Design Feature: The Old Schoolhouse

Belhaven Pubs debuted the refurbished Old Schoolhouse on Glasgow’s Woodlands Road last month and in the process of researching this feature, I discovered that one of my colleagues, the evergreen Sylvia, went to school there.

And it turns out that Sylvia’s one of many Glaswegians of a certain age who have terrific affection for this building according to GM Colin Rawson, and it so happened that the building’s history, ditto its surroundings, were significant drivers when it came to the new design. As we chewed the cud Colin told me that the bar hosts many reunions with other alumni that all have a vested interest in this little piece of Glasgow history. “We’ve got a reunion of 40 coming in next week and this is not unusual. These customers are very protective of the building’s history, plus there were a number of planning restrictions that we had to observe, like keeping the original fireplaces where they are, even though the original plan was to reposition one of them more prominently that’s tucked away at the back. There are a few nods to the building’s history in some of the new pictures that we’ve got hanging on the walls,” he explained.

Let’s break down what’s changed at the Old Schoolhouse in design terms. Starting with the outside, there’s new signage and the big glass canopy remains, with the welcome addition of twinkly white Christmas lights. Inside is divided into three areas, the first being all seats and a pool table, leading into the main bar area and a snug at the back. The refurbishment was cosmetic in the main apart from the bar area, and we’ll come to that shortly, plus a sand and polish job for the wooden floor throughout.

The first third of the bar contains a seating area that’s split into a further three parts essentially, with a pool table to the left, high rectangular ‘posing tables’ in the middle and a raised area with tan leather banquette seats that look Chesterfield in design, to the right. This area has benefitted from freshly painted walls, in a kind of gunmetal grey with a green tinge, 70s-style wallpaper, (that looks like the patterned tiles everybody went mad for during this decade) and a collection of pictures letting customers know that if they’re crying into their pint they can get a laugh at The Stand Comedy club next door, including one of The Big Yin. There’s also cream coloured panelling halfway up and lots of pictures. There’s a pool table in this area. There are also high wooden tables and multi-coloured chairs, adding a splash of colour to the design.

The biggest change happened in the bar area, which is where you come to next from the entrance, and which forms the main body of the kirk. The old dark wood bar and back bar has gone to that great big pub in the sky and replaced with an altogether lighter and brighter affair. Its replacement has white ceramic brick tiles, in front of which are wooden shelves, while the fridges are house in two jutty-out bits that look like fireplaces, and which have been clad in light wood panelling that decorates the front of the bar as well. The bar top is a varnished beechwood and is lit by pendant lights with gunmetal grey shades, two of which had to be removed so that they didn’t block the two new 85-inch TVs that replaced the old 65-inch ones, according to Colin. The high tables are also in this area, with stools that have been upholstered in a variety of colourful fabrics that add a second splash of colour to the design. Opposite the bar is a line of tan leather horseshoe booths that are kind of private, being in a recess, and these were here before but have been re-upholstered, and this is where most of the customers chose to sit on the day I visited.

Beyond the bar, right at the back of the building, is a snug area, which has at its heart one of the original fireplaces, which has a wood burner in the hearth, around which has been tiled in those white brick tiles. There are more pictures hanging in this area, plus the same wooden panelling that runs the length of the front of the bar has been used on all the walls in here. There’s also a wall-mounted TV and glass wall lights. The chairs and tables here are a real hotchpotch, with tartan wing-backed chairs and wooden tables and chairs in a variety of colours. In here the pictures document the rules for Victorian teachers and for pupils. There are also framed wooden rulers that may or may not look slightly retro depending on your age.

The new bar is definitely the jewel in the crown of this design, with the rest of what they’ve done being more of a refresh, and I, of course, had to defer to the expert opinion of Sylvia and she gave it a big thumbs-up

Jason Caddy

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