Additional Information

The Story of Mackintosh’s Tea Rooms

As a fan of Mackintosh’s work I have wanted to come to Glasgow for some time. One thing that I have really struggled to get my head around though is the story of the infamous tea rooms.

My Mum has previously visited Glasgow and said that there are two Willow tea rooms and the research I have done talks about a few other different tea rooms, most of which I have not heard of. I was very confused but have since managed to get my head around the situation after visiting the city and speaking to very informative people along the way. For anyone else who may be Confused this is the whole story, from the beginning.

Mackintosh was commissioned by local business women Kate Cranston to design/co design the interiors for her tea room business. In total Mackintosh was involved with the design of four tea rooms. The Buchanan Street Tea Rooms, the Ingram Street Tea Rooms, the Willow Tea Rooms and the Argyle Street Tea Rooms.

Eventually all of these tea rooms were sold and buildings were used for different purposes, interiors destroyed.

In the 1980’s two of  properties were bought with the intention of restoring the buildings back into the Mackintosh tea rooms that they once were. These are now the only two Mackintosh based tea rooms in Glasgow. One of these properties is the place I visited today ‘The Willow Tea Rooms’ at Buchanan Street, (only a few doors down from the original tea room site). This site was purchased and restored 20 years ago. The owner of this business also bought the name ‘The Willow Tea Rooms’ and all the rights to the name, even though this was not the original site of The Willow tea rooms but the Buchanon Street tea rooms. Which is why as my Mum said there are two Willow Tea Rooms. One question answered! This also explains why the people I met referred to this site as the Buchanan Street tea rooms rather than Willow tea rooms. Very confusing.

Be aware that if you go onto ‘The Willow Tea Rooms’ website they have another business: At The Watt Brothers. This looks like a beautiful building and was designed buy an architect that Mackintosh previously worked for. But is not a Mackintosh building inside or out.

The second renovated site was 217 Sauchiehall street, the original site for the Willow tea rooms, which again explains why people refer to this site as the Willow tea rooms even though its not actually called that as the other tea rooms own that name!

The plot thickens, just when you thought it couldn’t get any more confusing. 217 Sauchiehall Street (which was the more authentic of the two tea rooms having incorporated some of Mackintosh’s original work, his famous doors for example) was only opened on a lease. The property was opened 34 years ago as I’m told by the lovely lady I met at ‘The Willow Tea Rooms’ this lease has now expired and the tea rooms have closed once again. which is why I find myself today in Buchanan street instead of enjoying a more authentic Mackintosh experience.

I have been given conflicting information. The lady at the Glasgow school of art told me that 217 Sauchiehall st was closed for renovation whereas the lady in ‘The Willow Tea Rooms’ told me that 217 Sauchiehall st was closed indefinitely as the lease has run out.

As mentioned above one of the things I have heard a lot about and was very excited to see were the original Mackintosh doors. Unfortunately these were in place at the 217 Sauchiehall tea rooms so I haven’t been able to see them. I am given a glimmer of hope when the lady at the ‘Willow Tea rooms’ tells me that as the doors belonged to the building they have remained with the building. She then said that the owner of the building has since donated/sold them to the Kelvingrove museum which is lucky because my hotel is only a few minutes walk from there.

Bad news (for me) is that my hunt for the doors was unsuccessful. I absolutely loved the Kelvingrove museum, especially the Mackintosh exhibit but I saw no doors! Before I left I asked at the help desk about the doors and was told that the doors were on temporary loan to the museum and have since been returned to the owner. I found this news very disappointing.

Good news. A few days on and I have now found out that there is a planned renovation of the 217 Sauchiehall Street site. The willow Tea Rooms Trust is currently renovating the site which is due to open 7th June 2018. This date marks the 150th anniversary of Mackintosh’s birth, and I am really, really, really hoping that this is where the doors are now!

I hope this clears things up.

Sources for all of the information that I have used in my blogs about Glasgow:

The House for an Art Lover

The Glasgow School of Art

The Willow Tea Rooms at Buchanan Street

The Lighthouse

The Kelvingrove Museum

The Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society

Visiting Charles Rennie Mackintosh- Roger Billcliffe

Charles Rennie Mackintosh – illustrated book produced in collaboration with Glasgow School of Art

Architectural Diaries

Glasgow Day 5

Today is sadly my last day in Glasgow. I don’t have to be at the airport until about 3pm so I am going to try and cram in two small adventures.

Even though I definitely want to return to Glasgow I thought that I would like to see at least one of the buildings from the 1001 buildings book.

Glasgow has been a little disappointing. Quite a few buildings that I have wanted to see have been closed at this time of year, and others shrouded in scaffolding or undergoing restoration you get the picture, I’m not bitter at all, but I do need to see at least one of the buildings from the book.

I took a taxi to the St Vincent Street Church. As the building was closed I asked the taxi driver to wait for me whilst I had a good look around and took some pictures of the exterior. Another fabulous Glaswegian building.


Although closed today I got to have a good look at the building exterior. Look at some of the beautiful detailing that you cannot see in the above picture.


There we go at least I can tick off one building from the 1001.

I got back in the taxi to go to the Mackintosh Church in Queen’s cross, also home to the Charles Rennie Mackintosh society.

Looking at this church from across the road it is very plain to see that this is a Mackintosh building. however, I arrived at the building by a taxi that approached from the side and I was quite underwhelmed. For a few seconds I genuinely thought the driver had brought me to the wrong place, which is what made the following few seconds all the more magical as I began to notice every little beautiful detail that makes a Mackintosh a Mackintosh.





You could almost be forgiven for mistaking this church’s interior as any other traditional church interior. This is the genius of this building. All the subtle Mackintoshisms make this building really special whilst still achieving the simplistic interior that was required.


Above are perfect examples of what set this church apart from any other.


Interestingly small Mackintosh details have been introduced into the surrounding area, like this Mackintosh inspired clock tower and some of the front doors have used the nine square formation that Mackintosh was famous for.

Do you like what I did there!

With about two hours to go before I need to leave for the airport I think I have just about enough time for one last Mackintosh gem…And I really need a coffee.

On my limited time frame I decided to head to a much lesser known and more hidden Mackintosh masterpiece. The Daily Record Building. I was quite shocked to see such an amazing and beautiful building down such a narrow backstreet alley. I had a good look at the building and took some photos, although it was hard to take a good photo due to the narrow proximity of the lane.


I poked my head into the building, now a cafe called Stereo but nothing left of Mackintosh to see in there so I wandered back onto the main road for a chance to see some of the city’s other lovely buildings and also to get that much needed coffee.


Very happy with my day today. Not only did I manage my two adventures but I also had time for another along the way. Successful day and now it’s time to go to the airport. Bye bye Glasgow.

Architectural Diaries 

Glasgow Day 4

I have a concert tonight so I’m going to have a quieter day on the sightseeing front. I am very eager to get to the university building as I can see it from my hotel room, and after getting a bit closer to it yesterday I am very keen to explore it further.

DSC04707Just in case anyone has forgotten this is what the building looks like. Taken from a distance this is one of the best photos I have of this building. It’s one of those that you need to view at a distance to appreciate fully. it’s so huge that there’s no chance of getting it all into a photo once you get up there.



I walked to the university through this beautiful park, admiring my surroundings along the way.


Wow, What a building! No more words needed.


Here are some pictures from inside and around this building.






I think we can all agree that I’ve taken a lot of photos of the university (could easily show you more), but since the building itself is so stunning and so huge I think that it’s a proportionate amount. Definitely check this building out.

In one of those wonderful coincidences that you often find when wondering around with no particular aim I find myself just across the road from the Huntarian gallery and of course the Mackintoish house. I love it when things like this happen!

After crossing said road however I was drawn to this lovely building.

DSC04971Part of the university This fine example of Art Deco architecture sadly seems to have fallen under the radar and looks a little under appreciated and unloved. But wow, just when I thought my day couldn’t get any better.



The Mackintosh house certainly did not disappoint. Beautiful throughout with some stunning pieces of original mackintosh furniture the whole exhibit was a really wonderful experience. Unfortunately though photography was prohibited so I have nothing to show you from this exhibit other than this exterior photo, and a quote which I think sums up the place perfectly.

“An almost mystical sense of peace is achieved by his wide Surfaces. There is an impact of monumentality, broken only occasionally by a small, superimposed ornament. its effect in turn is of a jewel”. Hermann Muthesius, 1906.

This quote refers to the bedroom but I feel could be applied to the entire house especially   those furnished in white.



DSC05001Sorry. Just one more of the university, taken whilst on my way home.

IMG_1323Back in my hotel now and this lovely rainbow frames the beautiful view from my window, and I managed to avoid the rain. Great day.

Architecture Diaries

Glasgow Day 3

Day 3 in this wonderful city and this is the great view from my window.


I had a lazy morning this morning followed by a leisurely stroll to the Kelvingrove museum. I found this beauty of a building (as seen from my bedroom window) on the way.


Not too sure what this building is, no signage, I think that it may have been converted into apartments.

DSC04703I thought that the windows on this building were worth a mention. Beautiful.

Blown away, not for the first time in since arriving in Glasgow when I saw the Kelvingrove museum. The building behind it (the Glasgow University) is pretty special too.


Even the lampposts are amazing!



I am pleased to say that the interior of this beautiful building definitely lives up to its stunning exterior. I enjoyed looking around this museum but of course, for me the highlight was the Mackintosh exhibition, no surprises there!! Although I was very disappointed not to see the famous original Willow Tea Room doors (which I was told were on display in this museum). I later found out that the doors were only on loan to the museum and have since been returned to their owners, and so the plot thickens. I am really hoping this means that they are being reinstated in time for the reopening of the tea rooms on 217 Sauchihall St next year.



I particularly enjoyed the Mackintosh exhibit. It was lovely to see the layouts of the tea rooms with some original pieces, and I actually felt a stronger more authentic sense of Mackintosh here than I did at the Tea Rooms on Buchanan Street that I visited yesterday.


 The above photo shows a beautiful replicated layout of the Ladies Luncheon Room from the Ingram Street Tea Rooms. The fabulous panels seen above the table in this image were designed by Mackintosh and his wife Margaret. The two panels ‘The May Queen’ (left) and ‘The Wassail’ (right) were also on display in this room after being exhibited in Vienna.


This photo shows a replicated layout of the Chinese Room designed by Mackintosh in 1911. Asked by Miss Cranston to redesign her tea room Mackintosh takes inspiration from the orient.

A beautiful and fascinating museum, I could spend hours here and I did. Then I went for coffee! Another great day in Glasgow and I’ve barely even stepped out of the hotel today as this museum is right on my doorstep, which is lucky really because it’s cold!

Architecture Diaries

Glasgow Day 2

Day two in Glasgow and this morning I have booked a tour of the Glasgow School of Art. I arrived outside the School of Art and I was very underwhelmed by what I saw. My taxi pulled up and dropped me off in front of a contemporary glass fronted building with ‘Glasgow School of Art’ written on it.


I was very confused and it was not until inside the building, looking at a model of the Mackintosh School of Art (spectacular by the way) that I noticed a building behind this model. It took a few moments for the realisation to hit me. I was looking at the original Mackintosh building, across the road and completely covered in scaffolding.


Very sadly as most of you will know the Glasgow School of Art was badly damaged by fire in 2014. The Mackintosh School of Art as I later found out is still undergoing major renovation works and is not due to be reopened until 2019! I guess this makes sense as a taxi driver did try to tell me that the building was closed. I thought I knew best and that this could not possibly be the case as I already had the tour booked.

Disappointed to say the least but never the less the tour, that took place in the new Glasgow School of Art building was very interesting and informative despite not actually going anywhere near the Mackintosh building. The highlight of the tour was undoubtably the extensive collection of original Mackintosh furniture housed within this new uni building. The tour guide said that after Mackintosh died due to his lack of popularity at the time a large amount of his furniture was given to the school (where both Mackintosh and his wife studied). This is why the school now has such a large collection of his work.

DSC04526Mackintosh – Master and Slave Clock – 1910

The Master clock (on the left) was linked up with all of the other clock’s in the school. Mackintosh redesigned the clock face in his distinctive style.

DSC04531  Mackintosh – 1898

Designed for the Argyle Street Tea Rooms this is one of my favourite Mackintosh chair designs and was very exciting to see.

DSC04535Mackintosh – Domino Table – 1911

The domino table was designed for the Ingram Street tea rooms. The top part of the table was for playing Dominos. The four shelves were for the tea.

dsc04539.jpgMackintosh – 1911

This chair was designed for the Chinese room at the Ingram Street Tea Rooms.

DSC04546Mackintosh – 1904

This Chair was designed for the head waitress at the Willow Tea Rooms. The chair is quite large to accommodate the large dress worn by the waitress even though large dresses were not fashionable at the time.

DSC04529Mackintosh – 1917

This bold piece, designed slightly later in his career shows mackintosh’s use of geometric shapes as opposed to a more organic form. From ‘The Dug Out’ a space with no natural light Mackintosh uses this colour to try and brighten the space. I was told a fascinating story by the tour guide. This seat was black and it was sent out on loan for an exhibition in Helsinki. It came back with a scratch on it. The scratch was yellow. The original drawings proved the seat to be yellow and had somewhere along the line been repainted in black. As you can see the chair has been restored to the way Mackintosh originally intended it.

DSC04548Mackintosh – 1901

This Bookcase is also accompanied by an interesting story from the tour guide. This piece was originally designed as a toy chest to sit on the floor. At a later date the client came back to Mackintosh and asked him to turn the chest into a bookcase which is what has given it its unusual shape.

I really enjoyed the tour, although initially disappointed. I am also very happy that the money I paid for the tour will go towards the building’s restoration work.

Here you can just about see the sign above the door and some of the original railings.

The disappointment continues today as I’m told that the Willow tea rooms are undergoing renovations. I was told to go to the Buchanan Street Tea Rooms which I found out is another branch of the Willow tea rooms, but the newer of the two.


This however did not disappoint. I have waited a long time to see this sign.

In the Willow Tea Rooms I sat upstairs in the blue Chinese room and took in my surroundings whilst also enjoying a cream tea.

IMG_1291IMG_1289Above are the two separate dining areas at the Willow Tea Rooms.

Before I left I browsed the gift shop and was lucky enough to talk to a very informative member of staff who explained to me in great detail the story of the Willow Tea Rooms. I have been really struggling to get my head around the story with all the different tea rooms, (see additional information on Glasgow for more information.)

Being so close that I actually walked straight past it on my way to the tea rooms I went for a look around the Lighthouse. A building designed by Mackintosh, originally to house the offices for the Glasgow Herald. I went up to the top viewing deck for an amazing view around Glasgow and then back down for a look around the Mackintosh exhibition.

Above: Pictures from Mitchell Lane. Seen whilst looking for Lighthouse and I think possibly even part of the building. (See Below)


DSC04620 Mackintosh – The Lighthouse – 1893-5

Originally designed for The Glasgow Herald the building is now named ‘The Lighthouse’ which is in fact not a lighthouse in the middle of the city! It is the name of the building and actually the support for a water tank. The lighthouse is now a visitor centre and exhibition space as well as a great place to see the rooftops of Glasgow and visit an original Mackintosh design.

Above: Views of Glasgow from the Lighthouse’s viewing deck.

Back to the main square for a bit of shopping. I got to fully appreciate Buchanan Street with some very beautiful and varied buildings.


dsc04587.jpgAbove: Princes Square Shopping Centre 

I love the Peacock that proudly adorns this building, it’s really quite spectacular and compliments the building beautifully.



I have since found out (whilst writing these diaries actually) from my very informative book called ‘Visiting Charles Rennie Mackintosh’ by Roger Billcliffe that this beautiful building above, (a building that caught my eye instantly) was the original site for the Buchanan Street Tea Rooms. Although It’s hard to imagine the Mackintosh style inside this building as the two don’t exactly match but I think we can all agree that this building has a stunning exterior.

In the fading light I also got my first proper Christmassy experience of the year. Glasgow by Christmas light.

Followed by coffee in what has to be the most beautiful Cafe Nero I have ever been in before. Time now to head back to my hotel after another busy day in Glasgow.


Architecture Diaries

Glasgow Day 1

Wow! It’s not even lunchtime yet and I am completely in love with this city. I caught an early morning flight to Glasgow this morning, which meant that I was ready and raring to go and explore the city by 8am. I have just been on the city sightseeing bus tour and have realised that I am going to need a lot more than four days to really see this city. I think another two weeks should do it!

I came to Glasgow to see the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, (and of course to track down any of the 1001 buildings). I also had my eye on two other buildings but I hadn’t planned on doing much else. I am not sure if it’s a good or bad thing that I have wanted to get off the bus at nearly every stop to explore the city.

SEC Armadillo Building – Foster and Partners – 2000

Ok so this is one of those that I had my eye on, I’ve seen pictures of it and there’s just something about this shape, similar in my opinion to my favourite building the Sydney opera house, although my research has suggested that this was not the designer’s intention. The actual inspiration for the building’s shape is said to be interlocking ships hulls in reference to its surroundings and proximity to the river. I was not actually aware that this is a Norman Foster building. It is no wonder I was drawn to it as I am a big fan of Foster’s work.

Riverside Museum – Zaha Hadid – 2011

This was my second stop of the day, a must for any fan of contemporary architecture. This is only the second Hadid building that I have seen so I was very excited to see it and to go in and have a look around.

Stop three, my third and final stop of the day was not on the bus route. To avoid the very real possibility of my feet getting even colder and seizing up completely I got a taxi to The House of the Art Lover. This Building has the honour of being my first building and first proper experience of Rennie Mackintosh. I have only ever seen Mackintosh furniture and various pieces in museums over the years.

The experience was incredible and even quite emotional to be in the presence of such a building.

DSC04515The House For an Art Lover – Charles Rennie Mackintosh – 1996

The House for an Art Lover was designed in 1901 by Mackintosh as an entry for a competition for a German, modern design magazine. The competition was not won by Mackintosh, in fact he was disqualified for not producing the amount of drawings specified in the competition entry. The judges of the competition were however impressed with Mackintosh’s work and he received special recognition for his designs. The design of this building was not realised until 1989 when work was begun on The House for an Art Lover. The building was completed in 1996 by the architect Andy Macmillan and engineer Graham Roxburgh along with the help of many craftsmen and women, who used Mackintosh’s original drawings, to recreate his vision.


To follow this stunning exterior we have the majestic interiors. Please forgive me for repetition but I’m running out of adjectives to describe the beauty of this place.



By 3pm, after tea and cake in the lovely cafe I’m done. Off to check into my hotel and maybe have a little siesta. ZZZzzz