Design Focus: The Ship


The Ship in Irvine re-opened in February and it has certainly been a journey for owner Christopher Murray whose family have owned the pub for the past 30 years. The reopening has been somewhat bittersweet for Christopher as he is the only remaining original partner – his father Iain died in Dubai thirteen years ago, and his brother Jamie at the start of the pandemic.

8DB182E2-E4A8-4EF9-B4C1-0F684726FC3EAt its height The Ship Inn was easily the most popular pub in the vicinity with people travelling miles for its famous steak pies ‘the wee wan’ and the ‘big wan’, not to mention his father’s patter, and Christopher is hoping that the pub will prove just as big a draw in the weeks, months and years to come.

Although he has made some changes to The Ship, dropping the word ‘Inn’ for a start I am sure that his dad and brother would approve of the efforts that he has made to ensure the future of the pub. It certainly has been a labour of love for the entrepreneur, who has put his all into ensuring that the old lady looked her very best and was ready to sail again.

05715F1F-33A5-492B-AD78-FA1625603FF5He told me, “I’ve adopted the hashtag “this ship must sail,” but he admits that the whole process has been emotional. “I feel my dad and my brother with me all the time – and I can hear my dad in my ear. I often look up expecting to see them there.” Although he is there – in a framed picture on the wall of the pub, carrying a bunch of flowers.

No doubt he would be very impressed with all the effort that Christopher has put into getting The Ship shipshape.

He worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic and smiles ruefully when I compliment the tiled area in front of the bar, which I remember to have been very dark. Now you can see each individual tile. “I restored the floor myself,” he tells me.

“I was down on my hands and knees with a steel brush. There was years of debris – although we used to wash it, we never had time to give it a really deep clean.” It’s not just the floor that is gleaming – the bar area – adjacent to the bar itself has a new wood roof which reminds me of ships bows and indeed that was the whole idea.

2612CFC5-8494-4CA1-87CE-E2AA23F1905ESays Christopher, “It was really dark in here and full of Burns memorabilia – I thought this isn’t a Burns museum – he doesn’t drink here any more, so let’s lighten it all up. You can’t always hold on to the past. The wooden ceiling now represents the hull of a ship and a ship always has to go forward.”

This area is a mix of ecletic armchairs – none of which match, and that was deliberate, “I wanted to make it cosy and bespoke and we have upcycled just about everything and reupholstered. If a chair breaks we can replace it with another one, but it doesn’t have to match.”

There is also a wood burning stove. “My best investment yet,” he smiles. The area where the stove is was previously a cold area. But now everybody comes and once they are seated beside it, they don’t want to move.”

This area is very much for walk-ins who just want a drink, and for pre and post dinner. Says Christopher, “It is a pub, and we want to play up these credentials. You don’t just have to come to eat.”

What has not changed very much, except for a lick of paint and a refresh of the tables – which have been sanded to a lighter colour, is the dog friendly area which remains very popular. But he has also introduced new pictures here, including one of his whippet, Willow, a gift from the people who did the artwork in the pub, and some mats for the dogs who prefer not to lie on the tiled floor.

In fact Artisan Artworks also did the mural on the outside of the pub which some have said bears an uncanny resemblance to Christopher.

76F5A3E8-39FB-4934-813B-C331CCC5A6FCBeyond the bar the area which previously served as the servery has been sectioned off, the windows used in the partition wall have been upcycled, and the one door to the toilets has been blocked off. This area Christopher describes as a “hybrid area”.

This area also has a wood burner which Christopher put in himself. He smiles, “No doubt people were wondering why I was acting as chimney sweep. But the fitters wouldn’t go along the roof. So I did it.” This is where the resemblance to his dad ends – his father wasn’t a DIY enthusiast, but now Christopher is quite the expert.

He even did the ceiling himself in the restaurant area. He explains, “Ceilings always look a bit boring, and I had seen this idea in a pub in New York – where loads of framed pictures were put – luckily for me the ceiling was wallpapered so I was able to use the paper as a guide – I tried to make them all look random.”

The restaurant also has a few new large family booths and new wood panelling and the configuration of the tables is a bit different. Once again the dark wooden table tops have been sanded down and are now much lighter and the walls are all a classic blue/green colour. Says Christopher, “We wanted a nautical feel, but not too nautical.”

7D6773CC-74B4-4E57-9FFE-A8F9F0AD2024The restaurant also features some huge old brewery mirrors which have been in the pub for many years just not in this space. However the upstairs space for the time being is not being used.

One of the areas that Christopher was keenest to show me was the toilets. Anyone familiar with The Ship Inn would remember rather draughty basic loos, but not now. They have been redesigned from sportshall feel to boutique bar feel… and his wife lent a hand here. “She put in all the nice little touches such as the greenery.”

Throughout the pub there are lots of positive phrases – some of which are old sayings of his dad. Such as ‘Stay on board’, and others such as ‘Don’t go in the water!” Says Christopher, “My dad used to say that all the time, but we never worked out why!”

Certainly Christopher might not be going into the water anytime soon, but he has certainly more than dipped his toe in with the re-opening of the pub.


Category: Design, Features, News
Tags: Christopher Murray, The Ship, The Ship Inn, The Ship Irvine

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