Historic Glasgow home of Rennie Mackintosh to become cosmetic surgery hospital

Darren with one of his patients. <i>(Image: BBC)</i>
Darren with one of his patients. (Image: BBC)

A LANDMARK Glasgow building which was once the home of Charles Rennie Mackintosh is to become a “luxury” cosmetic surgery hospital full of “super-specialists” in the field.

The journey to transform the historic site is captured in a new four-part BBC Scotland documentary series, Facelift, which starts on March 28.

The show follows aesthetic doctor Darren McKeown and his husband and business partner Tom Cronin as they plan the new facility, which will include overnight “presidential suites”, consulting and treatment rooms and a grand reception area.

Glasgow Times: Mackintosh House
Glasgow Times: Mackintosh House

Mackintosh House (Image: Two Rivers Media)

The couple claim the building, on the corner of Bath Street and Blythswood Street, will become “the world’s finest, most luxurious cosmetic surgery hospital, the best that’s ever existed” and will make Glasgow “the centre for cosmetic medicine globally.”

Mackintosh House dates to the 1830s and between 1900 and 1906 was home to the renowned architects and designers Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Margaret Macdonald. It served as the headquarters for the Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland headquarters for around 30 years.

Glasgow Times: Builders start work on the interior of the building.
Glasgow Times: Builders start work on the interior of the building.

Builders start work on the interior of the building. (Image: BBC)

The programme also follows Darren and Tom’s quest to be parents, as they prepare for the arrival of baby daughter Ophelia, born with the help of a surrogate in Arizona.

Glasgow Times: Tom, left, and Darren, with Ophelia and Maisy the dog
Glasgow Times: Tom, left, and Darren, with Ophelia and Maisy the dog

Tom, left, and Darren, with Ophelia and Maisy the dog (Image: Dr Darren McKeown)

Darren says: “It was stressful being followed around by the cameras, while everything else was going on, but I’m so glad we did it.

“I want the documentary to achieve three things: firstly, I hope it shows that same sex families can live happy, successful productive lives. Often gay men are portrayed on TV in a stereotypical way, and we need to move away from stereotypes. I hope it shows us as just a normal family.”

He adds: “Secondly, I hope the programme gets across that cosmetic surgery is not all about what you see on Love Island, or on social media, that there is a bit more substance and worth and value to what we do. And finally, I hope we show that you can have a good high-quality business in Glasgow. It doesn’t have to be London or LA for something like this to happen.”

Darren, who is from Hamilton, was working as a junior surgeon for the NHS in London when he met investment banker Tom, who is originally from Portsmouth.

“We came back to Scotland nine years ago, for a better quality of life,” says Tom. “When I first came up to Glasgow, I was made to feel so welcome, everyone wants to talk to you, and you don’t get that in London.”

Darren, whose current clinic in Glasgow offers treatments ranging in price from around £225 for Botox to £3250 for a facelift, is keen to “bust the myths” surrounding cosmetic surgery.

In the first episode, he says: “I didn’t want to work for a traditional, commercial chain of clinics, where everything is about the bottom line and seeing as many patients and selling as much as you possibly could.

“I wanted to create a practice that would treat aesthetic medicine with the respect it deserves and deliver excellent care to the patients.”

In the new hospital, he says, “specialisation” will be the key.

“In cosmetic surgery, often the person who does your nose also does your facelift, and your liposuction,” he explains.

“There are lots of people who are competent in lots of different areas of cosmetic surgery, but we want excellence. So the person who does the facelifts will only do facelifts. We want a team of super-specialists, all under one roof.”

Tom admits: “Before I met Darren, I probably had that common misconception that the industry is all about the overdone look…the big lips, and it’s all fake, and it’s all unnatural. But it’s about improving the patient’s mental wellbeing.”

He adds: “Cosmetic surgery is about making normal people feel better about something that’s bothering them.”

Darren agrees: “My job is not to make people stand out, it’s to make them blend in. There is a perception that cosmetic surgery is somehow different from medical surgery but the underlying principle is the same, it’s about helping people.”

Darren admits he was “shocked” to hear about rising cases of people from the UK dying following "medical tourism" abroad.

“It is alarming,” he agrees. “I understand why patients might be tempted by the prices in places like Turkey, for example, but I don’t think people understand the seriousness of what they are doing.

“It’s not like a trip to the hairdresser, it’s not like getting your nails done. There are serious repercussions if things go wrong.”

The couple’s hopes of being in the new building last year were dashed after delays in the building project, but Darren and Tom hope work will be finished later this year.

Glasgow Times: Tom and Darren with baby Ophelia
Glasgow Times: Tom and Darren with baby Ophelia

Tom and Darren with baby Ophelia (Image: Dr Darren McKeown)

Baby Ophelia, however, did arrive right on time, and her two dads are besotted.

“She is fabulous,” sighs Tom. “We’re loving being dads, and we’re excited about the future.”

Facelift starts on BBC Scotland and BBC iPlayer on March 28.