Restored Willow tearooms named best in Scotland

The newly restored Mackintosh at the Willow tearoom in Glasgow has scooped the top award in a prestigious competition to honour community-led built projects from across the country.

The restored Salon de Luxe, which was designed as 'a fantasy for afternoon tea'. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA

The multi-million pound project, which saw Glasgow businesswoman Celia Sinclair lead a team to painstakingly restore the building to exactly how Charles Rennie Mackintosh designed it, has been named Project of the Year, Scotland in the Royal Institute of Charted Surveyors (RICS) Awards.

The restoration of the 1903 Willow Tea Rooms on Sauchiehall Street triumphed over 35 of the country’s most inspiring property projects to win the Building Conservation category, before being handed the top accolade. The highly acclaimed title is presented to the category winner that demonstrates outstanding best practice and commitment to adding value to its local area.

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RICS judges praised the tearoom development, which won a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, for the “incredible care” that was taken to preserve original features and to faithfully recreate original furniture and fitments through detailed research and use of local artisans and craftsmen.

Since its transformation, the project has attracted international interest. The A-listed art nouveau building is the only surviving example of a tearoom designed in its entirety by Mackintosh, who oversaw the look of everything from windows to teaspoons.

Colin Smith, chair of the judging panel for the RICS Awards in Scotland, said: “Great care and attention to detail was taken during this restoration.

“Additionally, a Trust was established to manage the building and the £10 million used to restore it internally and externally has also been utilised to provide wider long-term community benefits.”

Jean Sinclair, executive director of the Willow Tea Rooms Trust, said: “We are delighted, this award is a great tribute to a very small team, the Board of Trustees, the expert advisory panel and all involved in the project. We would like to give a special thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund.”

Dundee’s V&A Museum won the tourism and leisure category at the awards, while the luxury Playfair development at Donaldson’s - a former school turned into high-end apartments in Edinburgh - was named best in the residential category.