The Willow Tea Rooms
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Architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh
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Location Glasgow, Scotland   map
Date 1902 to 1904   timeline
Building Type cafe
 Construction System masonry
Climate temperate
Context urban
Style Art Nouveau
Notes A charming small urban building in the Mackintosh style.


Photo, exterior, street facade

Photo, exterior, street facade

Photo, interior



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Discussion The Willow Tea Rooms Commentary

Designed for Miss Cranston, the Willow Tea Rooms occupy a narrow infill slot on Sauchiehall Street (Scots word, which means alley of willows). The four story building facade sits carefully in its urban context. Its top cornice generally aligns with the four story buildings on each side. The pedestrian and most public levels are distinguished from the more private upper stories with an intermediate cornice, and large central windows of these first two floors contrast with smaller windows in the wall of the upper stories. In contrast, however, to the neighboring masonry facades, dark and heavily detailed, the Tea Rooms are stuccoed white, and the small paned windows, iron standards and window braces, and ornamental tile inserts give it an elegance and lightness appropriate for its purpose.

The facade is a subtly crafted asymmetric composition. The first two floors have large central windows, although the door is placed to one far side. The second floor is bowed over the first, so the first floor window and door are slightly recessed. The upper two floors have larger windows in a smaller bow positioned above the door, repeating the motif of the second floor but also distinguishing the importance of the door and the circulation system behind it from the rooms.

The ground floor of the building extends back into the block, with a skylit mezzanine level overlooking the ground floor dining. Stairs lead up to rooms overlooking the street at the second, third and fourth floors, with the most important Room de Luxe behind the large bow window.  — JY

"The Room de Luxe, being the most complete and best known of Mackintosh's tea room interiors, is on the first floor overlooking the street. Its white walls, silver painted high-backed chairs, crisp white tablecloths and blue willow-pattern crockery, soft grey carpet, chairs and settees covered in a rich purple, leaded mirror glass, enamels in pastel pinks and mauves, and the famous leaded-glass doorway, combine to create a glittering elegance, widely celebrated."

Jackie Cooper, ed. Mackintosh Architecture, the Complete Buildings and Selected Projects. New York: Rizzoli Press, 1980, p. 70.

"Mackintosh, the sole architect on this project, was responsible for both the decorative scheme and the structure of the building, which occupies four storeys on a narrow site. The interior consists of various tea rooms, two major dining rooms, a dining gallery, and a timber-paneled billiards room on the top floor."

—Jackie Cooper, ed. Mackintosh Architecture: The Complete Buildings and Selected Projects. p70.

The Creator's Words

The Creator's Words...

"(The artist) must posses technical invention in order to create for himself suitable processes of expression - and above all he requires the aid of invention in order to transform the elements with which nature supplies him - and compose new images from them."

—Charles Rennie Mackintosh writing on 'Seemliness' drawn from Robert Macleod. Charles Rennie Mackintosh. p97.

Sources on The Willow Tea Rooms

"The Tea Rooms of Mackintosh", by Alan Crawford and Wendy Kaplan, ArchitectureWeek No. 81, 2002.0109, pC1.1.

Donald Corner and Jenny Young. Slide from photographer's collection. PCD.2260.1012.1834.029

Jackie Cooper, ed. Mackintosh Architecture: The Complete Buildings and Selected Projects. ISBN 0-8478-0330-9. NA 997 M3A4 1980. p70-74.

Jackie Cooper, ed. Mackintosh Architecture: The Complete Buildings and Selected Projects. New York: Academy Editions, Rizzoli International Publications, 1980. NA 997 .M3 A4 1980. ISBN 0-8478-0330-9. LC 80-51133. p70.

Howard Davis. Slide from photographer's collection. PCD.2260.1012.1536.017.

Robert Macleod. Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Middlesex, England: Country Life Books, The Hamlyn Publishing Group, 1968. NA997.M3M3. p97.

Andrew McLaren Young. Charles Rennie Mackintosh: Architecture, Design and Painting. Edinburgh: , 1968. NA997.M3S325. detail of chairs, plate 25. Glasgow University, Mackintosh Collection.

John Julius Norwich, ed. Great Architecture of the World. London: Mitchell Beazley Publishers, 1975. detail photo, p218. Reprint edition: Da Capo Press, April 1991. ISBN 0-3068-0436-0. — An accessible, inspiring and informative overview of world architecture, with lots of full-color cutaway drawings, and clear explanations. available at

Kevin Matthews. The Great Buildings Collection on CD-ROM. Artifice, 2001. ISBN 0-9667098-4-5.— Available at  Find books about The Willow Tea Rooms


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