Italy comes to Consett
One of the most extensive views available in the North of England is from the top of Blackpool’s famous and much-loved Tower. It has height on its side and, on a clear day does a good job of convincing those who make the trip to the top that the views go on forever.
Much the same experience can be found on the other side of the planet in Sydney, Australia. There, in return for exchanging a few Australian Dollars, anyone with the head, legs and stomach for the exercise, can walk over the imposing arches of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Views there are impressive too, and vertiginous if looking down to the car-deck all those feet below.
At first blush, Blackpool Tower and The Sydney Harbour Bridge might not appear to have a great deal in common. The facts differ. If the same feet that have walked the ‘bridge also climbed the ‘tower, they’d have benefitted on both occasions from the solid feel of steel beneath them. That steel was made in Consett.
Consett stands on foundations today that the stellar rise of the steel industry founded in the mid 1800s. At one time, ‘a pall of red dust’ is said to have hung over the town; airborne oxide from the steelmaking plants. Today, the Red Dust Consett is best known for is delivered in the shape of a pint or two from a local brewer, the steelworks having closed in the 80s.
A skyline once dotted with vast mills and all the other infrastructure trappings that branded the town are no longer there. Today, other businesses have moved in and the complexion of the town is forever changed. That’s not to say that Consett’s lineage rooted in steel will ever be forgotten. With monuments as enduring as Blackpool’s Tower and Sydney’s harbour bridge, how could it be?
Standing today on the site of a former Consett steel works, or at least a small fraction of its immense footprint, is an Italian restaurant that answers to the name of Il Mulino – “The Mill,” in English. The same brick-built premises also house a bar, Altoforno – Blast Furnace.
Il Mulino is the portent of altogether happier times for its premises. Clearly named with a respectful nod toward the industry which practically gave birth to Consett, Il Mulino has been very expertly and tastefully designed and decorated too in order to reflect both the nationality of the cuisine it promotes and to respect the very ground it’s built on.
Turning the restaurant owner’s aspirations and vision into reality is a job that was awarded to Carl Gerry and his team at Design Xpress, itself Consett based. Exterior signing was part of the project, but that represented a small part of the work overall – by far the biggest component was transforming the interior.
Wallpaper was considered but didn’t quite tick the right boxes. There was concern about its longevity in high-traffic areas and it just didn’t present an expansive enough canvas for the soaring and inspiring themes percolating by this time in the heads of all involved.
Enter Metamark and its new DécorMark portfolio of digitally printable wall covering films. The messenger on this occasion was Andy Clay, Metamark’s account manager for the region who was able to support Carl and his team with the application advice and technical support they needed to get up to speed with the new class of media quickly. Just as well, … the restaurant opens in three weeks.
A Baptism of fire probably doesn’t come much hotter and it’s arguably just as well that Consett’s blast furnaces are no longer there to provide it. Carl admits to some reservations about the scale of the job, and the fact that the applied décor solution in the shape of the Metamark DécorMark portfolio was new to him.
The designs used generally draw on Italian influences with colour-ways and other ambient design devices informed by steel and its warm, reddish oxides. The prints are large, and there are plenty of them so they surround diners in the intended ambience and set a tone for the way such exercises should be done in this day and age.
Metamark Etch Effect graphics lend their accent to the overall impression the graphics communicate and expert advisors on Consett validated the design and its heritage – quite a job, whenyou consider it meant starting from scratch.
The DécorMark media presented no challenges in the printing. That’s no accident. Metamark’s development team set out to create an experience with the new media that closely approximates to printing on the long established Metamark MD5. Design Xpress used an HP Latex printer, but the media works equally well with all modern digital ink species.
The revelation came when it was time to apply the materials. Having lost a night’s sleep before the event, Carl Gerry admits to being absolutely convinced and very pleasantly surprised by his experience with the MD-WA textured covering from the DécorMark portfolio, declaring: “It went up like a dream!”
Thanks to the adhesive formulation used, the DécorMark materials stay up too. They’re as enduring as the ambience they and Design Xpress have together succeeded in creating for Il Mulino and the powerful echoes of Consett past but not forgotten.
The client is delighted with the result and Consett and her visitors are delighted to have a new place to meet, eat and enjoy the surroundings. The experience has also given Design Xpress added impetus. The company is now actively encouraging both designers and businesses to undertake similarly thrilling Décor projects.