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Design inspiration: The Kitchin, Edinburgh

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We don’t normally feature restaurants, but when W&W collaborator Emily Murray, founder of our new favourite interiors site The Pink House, told us about The Kitchin, we just had to know more. Not only is the food amazing, but the design is pure rustic luxe – and most importantly, just the kind of thing that’s possible to steal inspiration from and recreate at home. We particularly love the silver birch panels and mini-stools just for your handbag…

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“When I moved to Edinburgh nearly five years ago, I pined for London. I missed the buzz, the glamour, the sense of being where it was at. Most of all, I missed the bars and restaurants, which encapsulated all of the above. When it comes to food, Edinburgh punches well above its weight, with five Michelin-starred restaurants; more than in any other UK city outside London. The quality of comestibles in Edinburgh’s top restaurants is not in doubt. But do they have the glamour? The buzz? The where-it’s-at? Not so much.

Except for at The Kitchin.

Tom Kitchin’s The Kitchin is one of Edinburgh’s aforementioned Michelin-starred restaurants, and it is far and away the best. Yes, the food is every bit as incredible as you’d expect (highlight of my last visit was the superlative-requiring ‘rockpool’: a round, straight-sided bowl containing an eco-system’s worth of tiny, delicious sea creatures swimming in a shellfish consommé AKA ‘the tide coming in’), but it’s The Kitchin’s sumptuous, dramatic interior that sets the scene for the finest eating experience the city has to offer.

Michaela Kitchin – Tom Kitchin’s wife and mum to their four boys – is the genius behind the recently expanded and redesigned restaurant’s look and feel. So when she offered Wear & Where a tour of the restaurant and a chat in its new whisky snug, I jumped at the chance to ogle the fabulous wallpaper, discover her design inspiration, and get some advice on juggling work and family.

What inspired the redesign?

We started the restaurant in 2006 and won our Michelin star in 2007, but after nearly a decade we were seriously running out of space. We managed to acquire the restaurant next door, which gave us the opportunity to realize our vision of reflecting The Kitchin’s ‘From Nature To Plate’ philosophy in the dining room. The idea is that the room itself blends seamlessly with the fresh, seasonal local produce to showcase Scotland at its very best. So, for the interior that meant bringing in elements such as tartan, tweed, wood, stone, glass and pottery, as well as patterns and designs that reflect Scotland’s nature. Essentially, we wanted to keep the heart and soul of the old restaurant, but take it to the next level and create a space we would want to eat in ourselves.

Was it hard to decide where to start?

Not at all! Interior design has always been something I’ve loved; I’m always reading magazines and watching TV shows on interiors, so I’ve been carrying my vision for the restaurant in my head for years, waiting for the right time to make it reality. I put a great deal of thought into it, as I wanted the restaurant to be extra-special.

The bar’s much bigger than it used to be, isn’t it?

Yes; that was one of the key elements of the redesign – for me, going for a nice meal should be like going to the theatre; you want it to be an uplifting experience from start to finish. Creating a sumptuous space where guests can enjoy a range of seasonal cocktails, or savour a dram or two in the whisky snug, makes the meal itself more special. We also now have a 22-seat private dining room, where we used the Timorous Beasties ‘Classic Hunt’ wallpaper that’s in the bar, but in a different colour way. This helps the room to have a slightly different ambience while still feeling connected to the main restaurant.

The restaurant was originally used as a whisky bond – are there any original features remaining?

When we ripped down the plasterboard in the new area we discovered the original stone arches that the horse-and-carriages drove through carrying the whisky barrels, so we kept those exposed, along with other expanses of pock-marked original stonework. I love those little imperfections that add to the building’s character, such as a missing brick in the pillar. When I told the builders I didn’t want the brick replaced they looked at me strangely and said, “are you sure?”

Did your Scandinavian background influence the design at all?

There’s definitely a hint of my heritage in the interior, for example the sheepskin stools [for people, and mini ones for handbags – your Mulberry is safe here], which I had made bespoke by my carpenter. But they’re still Scottish at heart, though – the sheepskin comes from the Isle of Skye.

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What are your favourite aspects of the redesign?

I really love how the silver birch trunks bring nature indoors. I was looking for a wallpaper to complement them and discovered these silver birch panels instead, which are just perfect – such a gorgeous colour and texture. I also adore the smoked glass lamps from Rothschild & Bickers – my favourite is the tassled one in the corner, although Tom wasn’t convinced at first!

Speaking of Tom, did you involve him in the redesign?

This restaurant is a partnership, a family business. [After Tom introduces himself, a distinguished-looking man walks past and says hello] That’s Tom’s dad, for example! So I knew that Tom had to be happy with my plans. Saying that, I was given a pretty free rein to make the dining room and bar design decisions myself, as Tom trusts me and knows how much I care about it. However, when it came to the design of the kitchen he was very hands-on.

So how do you look after four kids and run a hugely successful business?

Well, I’m not superwoman, that’s for sure – it’s all about asking for help. We women can be rubbish at asking others to help us, but I’m lucky to have such supportive friends and family. I see it as teamwork – done right, we should all gain from working together. The rest of it’s down to carefully planning my time, multi-tasking and juggling everything – these are skills women have in abundance!

GET THE LOOK

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Classic Hunt wallpaper, £220 per roll, Timorous Beasties; Tasselled lamp by Rothschild & Bickers; Bowls by Clare Dawdry

 

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