Design Focus: Tigerlily



When Tigerlily opened in Edinburgh nine years ago, it brought a real WOW factor to Scotland’s bar scene. Last month it re-opened after a 10-day refurbishment, which deserves a WOW in its own right. Some bars and clubs are shut for months, but as Development Director David Johnston explains, “Every week we were closed we dropped £60K profit, so we had a real incentive to get the doors back open.”

The 10-day turnaround meant it was critically important that everything went to plan. Under the watchful eye of designer Jim Hamilton and Hardies, the main contractor Thomas Johnstone and a host of first-class suppliers, Tigerlily re-opened on time, and on budget.

Derek Ferrier, Managing Partner of Hardies Property & Construction Consultants Edinburgh told DRAM, “It was extremely heartening for us to be asked to return to such as prestigious project after originally being involved in 2005-2006 when TigerLily was first opened. Performing the roles of Project Managers, Quantity Surveyors, Architectural Technicians and Health & Safety Advisors, we would say that the main challenge we faced was the extremely tight turnaround time of only ten days on site to complete the project. As a popular working business where time is money, the client wanted the job completed smoothly, efficiently and on time. I am glad to say this was achieved and the venue is looking absolutely fantastic!”

The change is apparent immediately as you walk through the front door. The entrance now features a huge mirror, a stone floor and a stand-out Moooi light.

The Georgian bar at the front now has a beautiful marble top, a new back bar a white marble floor, inlaid with wee mirrors, and striking black and white wallpaper. Says David, “We tried to reutilise as much as possible. Obviously the big changes are the things like the new marble floors and the mirrors, and the artwork, which all came from Edinburgh Printworks. We haven’t changed the fixed seating and the stools in the front bar, but for some reason now they stand out better.” Indeed, they do. The soft green leather seating appears brand new. Says David, “We’ve had them for three years but we got them from America and we had them upholstered in beautiful green leather, it is the same leather that Italians use to make handbags.”

Beyond the front bar, the first seating area features new black and white rugs, and new chairs which are grey in colour on the outside, with bright pink interiors. They are best described as looking like a horse drawn carriage seat. David comments, “These seats are great. They allow you to have conversations that no-one else can hear. It’s also nice to have something that gives you a bit more intimacy in a place with as much space as Tigerlily.”

The walls also feature the bespoke wallpaper. Says David, “I think the wallpaper is brilliant. We got an illustrator to the do the design and then we turned it into wallpaper. Jim sourced the illustrator, but all our other creative work for the menu’s and on the staff uniforms was done by illustrators Good Wives and Warriors.”


The hall that takes you into the main bar now has room dividers, called Crittall screens and named after the metal framed windows that were used by the Victorians during the industrial revolution, often associated with New York lofts or London warehouses. They are steel structures which give you the impression that you are looking through windows, but obviously there is no glass. They have used these screens to divide the seating areas on the left on the venue. The second area is quite different from the first – where it was once wood panelled it now features a large living wall. Although David says it still has to bed in, the mass of foliage adds a warmth to the décor that wasn’t there before. The Tom Dixon chairs have been retained and have been recovered in exactly the same dark blue material.

David agrees, “It’s funny we have darkened down a lot of stuff, but the walls and ceilings are mainly white, but the greenery, which we now have in abundance throughout the venue, and the other colours we have used, do make venue appear more inviting. Dark against light seems to bring warmth in.”

He continues, “When we started out on the refurbishment we were clear that we didn’t want to try and fix something that wasn’t broken. After all in nine years we hardly dropped a pound in weekly sales. But we wanted to reset and re-engage the younger marketplace, without alienating our existing customers. It was probably change for change sake. But also I was conscious that Tigerlily was becoming a bit of a destination venue, and we wanted to make it slightly more casual.”

One of the key changes has been the raising of the dining area in the centre of the venue. The diners are now seated on a large plinth, which means you now go up a step on to the dining platform, which features booths with leather upholstery. This area has been extended too. Explains David, “We took out the big screen wall and created new booths in what was previously a dead space. We used to have long tables there but the space was under utilised.”


The new booths are upholstered in a rich purple tweed-like material. David says, “It adds texture. We’ve also changed the lighting and introduced Moooi bell lights in dark green and white. I think the lights, from Tangram, have a bit of Alice and Wonderland about them with a bow at the back. We also moved the lights that were there to the other side of the bar.”

Beyond the raised area is the East side. This is one of the biggest transformations. This area used to house booths and was quite dark. Today the new look area, is more conservatory-like. The glass roof has been revealed, and although blinds will go back on, they will be kept open. The back wall now is covered in eclectic looking artwork and the newly painted walls are dazzling white. The look is completed with fitted white display cabinets in which an array of spirits are housed, and opposite, there is a library area. David says, “We had to take a wall down to create the library which is now our private dining area. We’ve filled the shelves with some 1,200 books. This room is also where we put most of the artwork. We are calling it the East side, and on the wall leading in from the bar there is a bright red neon sign which says ‘Eastside’. When we took the blinds off for the refurbishment we thought this is a great view, and at night it looks even better when the lights from the hotel rooms upstairs light up the area.”

Marble topped bistro tables and a wall length dark green/almost black Chesterfield seat add to the look. Says David, “It has a more casual look, but it also has a bit of a wow factor.”


The main bar also has a new look. The bar top has been created from marble and the back gantry has been knocked out and a new glass gantry added. David explains, “The area at the back was really cut off from the rest of the bar. In the past is probably seen as a bit of an overflow, and it didn’t really connect with the rest of the bar. You felt like it was a back room. Now that we have taken out the mesh screen and painted the walls white, the whole area is a lot brighter and connections. We have upholstered the seating, added marble table tops and moved the red lights from the centre of the venue – all of which have made it appear like a whole new place. Already it is proving to be really popular with customers. I love the marble – it feels soft and warm and the grain is just lovely. All the bar stools are new too and upholstered in lovely soft black leather. In fact, we have invested more than £70K on beautifully made furniture. The bar stools, however, lack a bit of height so that is one of the things that I am fixing. This is mainly because we didn’t want to move the height of the bar. I would like to get people eating at the bar – they do this in the US, but we don’t seem to encourage it but we want to encourage it. In terms of snagging there has been very little. And have a few add-ons to introduce. We’ve also upgraded the smoking area and have done some maintenance on the rooms. We want to attract everyone from 18 – 80, and we wanted a more relaxing environment, I think we have achieved this. The new-look Tigerlily has legs and I think we can take as far as we need to.”

I think he is right. Well done to all involved.

125 George Street, Edinburgh EH2 4JN

Category: Editors' Picks, Features
Tags: Glasgow, Tigerlily