist”, the designers worked with Kilmarnock shopfitters Transition Interiors to create a multi-textural space filled with rich pops of colour and glimmering surfaces. Stone, wood, ceramics, glass and even tweed were used.
One of the few remaining features from the Stag and Hound is the original sandstone. Aiming for a natural and tactile look, the design team made use of this brickwork and also used reclaimed timber cladding throughout the venue. Kenny laughs, “Whenever you talk about ‘reclaimed’ or ‘recycled’, people think ‘cheap!’ but it’s anything but!”
Entering via the main doors, you are welcomed into a 100-seater restaurant. The first thing that draws the eye is the long, marble-topped bar which dominates the back wall of the restaurant. Red and green backlighting on the black metal and glass shelves on the gantry illuminate a wide range of spirits, whiskies and beers.
The barfront itself is encased in layers of scalloped timber, painted in descending shades of grey. This ‘fish scale’ effect is also crafted in copper on the host’s station to the left of the entrance. In fact, the use of smooth, curved surfaces throughout gives the space a more natural feel.
Two tall, copper-topped circle tables flank the reception area, which divides the front part of the restaurant. On the right lies a number of family-sized, tan circular booths and tables with cross grain sanded timber tops, which are used throughout The Corner House. This section is separated from the next door bar by a wall of ribbed glass blocks, which provides both sides with light and privacy. To the left, there’s a mix of square, circular and oblong tables encased by grey, half booth seating, which contrast nicely with the additional purple chairs.
The adjacent corner of the restaurant is home to an original fireplace uncovered during the refit. Fully restored, it now stands pride of place surrounded by the original brickwork and stacked firewood. More booth seating is upholstered in turquoise apart from a private booth by the window that seats four and is finished in floor-to-ceiling purple cushioning for an extra snug feel.
One of the notable design elements is the use of copper, gold and brass. The high tables have copper tops, the small bar has copper lights hanging over the bar, and everywhere you look, a vase, picture, candle or ornament catches the eye. This includes a number of brass and copper pineapples (a tropical touch indicating welcome as the international symbol of hospitality!). Kenny says, “I really believe copper and gold are coming back into fashion. If you look at Trump’s place [Turnberry] it’s head-to-toe in gold.”
The rich colours are used to perfection in the private function area, which is a hidden gem tucked away at the back of the restaurant. This cosy retreat that is on a slightly raised level, seats 20 and hosts a long wooden banquet table surrounded by purple, half moon chairs. Striking, lozenge shaped ruby blown glass light fittings hang above the dining table, which is flanked on one side with a long, rectangular black fireplace set high on the wall and a square open book case on the other for privacy. A long strip of copper tinted antique mirror above the fireplace adds some needed light and the window at the end of the room is part covered with diamond-patterned opaque glass. The diamond-pattern is, according to Kenny, the new design for the Buzzworks ‘House’ series, which is what they are calling their venues The Long House in Kilmarnock, The Mill House in Stewarton and The Tree House in Ayr.
In the dining room, the floor is made of hexagonal, reclaimed terracotta tiles, and plush plum-coloured curtains elegantly mask the fire exit, but overall the feeling is of luxury and warmth, quite different to the summer house feel of The Mill House. Kenny says, “You have to remember that this is Scotland so we went for warmth! The design of here is very different to The Mill House, but that’s what we want. The ‘House’ series shouldn’t mean a replicated design, we want people to know that in all our venues the only thing that is the same is the high standard of quality and service. That’s why we developed the diamond theme for all our ‘Houses’. It’s on the windows, any glass and on the menus.”
Another design element you can’t miss is an abundance of massive, solid curved plant pots that dwarf some of the waiting staff, and a certain Dram reporter too! These are dotted about the restaurant as focal points and flank the meeting point between restaurant and bar.
While the bar is smaller than the restaurant, it’s just as inviting. Aiming for a “modern take on a traditional pub”, the designers have installed more tan leather booths and a TV showing sport hangs in one corner. Black and white floor tiles follow the curve of the large, mahogany bar which serves cocktails and a range of craft beer specials. Kenny says, “The bar was something we wanted to keep. There is a need for a traditional pub/bar in towns, so we wanted to make it welcoming for people who just fancied a drink before dinner or just to pop in for a drink.”
The Corner House also caters for those wanting to enjoy a drink outside thanks to a small, half covered outdoor seating area visible through glass doors. This little oasis at the back of the bar is lined by wooden benches and tables set on grey slate tiled flooring and there’s an abundance of plants and flowers placed on the walls and tables.
As for the building’s formerly drab brown exterior, it’s been blasted away to reveal the original light sandstone. A small garden adds some softness and character to an outside corner of the building while also offering smokers from both the restaurant and bar privacy from passers by.
Nostalgia comes from black and white photos of old Kilwinning, maps of central Scotland, framed scraps of weaving and balls of yarn, the latter harking back to the town’s weaving heritage which dates back to the 18th century.
This sense of reminscing is also apparent when speaking to Kenny, as The Corner House brings the family-run company back to where they started the business 38 years ago. “It’s really good to be back,” said Kenny. “This is the first time anyone has invested in the town in a long time and we’re happy to do it because we’re sons of Kilwinning. I grew up in the area, I went to school here so we’re extra pleased to return.”
Looking to the future, Buzzwork’s latest acquisition takes them to Bridge of Weir. It will be the first time the company has ventured out of Ayrshire. It is currently in the process of redeveloping the space formerly occupied by Archie’s and the Weir Piano Bar and Restaurant before that. Kenny says it will be the latest in Buzzwork’s “House Series”, and will open in Spring 2017.
The company will no doubt aim to recreate the luxurious, warm and welcoming atmosphere that permeates The Corner House. And I mean that literally, as one of four backboards hanging above the bar reads: “Hello Kilwinning, it’s good to be back.” We’re sure both the Blairs and their local clientele agree.