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Restored Glasgow tea rooms welcome guests on Mackintosh anniversary

The restaurant and tea rooms, known as Mackintosh at The Willow, has undergone a £10 million restoration.

The original Willow Tea Rooms building has welcomed its first guests since a £10 million restoration on the 150th anniversary of its designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

The original Glasgow business opened in 1903 and remains of international significance as the only building where Mackintosh had total control over the architecture and interior decorations, including the design of furniture, cutlery and the waitress’s uniforms.

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Chloe Smythe, Chloe Foley and Emma Jane Ferguson start work at the upgraded restaurant, Mackintosh at the Willow, in Glasgow (Jane Barlow/PA)

The 200-seat restaurant and tea rooms, now known as Mackintosh at The Willow, has undergone a £10 million restoration and will open to the public later this year but guests, including elderly members of Garnethill community centre, will take tea in the restaurant on Thursday to mark Mackintosh’s anniversary.

Other guests include people who contributed to the restoration, Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) deputy chair Dame Seona Reid and Glasgow Lord Provost Eva Bolander.

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Building contractor Gerry Cummins, who helped refurbish the upgraded Mackintosh at the Willow (Jane Barlow/PA)

The Willow Tea Rooms Trust described the restored building as a “living, breathing museum”.

Trust chair Celia Sinclair said: “It is fitting that some of our first guests should be from the local community centre.

“It has always been our aim for the building to be used for the good of the people of Glasgow.

“The tea rooms, visitor centre and learning and education suite are an integral part of the aims and objectives of the trust to educate and inspire and restore and preserve this iconic piece of Glasgow’s heritage.”

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New teasmith Holly Murphy on her first day at Mackintosh at the Willow (Jane Barlow/PA)

Marcus Kenyon, chief executive of Mackintosh at the Willow, said: “We are delighted to welcome our first guests to 217 Sauchiehall Street.

“They have had a sneak preview of the interior and we have had a dress rehearsal for our full opening in September 2018.”

Dame Seona said: “Charles Rennie Mackintosh left Scotland with a wonderfully rich heritage and a distinguished place on the world’s architecture and design stage.

“Thanks to players of the National Lottery, HLF has been able to support many projects which restore and celebrate his achievements and it is particularly exciting to see the original Willow Tea Rooms building come back to life so that afternoon tea can once again be enjoyed as he, and Miss Cranston, first intended.”

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