Design Focus: Chelsea Market

By Laura Smith

Chelsea Market has brought a distinctive touch of elegance and warmth to the bustling Finnieston strip on Argyle Street in Glasgow.

The new bar and restaurant from Glasgow entrepreneurs Lawrence McManus and Simon Green, the duo behind Epicures, Nick’s in the West End and Old Salty’s, opened last month in the former Boardwise sports gear shop.

Mark Brunjes of CM Design, who previously worked with Lawrence and Simon on Epicures, led the project as the main designer and collaborated with Ranald MacColl. The resulting three-month refurbishment has created a stylish, open space that exudes warmth, comfort and class.

Chelsea Market takes its name from the iconic New York city tourist attraction of the same name; an enclosed urban food court/office space located in a former biscuit factory in the Chelsea area of Manhattan.

For Lawrence and Simon, it was important to bring something a little bit different to Finnieston. Mark Brunjes said the larger size of the building, compared to many other premises nearby, greatly influenced the design.

Mark said, “We wanted to do something completely different from other places in Finnieston, as premises here are all starting to look the same. We have a big, square space, very open plan with a high ceiling which perfectly suited the style of a traditional salon. In the 17th century, a salon was a large room used for gatherings and parties, and we used that as a starting point. We could have put in a mezzanine but keeping that sense of space was important.”

The high ceiling meant CM Design could introduce plenty of high windows. Combined with Chelsea Market’s corner location, these offer a magnificent view of the Sandyford Henderson Memorial Church opposite and also bring in plenty of light, which bounces off white walls and a multitude of glass antique mirrored panels used within.

Stepping inside the open-plan venue, the first noticeable feature is a large oak-topped bar that takes pride of place, back and centre. It boasts a magnificent, stand alone gantry made of wood and glass, with all the specialist hardwood and mouldings used for the bar and gantry supplied by Prestige Timber.

Mark said, “We wanted the bar and gantry to have a real wow factor so there’s a lot of detail on the bar front. We had glazed black and yellow bricks handmade and have them curved at the corners which is quite a feature, as are the bricks encased in timber panelling at the front.”

In the middle of the room there’s a row of four oak-topped tables with slatted bench seating and a dividing wood partition on the side closest to the bar. The reclaimed benches have their original cast iron feet and were sourced from another refit Mark was working on at the time. They are topped with quilted red leather wraps for added comfort. The floor section of this dining area is made of 1,200 black, white and grey square tiles displayed in a grid pattern.

Along the left-hand wall runs four comfortable, slightly raised booths encased in aged crackled white wood. Four more tables, with banquette seating on one side and chunky wooden chairs on the other, line the street-facing wall. The right-hand wall is home to seven tables of two that can be pushed together to accommodate large parties.

Chelsea Market’s decorative ceiling is also a magnificent design feature. It is created entirely from reclaimed pitched pine split into five different sections, each with its own design. The pine has been painstakingly treated with a combination of stains and beeswax in varying tones for an antique feel. For the floors, engineered wood flooring in real wood timber veneer on plywood has been stained in a grey tone and is supplied by Murray Timber Products.

Faded grandeur

Mark added, “We wanted to create a sort of faded grandeur. We weren’t trying to make it too elegant or opulent, rather comfortable and lived in. We invited Ranald MacColl to collaborate because his attention to detail is very good. We used his artistic skills for the finishes and distressing the mirrors and materials to create that idea of faded grandeur.”

This ‘faded grandeur’ is reflected in different design elements, from the custom-made, opaque old school, pendant style hanging lights to bronze columns along the bar that are topped with a rust paint effect, and the distressed effect used on some furniture.

Ranald MacColl added, “At one point Lawrence and Simon said we were getting a bit too smart and elegant for the area so we had to pare it back with certain elements. That’s why we opted to go for the old school shade style over chandeliers because it’s a bit more down to earth and still gives that nice ambient lighting.”

The banquette sections also have a hint of Art Nouveau, seen in the upholstery by Lecs Upholstery that features intricate floral William Morris prints. On several comfortable booths, the designers used white and black crackle glaze paint for a vintage feel. This is paired with crackling black leather upholstery, again by Lecs Upholstery, which becomes more cracked and ‘aged’ as they are sat in, resulting in a lived-in look.

Dotted around the walls are a number of framed black and white photos by surrealist artist Man Ray, whose work was popular in the 1930s. On the left-hand wall, original Victorian brickwork is showcased behind four 8ft tall glass panels, with the bricks back-lit within dark wooden frames and hidden by squares of antique mirror at the bottom. These flank a huge mirror feature made of more antique mirror sections and glazed glass panels in bronze and gold, set in steel framework with the same brickwork visible here and there.

Mark added, “The style of the interior is pretty traditional but we time travelled through a lot of different centuries and styles. It’s quite eclectic and I think that gives it a freshness and uniqueness. Hopefully that will make it stand out.”

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