I was really delighted to read that the future of the iconic Willow Tea Rooms on Sauchiehall Street is now secure, after being taken over by a charitable trust. I have always really liked Charles Rennie Mackintosh design, and this tea room is important because it was one where Mackintosh had a say in every aspect of the building, decor and even the waitresses’ uniforms. It opened in 1904:
I’ve written about the Willow Tea Rooms on Buchanan Street, which are similarly located above a shop. But there isn’t anything particularly distinctive about the exterior of the tea rooms on Buchanan Street, whereas the ones on Sauchiehall Street present a very unified statement, unmistakably complementing the interior.
As you come through the shop on the bottom (which now sells CRM souvenirs), you first come up a flight of stairs to the tea room on the mezzanine. Before you even reach the tea rooms, the stairs and wall make a very distinctive statement about the design sensibility that awaits at the top:
The mezzanine tea-room is well-lit by the skylights above. Even on a dark, rainy day, the white paint keeps it bright inside:
There is a large central well in the middle:
I really like the details:
The waitresses have black dresses and white aprons, which looks very old-fashioned to us – but their knee-length skirts would have caused the original patrons to faint:
The “Room de Luxe” is on the first floor (for US readers, second floor), and was designed to be “light and feminine” according to the Willow Tea Rooms website.
On a recent visit to the tea rooms, there was an exhibition in a room on the top floor, which I had never seen. Again, the decorative details were intriguing:
While still a light room, the dark wood made quite a contrast to the tea rooms on the floors below:
I really like Mackintosh’s use of stained glass – which may well have been designed by his wife, Margaret MacDonald. As you will have noticed, patterns of squares are a recurrent motif, as well as the teardrop and the rose.
You may have heard that Glasgow suffered a dreadful blow when the Glasgow School of Art, designed by Mackintosh, was devastated by fire recently. I had always wanted to go there, but was waiting until the Dafter was well enough to go with me. Alas, now I’ll never be able to see the original library. But as it’s one of the best-documented rooms in the country, I’m sure it will be beautifully restored.
So the news that the future of the Sauchiehall Street Willow Tea rooms is secure is particularly welcome.
I hope you’re all having a good weekend!