20 September 2011

A - L I S T E D

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)

16 September 2011


With its weathered appearance and classic narrow plan, Rural Design’s proposal for a family home on the Isle of Skye has all the hallmarks of traditional Highland architecture.

The Longhouse is probably described best in the words of the architect himself, as a lesson in ‘complicated simplicity’. It adheres to Highland practice of being small and contour hugging, and with its muted palette of greys and browns, it still fits in with the local vernacular. What prevents this home from becoming a simple Skye cottage however, is in the manner in which it seamlessly combines tradition and high tech, creating a new typology. Cumbersome materials like stone and thatch are discarded, and replaced with a quick to assemble timber frame, super insulated walls and locally sourced cladding.  Solar gain is maximised, and utilised alongside an air source heat pump, heat recovery and ventilation system which give the house enviable eco credentials. It is a format that Skye architects Rural Design have become masters of in recent years. 

For the most part, the house reflects the classic open-plan layout of a Scottish longhouse. A vast living, dining, and kitchen area dominates the front of the house, with a central fire forming the heart of the home. Two bedrooms, bathrooms and a small study complete the modest program.  What sets it apart from tradition are the contemporary touches, that include the optimistically named sun room to the rear, and the sizeable mezzanine level that overlooks the living area. Another highlight is the projecting window which punctuates the front of the house, breaking the classical form and extending the living area considerably. The panoramic views of the surrounding countryside are not to be sniffed at either!  

 Externally, the house is clad with weathered larch, which reflects the colours of both the sea and sky. Already fading to a silvery grey, the wood is testament to the stormy conditions the house has to withstand. A corrugated metal roof and a modern take on a lean to are clever touches, and help to create a dialogue between the house and the farm buildings and sheds native to the area. Openings in the building’s shell are perfectly in tune with the surroundings, and connect the house with magnificent views of Loch Dunvegan, the Western Isles and the jagged outline of the Cuillin mountain range. If we need a reminder about keeping it simple, this is most definitely it.  (Pictures: Rural Design)

11 September 2011


I'm having a bit of a love affair with all things House of Harlow at the moment, aka Nicole Richie's jewellery label. Everything has a bohemian / hippy vibe and is just so goddamn pretty! And although it's not thee most expensive of designer ranges, it's still a bit on the pricey side for me. So, I was pretty chuffed to find these shameless rip-offs in Primark the other day, retailing for a mere two bucks! As you can see from the pictures, there is very little difference between the two - even the pattern is virtually identical. I don't think La Richie will be very impressed though! I've also recently bought an eBay version of the HoH Black Resin necklace for a tenner, which I impatiently waited for all week only to leave it at my sister's house over the weekend - what an idiot! 

7 September 2011

(E X T R A) O R D I N A R Y

Old paintwork. Rusty, flaking metal. Trodden on chewing gum. Wherever I’m describing it sounds like a dive, right? Most probably, that’s exactly what it was, the sort of place you wouldn’t look twice at, or would hurry through to get home. For American artist Ingrid Calame however, these banal spaces and all their blemishes tell an important story – one which she brings to life in spectacular fashion in her first solo exhibition in Scotland at the Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh. Using every scratch, scrape and smudge as the foundations for her drawings, Calame’s intricate tracings provides a visual commentary on a fleeting moment in time, like an abstract photograph that will never be captured again. Her art is the product of a meticulous, almost forensic, mapping process of the physical environment and is enriched by the vibrant colours that detach each piece from its humble beginnings. Downstairs in the gallery, Calame showcases bright, glossy paintings on aluminium that are much more clever than they appear, but it is upstairs that she really excels, revealing a softer side with a delicately constructed chalk masterpiece that is as temporary as the markings she so carefully records.