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Makeovers

On the one hand, imagine a house full of friends: redecorated and occasionally remodelled or even extended as the generations roll by. Refreshed and adapted to suit the current crowd with one eye on the valued history of their home and another on the needs of the future.

On the other hand, imagine coming home to a TV set created in 48 hours by a shrieking harridan who will not only never come back again, doesn't drink beer (and consequently has no idea what makes a decent drinking haunt) and adores painting ancient wood panelling a revolting purple.

This is about as welcome as sticking fake boobs on the Mona Lisa or a hi-rise spoiler on an E-Type or offering a bottle of MSG to Gordon Ramsay. Just don't do it, please. It's not right and it's not clever.

There are so many bad makeovers, we don't have time to visit or document them all. But here is one example - which just happens to have been perpetrated by the company which once had the proudest name in British Brewing and also the first ever legal trademark in the world. Now, they have neither - so it is scarcely surprising that they don't care about their pubs either.

The Royal Stag in Datchet

This pub used to be a perfectly good village local. It's owned by a village charitable trust and leased to a pubco. A few years ago, they turned this into a suburban wine-bar. The quality of the beer is, actually, OK. But why on earth have they plastered a 1990s wine-bar on top of a genuine, old pub? Doing this to a retail space or new build would be absolutely fine - but what tortured mind puts fake antiquity over real history? Every time I go in there, I want to strip the crap out and put it back the way it should be.

Here is the Royal Stag in Datchet. It is a piece of history sitting in an even more historical village. More Monarchs have been through this village on this road and passed this pub than board members of the Pubco which runs it.

It used to be a tradtional pub - then some designer fashionista vomited magnolia all over it.

For example, these Georgian columns used to have a faux-marble effect making them look like real bits of stone hewed from far-off bleeding Tuscany or wherever.

Now, they're just another B&Q fake Georgian affectation. But this pub is not a fake - it is genuinely pre-Georgian so why bother to fake it up like this?

 

"OK, boys, we've been retained to give this the 'fake pub look #43' so let's paint the black beams magnolia and cover the genuine wood panelled bar in matt black."

Oh for goodness' sake, why?

This part of the pub had been panelled with champagne crates. Loius Roederer, Veuve Clicquot and so on. Maybe a tad naff to some but at least an original feature.

So what did they do? Another bucketload of magnolia to cover up the history. Stripping it back to the original would have been interesting - or even a fresh coat of black as it used to be. But no - just more pattern book blandness.

And how about this? Real old wood beams, panelling and features (like the column) drowned under the spendings of some designer. I have no idea who is responsible for such a horror. But they should have all their crayons taken away.

They don't get it do they: if some soul-less Hilton had this treatment, it would be a vast improvement; but doing this to a real old pub is like scrawling specs and a 'tache on the Mona Lisa. Bloody Vandals.

 

The Royal Stag is not the only makeover example - and some makeovers are even really quite good. The best makeovers can improve a pub beyond all recognition like the Victoria Arms in Binfield back in 1980-ish. But I have yet to visit any pub where matt purple paint looks better than the original panelling.

The Swan Hotel at Staines has just (Feb - Mar 2006) had a major refurb and overall it is a good improvement so Fuller's are to be congratulated. Sadly there has been an outbreak of "pub purple" but this has been pleasurably offset by putting in real wood panelling looking like wood! Let's hope this astonishingly original design idea is taken up by the tossers who work for the pubcos.