Caff Masters: Quentin Reynolds

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Quentin Reynolds at RK Stanleys


Quentin Reynolds designed Alfred in New Oxford St and RK Stanleys in Little Portland St. A great admirer of the classic cafe style, his contemporary spaces are amongst the best modern interiors to be found in London.

"I don't have any training. I do everything by sketches, dimensions, knowing the trade. I've been in the business 20 years and I've worked all round the world.

I come from a painting background using colours. My father's a well known eccentric painter, Roger Reynolds. He lives in Miami now. I learnt my trade through him.

I worked with some of the best decorators in London - having to match colours from bits the size of a fingernail. It's about your personality. It's about understanding the way colours work with people. It's not about education.

I learnt a lot working in the Middle East and the Far East where there's a lot of incompetence on-site. You have to pick things up and make things happen to turn things around.

Everything on-site costs too much money these days. With RK Stanleys there wasn't the money and the architects couldn't work in the confines of what was here.

I'm good at that, working within the room and getting the best out of it without running up huge bills. It's all about being adaptable and knowing how things are constructed. And that saves money. We saved about £200,000 on this place.

I met RK Stanleys founder Fred at his original club in Soho. He said he wanted to do a restaurant. He came to me to sort the paintwork. I latched on to it and then I designed it. Did it all for £17,000.

It used to be a hamburger joint and gangster boozer. I liked the size of it. I wanted that British feel. I used to eat at Alfredos caff on Essex Rd. I knew the family for 18 years. And I got a lot of the look from there, and the Metropolitan caff on Edgware Rd.

I picked up on pale custard yellows. I was influenced by the Lyons' Tea Houses. And I used to be in Berlin a lot where the East German roadside caffs are great, lots of orange and brown. I love the northern European stuff. It's northern light and that's what I like.

RK Stanleys was a bit shock horror to most people. Jonathan Meades said it was very Woolworths. I liked that.

People are embarrassed about the 50s period. But I like it. I like the era after the rock n roll 50s. The Heals building look. The brave new world. Not 'contemporary'. I prefer it when it goes municipal. I used to live in a municipal hat factory round here. 3000 sq ft behind where Sainsburys is now on Tottenham Ct Rd. It was massive.

The chairs in RK Stanleys came out of stuff I saved from the old Farmer's Union in Knightsbridge. Most amazing place, should never have been demolished. All the chairs are based on the ones in that union. I love the booth style.

I've got tons of old US magazines full of architectural stuff. I've got all that crap. Lots of it from Canada. It's better than America. All the provincial towns have the old stuff left - old bowling alleys, old bars...

But I'm not into pastiche. I just take the key elements and move them on. Take them forward, tweak them. I know what people want. I want to do stuff that will be around for 10 years or more. You've got to set your own agenda."

RK Stanleys [Little Portland St] RIP

This lounge cum eaterie cum motorway caff was launched in 1998 some time after the Alfred restaurant on New Oxford St. Alfred caused a storm with its ultra minimalist walls and tables in pale yellow Formica and its basic seating; in 'provincial' London where interiors were still being conceived and built like Forte motels this was revolutionary. Stanleys is a massive step on. The Frank Lloyd Wright relief walls in grey and the dazzling scarlet seats combine to create a modernist ambience unique in the city. The mix of concrete and banquettes is masterly and even the bar seating is superb. We particularly like the municipal clock hidden at the back over the stairwell. With every other bar open in the city aping 70s CarWash disco-flyer styles, RKs is a brutalist banquette spectacular. (Closed Nov 2004)



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