Design Focus: Torbrex Inn, Stirling

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The gleaming new look Inn at Torbrex in north Stirling delivers an oasis of vibrant colour that makes the surrounding houses, lovely though they are, look rather
plain. Like a splash of colour in a black and white film. It’s located up a wee lane, right in the heart of a residential area, and what Michael Dunn of Design Build Deliver and co-owner Michelle Henderson have come up with should certainly appreciate property prices. Together with her husband Ross, and brother, Darren Mitchell, they are the people
behind the Birds and the Bees on the other side of the city.
It was Darren who showed me around, and talking about the thinking behind the design, he said, “We wanted to create a venue with the same mark of quality as the Birds and Bees, but with its own unique identity. We are a family-run business, but we don’t want to fall into the trap of replicating what we have done before and opening a chain of outlets.
The Inn at Torbrex, given its residential location, has been designed with a firm focus on catering for families.”
The exterior is almost chocolate box picture perfect with clean whitewashed walls, teal woodwork and sculpted corkscrew trees and neat green Astro Turf either side of the immaculate flagging leading up to the doorway.
Inside, it’s over two floors with the bar and restaurant on the ground floor, with a continuation of the restaurant upstairs, via a brand new metal staircase, which was added as part of the refurbishment. Previously this was a function suite that was accessed via a separate entrance.
The first thing that hits you about the design is the hodgepodge array of furniture. The tables, both dark and light wood, smooth and reclaimed, are paired with all different kinds of chairs It’s perhaps the biggest mismatch I’ve ever come across, and on first inspection looks like no two chairs are the same. Darren tells me that they were slightly apprehensive about how this would look, but we were both in agreement that it’s a triumph.
The bar is on the left hand-side as you enter and has been constructed using wood, a marble top and padded front, with brass stud detail. The back bar is fashioned from thick beams of light wood against a wall of grey tiles, that are illuminated. The bar stools have been upholstered in a reddish brown and very soft leather. The leather theme continues in the corner area to the left of the bar that contains a Queen Anne chair, circular
mirror and standard lamp. In the area directly in front of the bar is an array of seating, split into three areas, by both shelving and the staircase, which is a half landing that acts as a kind of
partition, creating a cosy back area at the back of the ground floor. The hodgepodge design extends to the booth seating down the right hand-side with different patterns and materials paired
together.
There’s not much natural light downstairs so there are a few pendant lights and glass bird cage lights with the flickering candle bulbs exposed. Other highlights on this floor are the animal skull wall-mounted art works, and the trio of different shaped mirrors.
Up the carpeted stairs and the two landings are lit by three spherical metal cage lights, with matching metal wall clock. At the top of the stairs and overlooking the landings is the second tiny bar which, in a clever use of space, is tightly packed into the corner at the top of the staircase. It’s a dry bar servery so isn’t intended for customers to use, and is certainly an unusual set piece in the design. As you climb the stairs you’re confronted by the lager founts towering over you, yet only a giant could reach them. Like its downstairs cousin, wood dominates here.
The rest of the blue-carpeted floor space is a dining area, with light blue walls, white ceiling complete with wooden beams, lots more natural light than downstairs, and of course the trademark
mismatch of chairs. At the far end of the space is a grey tiled wall with a long mirror, next to wish is a grey painted, wallmounted Welsh dresser.
Luckily the Inn at Torbrex is sign-posted from the adjacent main road, as I suspect that its reach will be far beyond its immediate locale.

Jason Caddy

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