Design Focus: The Southern


The Fuller Thomson portfolio of bars definitely has a common thread running through it, with uncomplicated, unpretentious and functionally designed interiors. New kid on the block, The Southern, in Edinburgh, upholds this tradition after a re-imaging of the design and an outfit that took around six weeks to complete. Working with Glasgow-based 3D8, and Ambience, who managed the full re-furbishment, Gary Thomson and Gordon Fuller devised a design incredibly sympathetic to the building’s original features, with a few splashes of new, although mainly cosmetic, and with only minor structural alteration. It opened last month.
The South Clerk Street bar, just behind The Meadows, has long figured in the local area’s sipping history, so any tinkering that took place with the design had to be done respectfully. Explains bar manager James Stuart-Gammie, “I think it’s fair to say that the bar was quite dark and dingy before the refurbishment, but there was nonetheless a lot of affection for the place in the local community. Now it’s a lot airier and brighter, yet sympathetic to the original design with the cornicing and other original features retained, like the windows. The feedback we got from regulars and newcomers alike has therefore been extremely encouraging.”
Jackie Latimer is creative director at 3D8. She added, “The residential location of The Southern played a major role in the way that the design went, and we wanted to deliver a great neighbourhood bar that had enough of an eclectic feel to appeal to all kinds of people. One major inspiration was the Ace Hotel in New York City, and the bar attached to it, called The Breslin. It’s a very unpretentious design, with modest material pallets, although we were blessed with a terrific interior on which to work at The Southern. “
From the outside The Southern is rather understated, with a black painted frontage and plain wooden sign and this sets the tone for what is to come. Inside, the main difference to the layout in what is a long, narrow space, is the removal of what was a raised area to the left, which now houses a fireplace with a mirror hanging above it, and some high tables. Natural light pours in through the original sash windows and this is welcome given the dark green walls, black wooden panelling a metre or so high from the floor, paired with black wooden original flooring. Opposite this is another raised area containing some more seating with a view out of the opposite window, with slightly smaller stools.
Further in to the space, on the left hand-side is a collection of pictures, from the drinks-related to the obscure, and slightly beyond this is the bar. It is the original, that was just sanded down and painted, but with the now standard Fuller Thomson back bar beer dispenser. The bar has been stained in dark wood with plain shelves for spirits directly behind the bar, with another shelf to the right housing snacks in jars, like nuts. The blackboards are another traditional nod in the design.
Opposite the bar in an alcove up some stairs is perhaps my favourite part of The Southern. There are two areas, both overlooking the bar. One has a circular table with a pendant light hanging above it, surrounded with orange chairs. This leads into the second area which has more sedate dark green leather banquette, square tables and stools.
Given the absence of natural light the further in the bar that you go, this is more than compensated for by the bright pendant lights, which are essentially glass oblong boxes containing a few bulbs making the light quite stark, there are also some spotlights here and there to illuminate the cluster of pictures and the blackboard.
In between this and the bar are high copper topped ‘posing tables’ with wooden stools, and beyond all this, on the very far wall is a server to the kitchen.
There’s nothing revolutionary about the design, but that was never in the original brief, and its simplicity will attract locals looking for a relaxing drink or bite to eat and win over some new trade with it, no doubt.

Jason Caddy

Category: Features
Tags: dram, Edinburgh, fuller thomson, jason caddy, the southern