In contemporary marketing the mantra is “You are selling a story…not a product.”
This mantra led me to read a recent article in the New York Times,* which interpreted a paper in Nature,** as saying what happens in the brain when you listen to a story. According to the NYT, the words in the story elicit neural connections that gather information from all parts of the brain, so that you become immersed in the experience as if it were real, and you no longer experience the reality of the outside world.
So when I heard the word “Tearoom” today I first thought of the perfectly designed and curated Gypsy’s Tearoom, located in a 1760 house in Westminster Maryland, surrounded by green grasses, where I recently enjoyed a classic “afternoon tea” served in the classic manner, with classic teas and classic tea sandwiches and more (will go into these in another post)…
Gypsy's Tearoom, Westminster, Maryland
…when my thoughts leapt to a tearoom in Glasgow. Several years ago, my daughter and I made the pilgrimage to the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Willow Tearoom, as much for its design as for its tea.
The Room de Luxe at Willow Tearoom, Glasgow, Scotland.***
We sat at the table to the far right in this image, where you see someone serving tea. From this vantage point we could survey the whole room, though we couldn’t get a glimpse of the busy noisy grey street below.
This is the “Room de Luxe,” as it was called when first created: white white white, with the soft purple upholstery and the shocking pink glass squares in the chairs. White for cleanliness, health, and purity, purple for a hint of royalty, and pink, because tearooms were, in contrast to coffee houses, women’s places—a color between playful innocence and discrete sensuality.
If we had sat at one of the tables shown in the image below, we could have included the street in our purview. And we could have seen people rushing by, very few entering the building where we sat.
Another view of the The Room de Luxe at Willow Tearoom, Glasgow, Scotland.***
The place was sad to us—the spirit of excitement and novelty was gone, of course—art nouveau is hardly nouveau anymore—but at the same time the fixtures themselves don’t age well despite restoration in 1983. As Wikipedia says: “The tea room however has fallen into disrepair and is now lacking its originally intended atmosphere and quality. Fans of Mackintosh are urgently calling for a more sympathetic restoration.”
What a contrast to the 1760 building that houses Gypsy’s Tearoom: it has aged gracefully, and in fact a little aging coupled with a little nostalgia made it all the more attractive!
Gypsy's Tearoom, Westminster, Maryland.