teatowel by Gillian Kyle
I finally got to visit Glasgow. It was a flying one day visit as a surprise for my sister's birthday. She loves Mackintosh so we drove her up to Glasgow for a Mackintosh themed day. We are probably well overdue for writing a post about this esteemed designer, architect and yes, stenciller. Although I would say that such is his creative output and status, he is worthy of many posts.
Charles Rennie Mackintosh got into architecture at a time when much was changing in the design world. To oversimplify things he rode the wave of what was dubbed "Free Style" and started to create his own distinctive, world famous art nouveau architecture, decoration and furniture designs. At the turn of the last century his design for the Glasgow School of Art (recently badly damaged in a fire) was taking shape. Many regard this building as the birth of modern architecture. It is easy to see why. Most architecture of the time, especially for commerical buildings, was still very much Victorian. Mackintosh saw beyond his job as an architect. I daresay he was a bit of a control freak, but he not only designed the buildings shapes, but also it's interiors, furniture and accessories.
photo source unknown
He quickly gained an international reputation. His style, quite his own, took elements from the arts and craft movement (natural materials and shapes, stylised flowers), mixed in a bit of orientalism, and married it with hints of the art nouveau movement coming out of europe. There are many books on Mackintosh if you want to know more, but I rather like a small tome called Charles Rennie Mackintosh Masterpieces of Art by Gordon Kerr which is both informative and includes lots of pictures of a wide variety of CRM's work. I like to think that his style is the perfect bridge between art nouveau and art deco.
image from brucehamilton.co.uk who are furniture makers responsible for the dining suite here and making marvellous reproduction Mackintosh furniture designs
He was fond of the square in different combinations with stylised flowers, mainly the rose amongst other motifs (take a close look at any of the interior shots in this post). And he liked to use a stencil to do it. Towards the end of his career he discovered the triangle, but it is squares and roses he is most famous for. Sadly ill health curbed his career and by 1928 he had died. Thankfully his legacy lives on and a fair amount of his work has been preserved. And this is what we set out to see on a whistle stop tour one day of the vibrant Glasgow.
We drove north of Glasgow first to Helensburgh to see one of his most famous residential commissions, Hill House, thankfully in the hands of the Scottish National Trust.
Budget constraints meant he could only design the structure and certain rooms. Whilst certainly not an outrageous design by today's standards, the building still has a shape that is quite modernist and unique and stands out against the other turn of the century houses in the area.
The spaces that were completely designed by Mackintosh are fantastic. Some spaces are light and airy with white surfaces on which pink, purple, grey and green designs were stencilled.
photo from glasgowmackintosh.com
Others were darker. I was also impressed by the spaces that were not completely Mackintosh designed. The combination of traditional antique furniture in a room with Mackintosh panelling and fireplaces was just as pleasing - a testament to how versatile his designs were and how well they combine with just about anything else. Even though they were so obviously contemporary, they complimented the traditional well.
After Hill House, we drove back to Glasgow and parked the car at the Park & Ride just outside of the city centre. It just happened to be across the street from the Scotland Street School. I was unaware of this building and as we drove by I remarked how Mackintosh like it was and so it turned out to be. Again he referenced traditional Scottish baronial towers but added his own touch by covering them with masses of small paned windows.
The light must have flooded in.
We were collected at the Park & Ride by Glasgow Taxis who operate a bespoke tour service. For two hours we were whisked around Glasgow City Centre looking at Mackintosh buildings (popping in where possible) and a few other famous Glaswegian landmarks. What a terrific way to get around. We would never have been able to see so much given our limited time had we done it ourselves. Sadly, but not surprisingly, we could not go into the famous Glasgow School of Art as it was badly damaged in a fire last year.
photo source unknown
Thankfully the fire department, recognising that it was a building of high importance, worked hard to save as much as possible and contain the fire so that as little of the building was damaged as possible. Because most of the interior was covered in wood, the damage was still extensive. Full restoration is underway and it will look exactly as it did before the fire. We visited a church he designed, Queen's Cross Church, as spartan as you would expect for a church, but still undeniably Mackintosh.
We stopped at the tower Mackintosh designed to hold a large water tank on the premises of the Glasgow Herald newspaper (newspaper offices were always catching fire so they commissioned a new building complete with inbuilt water tank) which now has a terrific gift shop on all things Scottish housed at its base.
Here I snapped up a Tunnocks Tea Cake tote (tunnocks tea cakes are a famous glaswegian snack), the Mackintosh teatowel at the top of this post and a fab book on Tartan which will probably inspire another post soon.
Our taxi dropped us off at the world famous Willow Tea Rooms on Sauchiehall Street where I had booked a birthday afternoon tea. Bookings are recommended. I must mention that the Sauchiehall Street tea rooms have now closed for a massive refurbishment (open again in 2018) but the tea room business has moved to nearby Watt Brothers Department Store so it can continue during the refurbishment. Check the website (click on the link above) for the address and to make bookings. The Buchanan Street premises are still open.
We were seated in the wonderful Salon de Luxe. When it was built. you had to pay extra for your tea in this room as it was so resplendent.
This is one of Mackintosh's crown jewels and it can still be enjoyed in all its glory. He designed everything right down to the waitresses' uniforms. As you can see from this photo, not a cake or sandwich was left.
Our Mackintosh stencils are one of our most popular ranges and it is easy to see why. The style of decorative detail suits many types of interiors and they are so easy to put together in interesting ways. In a way, the use of squares is almost like having a set of building blocks at your disposal. It is easy to be creative with the form and layout of Mackintosh's motifs as we have on a couple of occasions.
I stencilled the walls in this room so I can personally testify it was the most easy and satisfying style of stencils to use. Stencils used here were elements from custom sized TP30 and BB48 as well as MS75 at the standard size. We chose to focus on the black, lilac and cream colours with hints of pink to keep it quite true to CRM's oft chosen palette.
I was so glad to finally get to Glasgow and see some examples in person and am thrilled that his ground breaking work is still appreciated and preserved. Honestly the first thing that strikes you as you see it is how modern it looks. Hard to believe his buildings,interiors, art, furniture and decorative accessories were created over 100 years ago.
All photos Stephen Egglestone unless otherwise stated. Unknown source photos will gladly be credited, just let us know.