Design Focus: Opal Lounge, Edinburgh


The Montpelier Group are constantly upgrading their venues. This month it was the turn of Opal Lounge and Lulu. Lynn Kelly reports.

Never one to do things by half, David Johnstone, Development Director for Montpeliers, decided to refurbish, not one but two of Montpeliers George Street venues, Opal Lounge and Lulu.
David explains, “Rather than throw several million at a design project and hope it stays on trend over the next four years or so, I wanted to refurbish both venues in phases, which allows me to capture the changing trends. I wanted to work on chunks at a time, and let it develop gradually.”
As you walk into Opal Lounge the entrance is much similar to before, in terms of structure and seating. The colour scheme is all black, with the only splashes of colour coming from the graphic panels that run along the walls above the seating area. These graphic panels of red, white and black are adjustable and can be changed to suit any theme, and mood.
There is also a new Jam Jar bar to the left hand side as you first walk in, which as the name suggest sells cocktails in jam jars.
Then you come to what David describes as the “main bar area” which he jokes should probably have a much sexier name. This is where the first of the design phase took place. David comments, “We took out the low flooring under the tables, and raised everything up including the table heights and the fitted booths. I wanted this area to have much more social standing space, to allow people at the bar to interact with those sitting down. The idea being the girls can perch on the leather booths, and the guys can stand (pose) at the end of the tables.”
The new look booths are now clad in black leather, with white, oval table tops. Another addition to this area is the lighting, which was in fact the most expensive investment for both venues. No less than £50,000 was spent on lighting in Opal Lounge, with LED track lights running from the front door to the bottom end of the bar. The lighting was provided by Black Light, and certainly no expense has been spared.
Phil Haldane of Blacklight comments, “We thoroughly enjoyed working with David and the Montpelier’s team, and it was great to work together on creative lighting solutions in an imaginative way. We look forward to working with them in the future.”
A doorway at the end of the main bar area takes you through to the Den Bar, which once again is all black in colour with black leather fitted booths around the circumference of the room, and black circular tables with gold disc tops sitting centre. The movable graphic panels are here too, this time with portraits of people in black, red and white.
David explains, “The graphic panels make it possible to change the imagery on different club nights, which allows us to change the brand to suit the crowd. I think of it like a shop window, where you can add a second skin onto the club. The base of the club remains and the colour of the Den Bar is black and grey which allows the colours of the graphic boards to stand out. For example on Friday nights when we have Buddha, we will go for more art installation and lots of colour to capture the right atmosphere.”
If you walk passed the Den Bar to the left you will arrive at the Dom Perignon VIP area which is not only the most impressive part of the refurbishment but it was also the most challenging.
Says David,“The VIP room is where the kitchen used to be, back when Opal Lounge was more food led. This whole space has been completely transformed and includes not only a two way effects mirror but individual fitted booths, that all have their own lighting controls.”
The front wall, which includes the door way to this room is floor to ceiling glass. The glass also acts a soundproof wall, so that the music in the VIP space remains separate to the rest of the club. Once inside there are six private oval shaped booth areas, with gold, padded seats and two white circular tables. One of the main focal points in this room is actually the glass bulb drop lights from Lee Broom in London, that hang from the ceiling. They are exquisite.
The wall to the left of the room as you enter is a two way mirror, as David already mentioned. If you turn the effect off, you have a two way mirror that allows clubbers outside the VIP room to see inside. Turn the effect on and you can see cases built into the wall, which are usually filled with bottles of Dom Perignon. The lighting within each booth can also be changed throughout the night, and every lighting box can be individually controlled.
Another clever touch is the billing board on the glass door to the VIP room, where all the VIP guests names hang. You can check out the names, and have a look inside, everyone wants to be a VIP these days.
Outside the VIP room there is a VIP bar. David comments, “This area was the biggest challenge, and structural change. Before there was a stone wall which we knocked down, then we re-built the structure to create the room the VIP bar now sits in. It allows there to be a dedicated bar for the VIP room, and it works really well.” All the structural work was carried out by Francey Joiners and Shopfitters who were the main contractors for the whole project.
If you bypass the VIP bar on the left you then enter into yet another room, which is described as the sunken lounge. As you would imagine the main seating area is lower than the floor level, with steps on both sides of the entrance to the room. The flooring has been replaced and is now pre-stained oak boards, supplied by Glasgow company Surface Plus. Again there are fitted booths and fitted seats, similar to the VIP room, but this time the leather is silver in colour and the tables are black and square. On the right hand wall there is a glass wall with tree designs, and on the left there is the red and black graphic panels to give the room a bit of colour.
Another change here is the walls to a sunken lounge, which have now been opened up to make this space more inviting, now with a griddle front so you can see into the space from outside. David says, “I wanted to open up the space, so people felt they were almost entering the club for the first time, as they walked in to each room.” If you walk the full length of the sunken lounge then turn left you will come to the biggest area of the club which hosts a large dance floor. There hasn’t been much change made to this space, which says David, “works great the way it is.”
There are steps which lead down to the dance floor on the far side, which can support a steel stage for bands when the club wants to host live music.
He certainly has thought of everything here, with technology and lighting effects being the main staple.
Lulu too has had a facelift – the club, which sits beneath Tigerlily has a brand new colour scheme and new lighting. The main difference is the change of colour scheme. Instead of black and red the colours are predominantly black and blue. The plan here was to give Lulu an edgier look that complimented the most recent refurbishment that took place in Tigerlily. In fact the same fabric of the blue velvet curtains that can be seen hanging at the front entrance of Tigerlily is used in Lulu.
The walls, shutters and pillars as you enter the club have all been stripped back to black and grey, and in some places they have been stripped right back to the brickwork. The main seating area hasn’t changed much in structure and layout and the wall on the right that houses what David calls “the fireplace” is also still intact. What is no longer standing however is the Swarovski crystal wall that used to act as a divide between the dance floor and the seating area.
Explains David, “Removing the wall opens up the dance floor, and allows our guests to have a view of the dance floor from their seats.”
The DJ booth is also more of a centre piece too, which sits in between the bar and the dance floor. However the most impressive addition and biggest investment is the LED effects screen which makes up the entire back wall of the dance floor. Just like the two way mirror in Opal Lounge this screen looks just like a mirror when it is switched off, but when switched on there is not much it can’t do. All the settings can be controlled and tailored to what you want. From lighting effects, to flashing imagery and even live twitter feeds. The effect is incredible and completely transforms the space. In fact David jokes, “You need a VJ these days as well as a DJ, there are so many controls.”
There are still some further tweaks to take place but there is no doubt David has certainly managed to make his units look very much on-trend.