Design feature: McLaren’s on the Corner

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Signature Pubs’ boss Nic Wood takes design both seriously and not. Take his new £2m Edinburgh Morningside venue, McLaren’s on the Corner, which debuted last month.

Said Nic, “In 2018, I did 160 pubs in seven days across Melbourne, Sydney and Melbourne. The next five days was spent processing design idea inspiration which has provided most of our ammo for what we’ve opened in the last couple of years.”

On the not so serious side, McLaren’s design is dripping in humour – like what look to be historical paintings of Royal-looking figures but on closer inspection they’re doing stuff like blowing a big pink bubble-gum bubble or discreetly grasping a bottle of beer.

It’s over four floors, including a basement, ground floor bar and restaurant, first floor Tellers Room and The Parlour (nods to its banking past) and the private attic.

Said Nic, “It’s an old bank and we have playful with this in the design in a fun way – like the paintings and creating a masculine space with bank managers’ leather chairs and desks on the first floor Teller Room and Parlour, with the Parlour painted a soft pink. The Attic can be use for tastings, cocktails, quizzes and even candle making classes.”

Nic’s design junket wasn’t merely confined to just the one continent, as Sales and Marketing Director Louise McLean, explained, “The fire pits were inspired by ones we saw in a really cool bar in Seattle and we also visited Toronto for some inspiration. We’re basically all things to everyone – a real community pub. We are family friendly (we even serve kids free homemade cookies and milk after school) and dog friendly too. There’s also a real sense of fun here, like in the
old vault in the basement. We’ve decorated the walls in fake ‘gold bullion’ – the perfect Instagram photo op room.”

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This place is bulging with design highlights, one being the  canvas of the beautiful building itself. Although it was also added to, as architect Ian Forbes explained. “The former bank from the 1900s had a garden that the building has been extended on to. The original planning application was a three-storey at the back but this was reduced to two, plus the glass box on one side of the building – three sides and a roof – that lets in a lot of light and gives the building presence from the outside.”

Angus Alston, Projects Director at Hugh Stirling, who was responsible for the full fit-out, said, “Despite its challenges it was a pleasure to work with the Signature team to produce an interior of such spectacular quality – particularly the bar counters, feature fires and ornate joinery elements, all with their intricate bespoke interface of marble, polished brass, hardwood and mirrors.”

My verdict? I liked the paintings. They’re not all funny. Some are just plain beautiful and used to hide some not so pleasing to the eye necessities like TV screens, like in the ground floor. While right up in the attic, a Bond villain’s lair if ever I saw one, two
great removable ‘waterfalls’ of foliage conceal two more TVs.

And there’s also lovely greenery in the ground floor seating area, that greets you as you enter. Tables and chairs sit on a big rug below, plus there are corrugated leather horseshoe booths, chandeliers and globe lighting. Moving through to the back of the space beyond the bar are those fire pits, set in marble, around which congregate duck-egg blue plush leather swivel chairs. There are Chesterfields in here alongside velvety banquettes – all of which have real feel appeal.

The first floor Tellers Room, with its nods to the cashiers desk, bank-manager-esque chairs and tables and rolled up bank notes stuck to the wall, plus an optical illusion infinity vault all sit in a beautifully appointed room with what I assume ate original fireplaces and cornicing. Natural light streams in, lighting up every corner.

As well as those foliage concealers, the attic space, albeit dinkier, is bursting with equally as good stuff. More pictures that come down at you on an angled wall, a tree trunk bar, imaginatively upholstered queen Anne chairs and Chesterfields and two semi-circular booths that look like they should.
Louise McLean described McLaren’s as “the most beautiful one we have ever done” and I doubt she’s alone in thinking that.


Jason Caddy

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