Design Focus: WEST on the Corner

Just over a year ago Petra Wetzel the dynamic German behind West Brewery was driving along with son Noah, 8, when he piped up “Mum we should put West on a corner site, and call it West on the Corner.” When that very same day Punch called Petra offering to lease her the former Halt site in Woodlands – coincidentally a corner site, Petra grabbed the opportunity. Today, West on the Corner, is open and Petra tells me, “it is already out performing our expectations.” Petra has negotiated a 25-year lease, and is free-of-tie.

However the refurbishment of what was a old and dingy pub, even if people did call it a ‘Glasgow institution’ has not been without its detractors. Namely those who ran a Twitter campaign when she decided to put the old bar up for sale. But says Petra, “Some of these people obviously hadn’t been to the pub in years, and to be honest it had fallen into some state of disrepair.”

Says Petra, ‘I came with my sales manager and we did a mystery visit. She was like ‘nooooo’. But I said, imagine it with big windows, a new kitchen and let’s get rid of that big bar.”

She continues, ‘Punch had done a design but it wasn’t the sort of design that I wanted. I had just been in Germany and I had seen a bar I really liked, and I wanted to do something similar here.”

First of all she ran the pub as a West pop-up bar, because planning took their time over granting her permission to alter the pub. She said, ‘They said my plans would destroy a Glasgow institution. A Glasgow institution it may have been, but it was losing money. In fact we took more on one of our first weekends that the pub normally did in a week.”

Nine months later planning was granted and the pub shut in January for the refurbishment. First of all the pub was absolutely gutted. Says Petra, “We filled three skips with junk from the basement alone.” But the refurbishment wasn’t without its issues. Not least when they took the floor up they discovered the joists all needed replaced. However on a plus note, having removed a floor at the West Brewery in the Templeton Building, the floor boards were transported to West on the Corner. Says Petra, “The floor comes from the old Templeton Carpet building, and in fact the great grandson of the man who laid the floor in the Templeton building, actually relaid the floor here. It’s nice to think a bit of the east end is now ensconced in the west end.”

She continues, ‘We had to spend money on the infrastructure of the building that no-one will ever see. We saved the good bits, and we used items like the stained glass and the original fire place. We just moved them.”

The light and airy bar and restaurant is split into two areas – on the left is the slighty more casual dining area, with a substantial bar, while to the right is an area called ‘The Snug’, which boasts an open kitchen and booths separated from the kitchen by a large floor to ceiling wall divider.

Petra comments, “I was lucky enough to find a builder, Scott Braidwood, who wasn’t like any builder I’ve worked with before. He came up with ideas himself and had a real eye for design. For instance the wood, which I call Polish barn wood, we whitewashed. Scott had seen it like this in London – I thought it had a Scandinavian/German feel and really liked it. I also brought in Paula Murray of Supertonic. She sourced all the smaller items, and I really think she is a rising star. I think I had the dream team.”

From the outside the brickwork has been stripped right back. There are two entrances one on Woodlands Road and the other on West End Park Street, with outside seating. While the large windows, framed in grey, let people see in and out.

The reclaimed wooden floor and white washed timber, mixes with contemporary furniture which was made in Scotland. Says Petra, “Where possible I have used Scottish companies. For instance Glasgow furniture maker Derek Welsh made tables – in the old fashioned way. There is not a nail in them. While the Corian tops are all from Glen Cunningham at Surface Concepts. Corian is my new favourite material. We’ve used it on the bar and in the kitchen too.”

Exposed stone walls, sit alongside newly plastered walls, while the red brick wall behind the bar is original.

The bar, which is situated to the right as you come in from Woodlands Road, has mirrors behind the back bar, and rows of hanging glasses while there is also a tier of shelves made in brushed stainless steel which host the spirits. This gantry has a ladder which can be used to reach the higher up shelves. Alongside the bar site stools – these were made in England, and are pretty heavy. They are made of wrought iron with wooden seats. While the foot bar is an old piece of scaffolding.

The window seats are fixed – pale grey upholstery with the odd red button. Says Petra, “This is a quirky nod to the Brewery.”

Another feature which takes its style credentials from the brewery are the toilets. Says Petra, “The Halt was known for having the worst toilets in Glasgow, so I really wanted to go to town on them.”

The toilets have been tiled in red, and feature distressed wooden cubicle doors, crisp white sanitary ware, a large mirror and the disabled toilet features the same style.

You get to the dining area through a doorway at the rear of the bar. There used to be a door here and a small office. This small space is now where the original fireplace is located, along with a till station, and a new stained glass window. This is also the defining line for dogs – beyond which they cannot go.

Says Petra, “There is plenty of space for dogs in the bar, but it is an open kitchen and I would prefer not to have dogs in that area. But obviously they are very welcome here.”

Her own dog, Heidi, a golden retriever has pride of place in the picture gallery which stretches along the back wall of the bar area. Alongside Amelia Earhart, an American aviation pioneer, (a heroine of Petra’s). The other pictures also include one of Petra and son Noah, and various other landmarks that are important to her. The pictures, in square white frames, against a grey wall, personalise the bar.

Above the tables there are large industrial-looking hanging lights – with various size of shades. The lighting throughout is quite eclectic from oil lamps that flicker at night to anglepoise lights, and there are plenty of candles on the tables alongside glass milk bottles which have been used as vases.

The restaurant also features stripped back walls, booths, particularly in the window area – the middle ones also benefit from doors which, should we have a summer, will open onto the street.

Petra says, “When we did our first West, almost a decade ago, I’d never even been involved in a bar. But this time round I really researched it. I didn’t want it to look like the east end. I feel it has a sexy Scandinavian/German feel. It certainly has all day appeal now as a cafe-bar and brasserie.”

Now that West on the corner is up and running, there is no holding Petra back. She has two more projects in the pipeline. Says Petra, “I run on adrenaline, and I really love what I do. We are currently working on the expansion of the West Brewery, which is fantastic, and of a further two projects. But we won’t be replicating what we have done here. Although the West philosophy will prevail – great beer, good value food and excellent service.”

Susan Young

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