Since its heyday as the stomping ground of Glasgow’s aristocracy, this art deco building suffered an untimely fall from grace. Fortunately, Surface ID were on hand to restore it to its former glory.
When it opened its doors in 1913, the Hillhead Picture Salon was one of the first suburban cinemas in the city. Showcasing a full orchestra, handsome furnishings and 'the best pictures the world can supply', it was an extremely popular venue amongst the West End elite. The exposed concrete structure offset with belle èpoque plasterwork was a marvel, and an early example of the ‘Hennebique Ferroconcrete System’ – a method of strengthening concrete with iron and the predecessor of reinforced concrete construction commonplace today. Sadly, the glory days couldn’t last forever and dwindling numbers finally forced the cinema to close its doors for good in 1992.
Fast forward eighteen years, and after several disastrous refurbishments in the noughties that saw the balcony walled up and the ornate ceiling hidden from view, the former cinema building is back to its glorious best. Redesigned by Glasgow based Surface-ID as a restaurant and bar, the renamed Hillhead Book Club reads like a rule book for smart restoration. Entering through the glitzy canopy scattered with tiny fairy lights, and passing by the patio with its assortment of furniture, the Book Club is already looking pretty special. Inside, the magnificent architecture once again takes centre stage, but the crisp, formal whites of years gone past are replaced with softer mushrooms and taupes that echo the faded elegance of the old building. Grungy, pseudo vintage wallpaper is used to soften the elaborate plasterwork, while dark mahogany pews and gently glowing light fittings bring unexpected warmth.
In classic Surface ID style, a few bold choices help to launch the interior into the contemporary. The most obvious is the double height, wood panel partition that splits the room in half, creating quiet, intimate nooks behind it and a focal point for those at the bar in front. Adorning it, in the centre of the hall is the pièce de résistance - an illuminated moose head that pretty much embodies the quirky, off the wall nature of the Book Club. Leaping between eras, medieval banquet tables are clashed with steam punk light fittings, and a gramophone sits proudly at the bar amongst an old-school projector and shabby suitcases. The result is a haphazard jigsaw puzzle of eras and ages, that collectively form a pretty picture, an apt tribute if ever there was one. (Pictures: Surface ID)