Designing The Fishpool Inn: an interview with Ken Roscoe from Lister Carter
Lister Carter is a bespoke design and fit-out company based in Chester. They work with independent clients from Michelin star restaurants and gastro pubs to boutique shops. All their clients have one thing in common and that is a passion for their environment and a desire that their interiors should have something truly unique with genuine attention to detail.
We interviewed Ken Roscoe from Lister Carter to find out more about their approach to designing The Fishpool Inn.
1) What is the scope of your involvement and how early on did you get involved in the refurbishment of The Fishpool Inn?
We actually hate the phrase ‘interior designer’ because it sounds like we only choose cushions and curtains where actually we’re more interior architects because we influence the building from the inside out. This way every part of the fabric of the building feels like one seamless design rather than an architect creating the outside of the building & an interior designer creating the inside.
2) What is the overall design theme for The Fishpool?
It truly is a country retreat. When you walk in through the first front doors you walk into a double height vaulted ceiling with oak panelling, oak flooring and staircase leading up to the male/female toilets. You get the feel of the old building and that’s the one thing we wanted to retain.
The Fishpool had lots of little nooks and we’ve kept the L-shaped barn as a series of compartments each having their own feel: the first two rooms look a bit like an old boys’ bar with oak peg rails on the wall, an old tiled floor and very traditional bar with hand pumps. It feels very local.
The next set of rooms become more like library spaces and we’ve dedicated a couple of rooms to the theme of polo and we’re working with the Cheshire Polo Club to collate historical images of the sport. The whole sporting, hunting, shooting, fishing theme feels really apt for a building like this in the heart of Cheshire.
3) What first impressions do you want to create for a customer visiting The Fishpool Inn for the first time?
Warmth & hospitality is really the two key factors. If they walk in there and they feel welcome and feel comfortable in their environment, we’ve done our job well. The last thing we want people to do is consider, ‘Oh, what am I going to wear to go to The Fishpool?’ We want people to feel like they can go there anytime or for a special occasion because you will always feel welcome.
4) What are the major internal changes from the old Fishpool Inn and the new layout?
The changes inside are radical. When we started unpeeling the building in its layers, the structural integrity was found to be severely lacking and so many parts had to be rebuilt.
What we didn’t want to lose was the heart and warmth of the building. Where in modern day structures you would have steel beams to hold up floors, we have painstakingly sourced European oak beams. So that people might question “was that here before or is that brand new?” And I think most people will consider the pieces brought in were the originals.
5) Were there any external influences to your design choices?
The Cheshire countryside more than anything . You couldn’t get a more typical Cheshire building really – a white rendered long barn on a corner; it feels very quaint. However, we’ve taken the heart of the old and breathed new life into it with the addition of these beautiful hand-carved oak structures that form the extensions of the building.
True craftsmen are working on this building and the designers are using nothing but natural materials; if we use stone, we use true stone, it it’s oak, we use solid oak and only from Europe, not white oak from America. You can really see the dedication and respect the Nelsons have given to this building.
6) How important is lighting in a restaurant and does it differ in the bar area and restaurant?
Lighting has to do a number of things. We have task lighting so our kitchen and serving staff can see what they’re doing at the bar or waiters station. Then we’ve got general ambient lighting to set the mood.
All the lighting in the public areas in the Fishpool is computer controlled and set so that the lighting seamlessly changes throughout the day and evening maintaining the perfect mood for the time of day.
Alongside that we then have kinetic lighting which is brought in by candlelight and real fires so that we can get that lovely warmth and glow that makes you feel so welcome.
7) Are there certain colours that affect appetite and mood?
Classically people would say ‘dining room red’ or ‘eating room red’ is the one that fuels appetite and it is 100% true. However, if you’re sitting in a building surrounded by a forest and overlooking green fields you can’t discount the amount of green that people see. And to put something as harsh as ‘eating room red’ next to that could be jarring.
We’re working with very natural colours so that when people walk into the space, they don’t feel uneasy because we’ve created an environment that is suitable for lunchtime, morning meeting, afternoon tea or dinner on a Saturday night. And the best way of doing that is using a natural colour and then affecting this with light.
8) How have changes in the way people eat out affected how you design a restaurant?
People these days enjoy eating out much more informally. In a Michelin star restaurant what you pay for is space between the tables, the grandness of the room and the time given to your meal. In a gastro pub environment people want to enjoy the excitement of the space – something that actually makes us eat faster.
Overall, people are more sociable and like the burble of the noise in the room because it adds to the dining experience.
9) What’s been the most enjoyable aspect of working on a project like The Fishpool?
All of the Nelsons are passionate about what they do and passionate about detail. They all believe wholeheartedly in the truth and honesty of every part of the business, whether it’s the provenance of food or the provenance of the timber that comes into the building. And that is refreshing to work with because we’re not set the challenge of just building a stage set, but rather we’re creating something real.
The biggest hurdle has been the structure of the existing building and uncovering its many defects which has increased the work tenfold for the construction team on site. But ultimately the Nelsons - as seen by their other properties - don’t operate under a quick fix solution; their objective is all about quality and longevity.