'Chinese Room' from The Ingram Street Tearooms

About this object

In 1911, Mackintosh re-designed the Men's Tea Room of Miss Cranston's Ingram Street Tearooms as the 'Chinese Room'. The ceiling was high and latticework screens were used to lower it, panel the walls and divide the room. He created a dark and exotic atmosphere with details inspired by the motif of a Chinese pagoda. The room had a bold and geometric design, contrasting with the atmosphere of the light and airy ladies' lunch room, designed eleven years earlier.

Towards the end of the nineteenth century it had become popular to go out for lunch or tea, rather than staying at home. Glasgow's cafes, known as 'tea rooms' soon became a fashionable place to meet people, see and be seen. As the name suggests, tea rooms comprised a number of different rooms in one building. There were spaces where men and women ate together and also separately. Ladies had rest rooms with couches and writing desks and for men there might be a billiards room, smoking room or places to play cards or dominoes.

Miss Cranston's tea rooms were the best known of all. She had opened her first tea room in Argyle Street in 1878 and by 1911 she had a successful chain of four. Miss Cranston was married, but she kept her maiden name for work. An astute business woman, she quickly realised the importance of modern interior decoration to her success. She gave Mackintosh his first tea room commission in 1896. It was hugely significant and the Glasgow tea rooms that Mackintosh designed for Miss Cranston are among his best known and most original work.
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