Design Focus: Black Ivy
Black Ivy, a stylish neighbourhood bar and hotel in Bruntsfield, Edinburgh, is already making its mark following an extensive refurbishment by owner Billy Lowe. The new venue, which was formerly The Links Hotel, has been completely transformed into a stylish bar and restaurant, with 22 boutique bedrooms too.
Billy worked with long-time collaborator Chris Hines of Redhouse Design – to create Black Ivy, and Billy is pleased with the result. He told DRAM, “I think it is the best venue we have done.”
There is a wow factor from the outset, with the outside area at Black Ivy worthy of a mention as the substantial terrace boasts classy black, outside furniture and fire pits. The venue, and the name, have been inspired by a desire to create a premium neighbourhood bar rooted in the leafy, park location but also informed by stylish, forward thinking venues in London, Brooklyn and beyond.
The result is a vibrant venue, which contrasts neon art with vintage chandeliers and street art murals by international artist Rone with wood flooring salvaged from 19th Century French train carriages. There’s even a floor made entirely from American cent coins, which hold a personal secret for Billy. He says, “I included a penny [cent], one each from the year of birth for each of my four kids. and then one from 2012 to mark getting my dogs.”
Of course, there had to be a coin for Billy’s beloved Hibs so he picked one from 2016, when the team won the Scottish Cup. The sweet nostalgic nod didn’t go down to well with Karin, Billy’s wife. He says, “First thing she said was ‘where’s mine?’, so I picked a coin to commemorate our 30th wedding anniversary instead!”
Billy and his team have changed everything about the former hotel, to create a feeling of spaciousness and light.
When you enter Black Ivy, there is an elegant bar area to the left with leather-upholstered curved booths, which back onto an exposed stone wall. Behind each of the booths there is an arched mirror that looks like a window and exquisite chandeliers hang above the marbled topped tables. Explains Billy, “I had heard about this place in Stockport that had an amazing selection of chandeliers. So I took the train down and was blown away by what they had. For instance some came from Russian mansions, others from shipwrecks and so on. we bought. They add glamour.” They certainly do.
There are also trees behind the booths which also give you the feeling of bringing the outside in. Towards the back of this area, leading into a restaurant area, there is a raised platform with a baby grand piano. Says Billy, “When we bring in entertainers they will be able to perform from the platform. They will be able to see the whole space and people will be able to see them.”
This dining area, called The Conservatory, also boasts dark green leather upholstered seating, a generous booth and various sizes of tables – from oak topped tables for two, to a marble topped table for eight. Light streams in, and the clever use of mirrors – which have the appearance of windows – has an amazing effect on the ambience.
The far end of this area has a fire, and a statement fireplace, with a small seating area directly in front. There is also a large half circular booth fitted into the corner, creating a cosy area. Fires abound in Black Ivy. Says Billy, “People love fires and congregate around them.” In total there are three, but they are of the modern variety – think glowing fire-effect with sleek surrounds. An array of framed prints hang beside the fireplace in the conservatory and on the all leading to the second bar. Hanging from the roof are richly coloured wisteria and, of course, a variety of chandeliers.
Where there once was [in its former guise] a small corridor, there is now a marble-topped seating area which is just beside the tank of beer. Around the corner, there is another elegant bar featuring bright pink chairs that really add a pop of colour. A couple of steps further up, there is a glass enclosed room which boasts two long tables but this room has a dual role. Says Billy, “It’s all about getting the balance between work and play. The tables can operate as work stations set up with iMacs during the day, but come 7pm the tables are transformed into a ping pong station.”
The area also boasts a full wall of elegantly framed photographs. Billy comments, “I spent a lot of time finding them, and to me they represent style and energy. But so far everyone seems to love it and all ages are using it – from students to young mums, as well as sports fans and ladies that lunch.”
Sports fans have been well catered for with the venue having nine screens. Says Billy, “On sporting occasions we will not just be having the screens down, but we will have plenty of entertainment on too.”
There is no doubt about it Black Ivy is going to make its mark – and shortly its 22 bedrooms will open too. They have been styled in the in-design of Swedish cool, with contrasting dark and white. They are set to open imminently.
Black Ivy is definitely going to make its mark. Billy concludes, “It is the best thing we have done, and it’s very personal to me, it’s a ‘modern pub’ in the park!”.