Design Focus: BUF

Some newly opened, freshly designed bars look way better with a ready-made lived-in look and that’s the deal with BUF in Ayr, which debuted in April.

Operator Kevin Finney gave life to the old McArthurs on Arthur Street after the unit lay empty for eight years and resembled a makeshift pigeon loft, delivering a design that’s testament to what recycling, up-cycling, repurposing and a £580k investment can do .

Involved in the project were Gilmour & Co Metal Workers, SJB (Stewart Joiner & Builder) and Polar Refrigeration.

It’s the second BUF in Kevin Finney’s Bublinae stable, after BUF on Prestwick Main Street, and the plan is to keep on rolling them out. Said Kevin, “Ayr needed a bit of oomph. It didn’t have a circuit of good venues that customers could enjoy and now it does. The plan is also to roll out the BUF concept in another three places in Ayrshire. We are aiming for one new venue a year. “

He continued, “We didn’t want it to look brand new and the design has been inspired a little by a bar in New York and we had to make a few structural changes in order to achieve this. It was a long space with a flat roof that we decided to raise into an A-shaped apex to give the place a bit of character.

“All the wood used is reclaimed scaffolding board and me and Chris Kirk from Big Blue Dog sat down together and brainstormed and sourced all the stuff. As well as the wood there are ceiling tiles from a stately home that we’ve clad the ceiling with.”

“All in all it’s a chameleon bar. We serve coffee and scones, through lunches and then cater for clubbers until 2.30am, so we’re attracting everybody from 80-year-old ladies who lunch, to students and clubbers, and it was important to me that this diversity be reflected in the design concept.”


As you enter, the long expanse of the bar segues into a back area with another bar and a dance floor. The main bar is along the left-hand wall with a raised seating area opposite.

The design is pretty wood-heavy – structurally because of the wooden beams, down to the floorboards, front of bar, ceiling and partitions between the seating areas. The next dominant design element s that catch your eye as soon as you walk in are the terrific amount of lights and all the foliage and the lovely copper bar-top that catches the light. Only having two wee
windows flanking the front entrance starves what resembles a
long narrowish cave-like space.

There’s that much detail packed into this design that there’s too much for me to trawl through forensically so I’ll go straight for what I consider to be the highlights.


The first of these has to be the mural painted on the exposed brick wall opposite the bar of a woman’s head with foliage as her hair. Kevin told me that this was inspired by something similar he spotted when he last visited New York. The only difference being the hair was hedge in NYC whereas in Ayr it’s green fake flowers with orange flowers speckled through it.


The prints of people with animal heads reading books are also memorable, as is the silver buffalo head and all the wonderful copper-shaded pendant lights and the huge star-shaped light that’s just in front of the main bar that looks a bit like the craft in which Superman first travelled to earth in.


The ceiling tiles that Kevin mentioned, that were salvaged from the stately home, also give the place a shabby-chic feel and all the lights really set them off. They look a bit mismatched but the effect is cool. The various horseshoe-shaped booths are upholstered in a dark green suede, plus there’s also dark green and leather seating too, all of which have feel-appeal as well as being comfy too.


I also really liked the fused-together black metal frames with the glass in the centre of them and the big old gold-framed mirror hanging on the very back wall.

The addition of the new apex roof has really opened up the space, especially given the fact that it is starved of natural light. And it’s in this area where most of the lights are concentrated of course, as well as foliage, creatively hanging from the wooden beams.


BUF is an absolute cathedral to recycling and repurposing – and all executed in a quality way while exerting its own identity without borrowing too heavily from what’s trending at the moment in bar design terms.

Jason Caddy

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