Design Focus: The Thornwood

Glasgow’s Thornwood area, which was part of neighbouring Partick until 1912, has a new-look pub that would’ve made all those that fought for its independence proud.

I’m not quite sure anybody did actually fight for Thornwood’s independence, but I am certain that this little Glasgow enclave needed some operators fighting its corner. Cue business partners Marc Ferrier, co-owner of The Admiral in Glasgow, and new business partner Kenny Hamilton, who plan on weaving their magic after taking on the Star Pubs and Bars lease following a £300k investment in the bar.

The principle contractor on the job was Angus Alston of Hugh Stirling, with upholstery by Lecs Upholstery, while The Thornwood was designed by Alan Baxter of the Davidson Baxter Partnership. The first thing that struck me about what he did is that it has something for every taste – there’s patterned wallpaper, exposed stone, exposed brick, brass, ceiling fans, neon lights and original tiles etc.

Co-owner Marc Ferrier also heavily inputted towards the look and feel of the place. Marc also gave me the guided tour. He said, “Everything that you see is original – the sandstone, the steel columns, the tiling and the panelling. The bar was newly built off site, yet we retained some of the brass from the original bar which has been crafted into everything from shelving to a holder for the soap dispensers in the toilets.”

Set over one ground-floor level, the bar is on the right-hand-side as you enter and the entire floor is wooden with lovely pattered tiles at the foot of the bar. Anaglypta on the ceiling has been painted in a dark blue colour. The bar is a corner bar, in what used to be the bottom corner of the space before an extension was added a number of years ago.

Marc explained, “The space used to end at the bar, and the extension at the back ate into what was the front room of what was a tenement flat, and even into part of the close. During the renovation we discovered the old toilet tiles (in what would’ve been the opposite corner to the bar) which we left and which now add to the character of the place. We also raised the ceiling of the bar area which has really opened up the space.”

The bar is set against painted walls and some pattered floral wallpaper, set off by some shiny silver ceiling tiles. The wood of the rebuilt bar, ditto the back-bar, has a honey-glazed look to it. There’s also exposed brick pillars and steel columns, which nearly didn’t see the light of day for long.

Explained Mark, “The original idea was to box in the brick and steel pillars, which we decided against, and I’m so glad that we did otherwise it would’ve been an entirely different bar.”

So what’s the rest of the design like? The exterior of this corner unit looks great. It’s been clad in shiny green brick glazed tiles, with doors that open onto the street. The main door is on the corner of the pub and once through the vestibule, there are tables and chairs along the window that were bought as new, whereas the other existing bentwood furniture was reupholstered.

As I said, Marc worked closely with designers, like on which upholstery was used, for example. “When it came to the fixed seating, velvet was originally suggested but I felt that herringbone tweed was a better option, which is what we went for in the end,” said Marc.

Opposite the bar are those re-upholstered bentwood chairs and tables. The fixed seating is made up from a grey leather chesterfield back and paired with a leather seat, while further into the extension is a large herringbone tweed booth that has been set in the bottom of a bay window (formerly belonging to the adjacent flat). Also set in the bay window are some more of those lovely silver ceiling tiles and two burgundy Perspex pendant lamps with tassels, the likes of which I’ve never seen before anywhere else. The booth is quite a way down from the widow and this space has been broken up by the addition of wooden panelling. Along the back of the space is a dark wooden panelling with black and white pictures of old Glasgow and brass picture lights below which is burgandy leather chesterfield fixed seating.

This are also houses an exposed brick wall with a neon sign saying ‘No Bams’, a picture of which has been getting a lot of attention on social media. This is also where the toilets are, in which the standout design features is the plush fabric wallpaper in the ladies, and the green fern wallpaper (Marc’s personal favourite) in the accessible toilet. This design has got a lot of heart and soul and really benefits from its eclectic look and feel, which, according to Marc and going on the clientele that were there when I visited, is reflected in the customers that are voting with their feet by coming to The Thornwood.

Said Marc, “On Sunday there, the place was packed and we had children and families, locals, students, and groups of people. Other bars that I’ve seen that are freshly opened have that pristine feel, whereas this is a lived-in, comfortable design right from the start which all the customers seem to love.”

Jason Caddy

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