The tea rooms that Charles Rennie Mackintosh designed for the city of Glasgow between 1896 and 1916 are some of the architect's most stimulating works. They were commissioned by a unique character, Kate Cranston, a feminist businesswoman who wanted to offer a cultured and refined meeting place to the inhabitants of an industrialised Glasgow.
Cranston opened her first tea room in Glasgow's centrally located Buchanan Street. For his first two commissions, Mackintosh worked together with George Walton. In 1900, he designed an entire series of rooms in Ingram Street, amongst which is his famous White Dining Room. But his grand project, designed between 1902 and 1904, was the Willow Tea Rooms, whose name was based on the original Gaelic term for the street on which it was located. He redesigned not only the façade but also the interiors, making the willow into a symbolic, ornamental motif. Finally, in 1911, he designed the Chinese Room in the Ingram Street complex.
Cranston sold the business when her husband died in 1917. But the spirit of the tea rooms has been revived today by a modern society called The Willow Tea Rooms. They have recreated the Room de Luxe in the original space of the first Willow Tea Room and, in 1997, opened a second room in Buchanan Street.