Leicester’s new, stylish hotspot
Blink and you may miss it, but the Queen Victoria Arts Club is definitely worth a second look. We take a tour of this gorgeous new venue slap bang in the heart of the city's Cultural Quarter.
Designed and developed by local businesswoman Cassie Soulsby, this Grade II Victorian Baroque building has been carefully restored and converted into a modern British restaurant, bar and private members’ club while maintaining much of it’s former beauty.
We caught up with Cassie to talk design, decor and that de Heem artwork (top of my decor wish-list now).
What was your vision for the new venture?
The building had been really badly treated over the years with many of the original features destroyed. The only remaining features are a frieze in the entrance, the bare brick walls and one tiled pillar. Everything else we have put back in. From parquet flooring in the main dining rooms to the Victorian black and white tiles in the entrance. I allowed the design to incorporate other eras such as art deco features in the new Crittall style windows. Other features were picked as design classics that have stood the test of time.
What did you do with the main restaurant area?
The main dining room has a very Victorian feel, parquet floor, high skirting boards, deep frieze and deep Victorian green walls. The huge windows are a new feature. This floor of the building would have been warehousing and so these were just large doors, but the new windows look like they should have always been there and give an incredible view across Orton Square into Curve and The Exchange.
Originally, the bar area would have had an industrial use, therefore we have allowed some industrial features here such as rusted metal tiles for the front of the bar and modern scaffold tubes behind the bar. The booth area keeps some of the aged industrial feel also with distressed tiles over the walls and ceiling. To keep to space warm and welcoming we’ve exposed brick work and made the area cosy with dark painted walls.
The two private dining rooms we wanted to feel different. Taking darker theme from the bar area on the walls, adding art deco Crittall windows, utilising one of the beautiful bare brick walls and complimenting it with a large scaffold plank table with soft comfortable chairs and of course the beautiful feather chandelier.
First impressions last and that entrance is impressive. Talk us through how you got the look.
This building is grand and imposing and needed to have an entrance that made an equal statement. The entrance sets the tone for the rest of the design.
Grand black and white Victorian tiles, an Empress Chandelier style light fittings and a feature wall of de Heem flowers draws the eye and you in. This feature wall was the most important aspect of the design. Once space had been given to a grand entrance the art on this wall became essential.
There’s a different look in each of the rooms/zones – talk me through what you wanted to achieve in each are and how you went about it?
I wanted the experience to be different in every space, there are five different areas whose design all goes together, but the look and feel is different. But if you look carefully there are themes that run though the spaces and link them together. For the The Empress, the Members Lounge in the cellar it was difficult. There was no natural daylight and the last use of the space had been a night club, however there was a major damp problem and a major concern that in fixing that we would lose every natural feature here – not just the texture of brick walls but also the natural arches that being character to the room.
I decided that rather than fight the difficulties here that I would enhance them. I went for a dark opulent colour on the walls, it was difficult to find the correct shade of plum and then difficult to persuade everyone that painting everything the same shade, including the ceilings would work – but it has.
Tables are light scaffold planks which add texture to the room with soft faux velvet fabric chairs in a luxurious chesterfield style. Texture and character is also added with a corrugated steel bar front. Low lighting and oil lamps finish off the cosy, intimate opulent space.
There’s a lot of exposed brick wall which I love – it gives it a bit of an edge and blends the old with the new – was this the idea?
Yes it was to expose any original features to enhance the character of the building and to give back a bit of love to a building that had not been looked after.
Sum up the decor in three words.
Regal, opulent, sympathetic.
In your opinion, what is the best design detail of the building?
So difficult… the windows are amazing both the huge arches on to the square but also the new internal ones. I have a lot of affection for the original features, the brick walls, the front door and the original frieze but I think ultimately it has to be the de Heem Flowers in the entrance. That wall was built especially so that I could create that impact on the entrance and I love it so much that I keep the lights on it even overnight.
The Queen Victoria Arts Club, Queens Building, 41 Rutland St, Leicester LE1 1RD. T: 0116 2512291