When industry experts Ryan Barrie and Jim Ballantyne discovered a derelict building on Glasgow’s Miller Street, their imagination went into overdrive. After lying empty for almost a decade, the former Stirling Library building has undergone a complete transformation, and has been launched as a contemporary bar and restaurant called The Spiritualist. Having run the nearby Citation for years, Ryan Barrie has drawn fresh inspiration from his industry experience and his worldwide travels into this project. Together with Jim, his friend of 20 years and who runs Camelot Catering, the pair have successfully injected, they say, “a bit of New York style into Glasgow city centre.”
Ryan says, “We felt there were a lot of traditional-style venues in the city and we wanted to go for something stylish and modern. We’d always talked about doing something together and this was a clean site, ready to put our vision into.”
The building’s sandstone façade has four large windows which allow natural light to spill into the patio-style space inside. On either side of the entrance are three sets of French bistro-style wicker chairs and tables. Despite the risks of using false plants, the foliage-effect 3D wallpaper that adorns the back walls is so realistic that the effect works well. Separating the patio area and the main venue is a brand new shop front, made of glass panels.
Ryan explains that it was his memories of visiting the building when it was a library that inspired the shopfront. He says, “There was an archway where the new shop-front is, and I wanted to create a city garden-type culture whereby people could enjoy coffees and cocktails in the fresh air. A lot of operators would wonder why we would do such a crazy thing, but I wanted to create something completely different.” Immediately to the right of the entrance are two booths upholstered in quilted navy fabric. Each booth seats up to six people and both benefit from the natural light streaming through the glass shop front. On the opposite side of the door is an antique French dresser which sits alongside a baby grand piano.
Moving further inside, the most striking design feature in The Spiritualist catches your eye – five floating tables. The black pole legs of each table appear to continue through the corners and reach up to the ceiling. Each table seats six people and is illuminated from within, giving the marble-patterned perspex tops a golden glow.
Ryan comments, “I didn’t want to use candles because they are too traditional. We control the table lights so that as the night goes on, they glow brighter, and people don’t want to leave the cosy space.”
Around each table are tall winged stools, upholstered in cream leather. Three recessed coffer sections sit directly above the tables and feature stylish uplighting. These enhance the feeling of space. Running parallel to the tables is the bar, which is made from white and cream marble. The reflective bar top is uncluttered and broken up by two pillars.
The glass shelving and uplighting on the gantry allows every individual spirit bottle to stand out. On the highest shelves, The Spiritualist stocks some of the world’s rarest spirits, which are retrieved on request by staff via a mobile ladder.
On either side of the gantry are mirrored cupboard doors made from smoked navy vintage glass, which disguise more pillars.
Ryan says, “We believe we offer the most diverse spirit range in Scotland. Hot Sauce supplies us with unique, small-batch gins, whiskies and rums, which are popular in the marketplace at the moment.” Continuing past the bar, the room opens out into the main restaurant which caters for 80 diners. Five circular tables are surrounded by chairs upholstered in sand-coloured leather, and on the other side of a central pillar, six tables rest against the back wall. A backrest runs the length of the wall and is upholstered in a white, sand and silver herringbone design. The focal point of this area is three large, gold-framed, prints on the back wall. The shades of grey in the black and white images compliment the silver tones in the upholstery beneath. In keeping with its heritage, one of the trio of images is a print of the first photographic negative ever to be produced.
Explaining, Ryan says, “I wanted to play with The Spiritualist idea with these prints. This isn’t a themed bar, but I think the pieces we have chosen are subtle and allow your imagination to wander.”
On the right of the restaurant is a semi-circular booth which has a tall backrest, upholstered in deep blue fabric. Above the booth hangs a cylinder-shaped statement light. Its shape is mirrored in the curvature of the ceiling above.
Spotlights in the restaurant illuminate each table and the dining area merges with bar seating next to the grand piano. Jim explains that this allows a natural progression from one area to the other. Two medium height partitions, stained navy, separate the bar and restaurant. These are cushioned on the restaurant side and upholstered in a cream and gold fabric. On the opposite wall are two more herringbone-patterned booths. French-style prints hang above each booth, a reminder of the days of prohibition. One is a circus-style absinthe image and the other a woman’s silhouette standing inside a crescent moon.
“This project allowed me to get rid of my pet hates and focus on creating the most enjoyable space to work, drink and dine in. Jim and I wanted to create something that we were really proud of. And so far, we have.”
The royal blue and golden tones which run throughout the venue, coupled with the herringbone theme, point to a renovation that has careful, intriguing design at its heart. With such an extravagant transformation, The Spiritualist looks set to fulfill drinkers with a more adventurous palette, in an undeniably elegant surrounding.