Hotel Le Germain Mercer Street in Toronto invited the design team to transform its on-site restaurant, Victor. With the multitude of surrounding condos, this district is quickly becoming a neighbourhood in its own right – within five years, almost 40,000 people will live within a two-block radius- and Le Germain wanted Victor to become a destination for morning coffee, business lunches, and late-night dining.
Before, the space had no connections with the street, and the only entrance to the restaurant was through the lobby. The design was dark, uninviting, and lacked flexibility, and the venue only functioned as a nighttime establishment.
With the redesign, Victor has a distinct and cohesive brand identity. Now, a highly fluid space comprises a dining area with leather banquettes, a chef’s table in a side alcove and open counter beyond, an intimate bar-lounge, and a cafe with communal harvest table – all of which meld and transition seamlessly into the hotel’s lobby, which the hotel also redesigned to complement the new hospitality space.
Custom-designed specialty lighting was central to setting a new ambiance – one that is approachable, universal, and versatile enough to attract both hotel guests, daytime business visitors, corporate event attendees, and special occasion groups taking part in the city’s adjacent entertainment district for concerts, theatre, screenings, and more.
To impart a sense of vitality and character to the restaurant, the design team hung a custom-designed chandelier of brass tubing, strung with white globes, layered and rotating at different angles. The eye-catching fixture swoops above diners and is visible from the street, drawing interest from passersby. It glows in contrast to the gravel-grey ceiling, and visually drops the ceiling height to a more intimate level.
Entering the intimate lounge, hanging wall lights made from brass tubing and white globes maintain a connection to the feature chandelier in the dining room. LED-lit shelves are artfully decorated with crystal, silverware, and bronze and gilt chargers, and deco lamps line the bar to give extra lighting for guests. Even the inevitable television monitors disappear into smoky mirrors when not in use.
In the cafe, a bright palette creates an airy, daytime feeling. White marble counters and a fluted barista station with a glass display case heighten luminosity. Discreet rows of pendant lights hang over the harvest table and add to the guest experience.
Throughout, fabrics and materials were chosen for their ability to absorb and reflect light, including bronze accents, natural stone, warm wood shelving and millwork, plus playful patterned concrete tiling in the cafe floor, soft sage green tabletops, and serpentine banquettes upholstered in tufted, peacock-blue waxed leather.
What’s it like to design a healthcare space for children? Is it possible to infuse that space with imagination and whimsy, while simultaneously following the practical rules of a healthcare setting, such as infection control, times of operation, and safety?
These are the questions that inspired Stantec’s designers to take a unique approach to the redesign of the Women’s Auxiliary Volunteers (WAV) PlayPark at SickKids Hospital in Toronto. The PlayPark is a volunteer-run space for the siblings of young patients who are at the hospital for treatment. Over the years, the much-loved PlayPark had become outdated. Stantec’s designers were tasked with not only updating the look but upgrading the space to be more functional and accessible.
Two of members of the PlayPark design team — interior designer Laurena Clark, ARIDO and architect Olivera Sipka — sat down to discuss their approach and provide advice for others designing similar spaces.
What was different about the SickKids PlayPark, compared to other projects that you’ve worked on?
Laurena: As designers, we always empathize with, and put ourselves in the position of, the people who will use the spaces we design. But with this project, we realized we needed to get to an even deeper level of emotion. SickKids provided us with touching information—like quotes from kids that have loved the space over the years—that made us more emotionally attached. One young man, who is now in his 20s, wrote about how he was so young when his brother began a stay at SickKids, and this young man felt so lost. Both of his parents were busy with his brother’s care, and the young man never got to see his friends. But he had the PlayPark. He wrote about what a joy it was to visit the PlayPark at such a gloomy time in his life. So, redesigning a space that makes such an impact on the lives of young people is a tremendous responsibility. And my kids are the same age as typical PlayPark visitors, between the ages of 4 and 9. So, on an emotional level, that also impacted my design approach.
Can you talk more about your specific design approach for this project?
Laurena: We were doing so much more than designing a “space.” We were creating an experience for those kids and families. We added zones inspired by nature—like a lake, canyon, and hills—so we could bring a park setting to kids that are inside for long periods of time. Also, the PlayPark isn’t just a space that has a certain function. Most of the spaces we design—such as waiting rooms, for example—have specific functions in mind. And, while a waiting room might have some toys and games, those are isolated activities. As soon as you walk into PlayPark, you’re intrigued to explore. We also had to include so much more depth in the design and the activities available because many kids come to the PlayPark for extended periods of time—days, months, even years. We had to pack a lot more in than you might find in a typical waiting room where a child may only visit for a few hours at a time.
Can you tell us more about the zones inspired by nature? What does that look like?
Laurena: We created a forest landscape in the central open space, which features trees made of thick resin panels to create a “leafy” canopy. The tree trunks are a perfect place to wind through on a tricycle. We added a quiet “cave nook,” with fiber-optic twinkling lights in the ceiling, to create the sense of sitting beneath the stars. This is a space where kids can sit quietly when they might not want to engage. It was important to us that kids have choices as they go through a difficult time. The art studio area features a meadow theme with a giant LED panel of tall grasses with lights overhead that look like fluffy clouds. The performance space is designed with curves to suggest hills, with an organic-shaped seating nook and original illustrations.
What’s your advice for others designing a space for children?
Laurena: Open communication. Create an environment of trust and respect so team members feel comfortable throwing ideas out, even if they’re not perfect.
Olivera: It’s about listening. Make sure you listen to kids’ experiences. While working on this project, we listened to children, parents, and even teenagers who used to visit the space when they were younger.
How did you get into the child-like mindset necessary for PlayPark’s redesign?
Laurena: I just had to shut everything off. For healthcare projects, we’re so used to working within the confines of budget, time, and cleanability. So, I had to stop thinking about all the practical things that block ideas from coming freely.
Can you think of something from your own childhood that you brought to this project?
Laurena: I have lots of memories of exploring freely as a child, such as exploring outside, or looking through my mom’s closet and playing dress-up. So, I wanted to bring a feeling of exploration, as well as surprise. During a visit to PlayPark, my kids loved looking through the cupboards and finding the toys that were in there.
Every surface has storage behind it. That alone is an element of exploration. This contrasts with a lot of other pediatric spaces, where you see toys everywhere. It feels busy, and it’s almost overstimulation. Whereas at PlayPark, you have a clean, bright, airy space, and you can interact with surfaces in different ways. All the clutter is hidden. And there’s that element of surprise, as kids discover what’s behind each door.
Do you have any final pieces of advice to offer someone approaching a project like this?
Olivera: Don’t just focus on technology. When designing for kids, we often tend to look at new technologies, such as interactive screens. But with this project, the focus was on play. It turned out to be more of a whimsical place, where kids have opportunities to be themselves.
Laurena: It’s possible to create a fun space while simultaneously working within the confines of a hospital. We designed PlayPark to hospital standards, in terms of infection control. We used all the same materials that other healthcare spaces use—like rubber floors and solid surfaces—and we considered cleaning, like you would in any other area of the hospital. Everything was wipeable. You can utilize those materials in a way that creates an environment that doesn’t look institutional.
This post originally appeared on Stantec.com’s Ideas Blog. The PlayPark project also recieved an Award of Merit in the 2018 ARIDO Awards.
With radio and communications innovation being a foundational characteristic of their company, the client continued to think outside the box when relocating their radio studios to the second floor of their Bloor Street location. The space bridges the gap between two campus buildings and combines three functions: radio studios, workspace and an employee cafe.
Interior Designer: Laura Jones, ARIDO Design Team: Adriana Pietropaolo, ARIDO; Sharon Turner, ARIDO Design Firm: HOK Project Photographer: Tom Arban, Karl Hiplolito
The design team created an isolated raised floor system that protects against vibrations from the TTC route located below, and exterior wall and window treatments mute day-to-day sounds of the surrounding urban environment. Two high-tech radio studios are positioned as focal points in the space, inspiring interaction while still providing necessary privacy for radio talent with tinted windows. The adjacent agile workspace is designed to support a 24-hour work day for employees.
The cafe space is designed as a connecting boulevard with the café on one side, and the studios on the other, continuously inviting and engaging its users. With an acoustic operable wall, the centre performance lounge lends itself to performances that can be broadcast via the studios or opened to the cafe for a public performance. Neutral, fresh and contemporary architectural finishes were selected to accentuate the public-facing radio studios and additional acoustic elements were incorporated into this vibrant space.
The new staircase connects the ground floor to the second floor, something the client requested specifically, enhancing and facilitating the user experience through the space while engaging them with a display of the company’s radio artifacts. The three spaces are tied together by repeating angular elements inspired by radio waves and the use of copper accents that recall radio batteries.
The space is used throughout the day for planned and spontaneous meetings and the renovation of the studios has provided one of the most technologically advanced radio spaces in Canada. In fulfilling the client’s needs, the designers created a lively, dynamic space that has quickly become the most popular spot on campus.
With the base building already constructed, mechanical, electrical and plumbing of suites already laid, the design team had free rein to propose a fresh update to the room standards of the Marriott Markham.
Interior Designer: Erin Cram, ARIDO
Design Firm: Quadrangle
Design Team: Caroline Robbie, ARIDO
As a hotel primarily serving guests travelling on business, most of the rooms are king sized rooms. However, each suite demanded custom measurements, so the design team simplified the millwork to a modular kit that could be tailored to each layout.
One design element they eschewed almost completely? Drawers! Instead, the desk in each room extends as a long counter, where guests can store suitcases, in an open shelving system, instead of a typical closet with doors. With this revamp of so many familiar elements, the balance of the room is shifted to have a more continuous flow. Even the artwork is stitched into the design, and tailored within the millwork.
The design for Picnic Food’s first street-front shop had to reference previous iterations, in subterranean concourses, in a refreshed experience.
Interior Designers: Ashley Rumsey, ARIDO; Stanley Sun, ARIDO
Design Firm: Mason Studio
Design Team: Marti Hawkins, Intern ARIDO
With more expansion in mind, an adaptable design needed features that would be both easily replicable as well as physically identifiable as key symbols of the brand experience. Repeated linear woven wood textures recall textiles commonly associated with picnics and become an iconic design element for future locations. The communal dining table returns on a trestle base while the lime and watermelon brand colours are present via with greenery in terracotta pots.
Just a few blocks from busy Queen Street East, on a tiny corner lot, the clients engaged the design team to create a serene oasis which felt sophisticated and urban, with the comfort and coziness of a cottage.
Interior Designer: Cathy Garrido, ARIDO
Design Firm: Altius Architecture Ltd.
Photographer: Arnaud Marthouret
The main living spaces are situated on the ground level as the owners wanted to see what is happening around them and feel part of the action as passersby head to the beach and surrounding amenities. From the second floor, the owners needed a more private dwelling, with separation from the bustle around them, especially in the master bedroom. There, they wanted a private space to relax that also had extensive windows and light.
The clients had several must-haves for the rooftop space, an exercise pool, outdoor kitchen and barbecue area, and entertainment areas which didn’t interfere with their private space. Although they entertain often, they emphasized the need to maintain distinctly private family areas in the dwelling. The owners also had an art collection that needed spaces and rooms with simple backdrops in which to best show it off. In terms of interiors, they had a bright but warm space in mind, simple but with interesting details.
In the finished home, interior and exterior flow together, with windows south, east and west, and generous balconies. Sunlight floods in, while balconies provide shade from the hottest sun. Wood soffits and siding add a natural, modern beach house feel.
The ground floor has a strong connection to the busy street. The second floor has a quiet family room and an outdoor balcony where the owners spend their leisure time in the evenings. The master suite on the third floor has an outdoor terrace overlooking Kew Gardens, and provides privacy and quiet for relaxing and recharging, despite expansive surrounding windows.
The rooftop has the desired exercise pool, outdoor barbecue, and kitchen. Stairs from second-floor balcony enable entertaining without cutting into private space and provide special access to late-night swims and sunsets over Toronto from the master suite. When trees are in full bloom, the rooftop is a forest treehouse instead of a city home.
Interiors are completed in a bright palette. Gas fireplaces and lower ceilings provide cozy space for both entertaining and family time. A plaster tile creates texture through the stairwell, and hidden lights add drama. Custom grey-stained oak cabinetry wraps the entryway and kitchen and hides a powder room. Large walls on the north side provide optimal surfaces for hanging art.
The home has a simplicity that feels warm and inviting and creates a feeling of intimacy and coziness. It is the perfect oasis in the city for its owners.
The goal was to design a home with the space and durability to withstand the client’s three growing boys, with a contemporary and refined version of the client’s industrial aesthetic. As an avid cook, they also requested a professional grade kitchen integrated in the house, around which various family activities could take place.
The finished space includes a basement with hockey room and wine cellar, a large open concept main floor, second floor with a master bedroom retreat, and a third floor office. An exterior pool cabana was also designed using reclaimed shipping containers.
One of the main challenges was selecting finishes that would handle the rough and tumble of growing boys, while suiting the aesthetic vision of the project. To provide durability without sacrificing the aesthetic goals, materials such as concrete, walnut, steel, reclaimed wood, soapstone, and classic subway tiles feature predominantly throughout the home. The blend of textures and unique qualities of each material lend to the warehouse inspiration, however their refined application results in an elevated, contemporary design.
The kitchen was placed centrally, and was divided into zones for different preparation needs, storage, and socializing. Counter seating in the kitchen bridges the prep area with the dining area, which is adjacent to the kid’s work space. A towering three-sided fireplace clad in hot rolled steel connects the kitchen to the family room, decorated with family pictures and cookbooks on one side, and the TV and birch logs on the other.
The client sought to personalize the home with intimate design details, such as the red brick wall at the entrance, a nod to southern Ontario’s architectural history, custom schoolhouse doors, a blackened wood ceiling, and a giant red barn door. In a poured concrete floor five pebbles were specially placed representing each member of the family.
While the house was designed primarily with family in mind, areas such as the master ensuite and third floor loft are small retreats for the parents. The overall industrial style is present in these more elegant spaces through black steel framing and hardware.
This new build construction of a 15,000 square foot family home for long time empty-nester clients was a rare opportunity. Having lived in this country acreage north of Toronto for over two decades and accustomed to an upscale lifestyle, the design team aimed to create a refined, yet comfortable abode.
Interior Designer: Neil Jonsohn Design Team: Shauna MacLeod, ARIDO Design Firm: U31 Photographer: Gillian Jackson
The foyer is a bold welcome to the home, with extensive marble detailing, including a staircase clad in marble, combined with a custom bronze railing. An abstract sculpture of falling leaves commissioned by artist Dennis Lin, is integrated with ambient light and suspended through the curving staircase, adding unexpected contemporary glamour.
Moving beyond the formality of the front rooms, spaces at the back take on a more casual atmosphere, allowing for daily routine and entertaining. Incorporating white oak and durable porcelain flooring with contemporary furniture forms, Murano light fixtures and a mix of current and antique rugs, the daily areas are at once comfortable and rich in traditional reference.
The kitchen facilitates the owner’s love of and expertise in cooking, featuring an oversized stainless steel hood surrounded by carved limestone. Stained sycamore and off-white lacquer cabinets, semi-precious quartzite countertops and stainless steel detailing create the chef’s dream.
Drawing inspiration from the lush back garden and pool cabana, the inclusion of floor to ceiling windows across the entire back of the house, offer stunning views, while providing an abundance of natural light to the communal kitchen, family and garden rooms. The injection of colour, particularly shades of blue and red, two of the owner’s favourites, ebb and flow throughout the home.
These communal zones are kept light with soft whites and greys, and animated by pops of colour and beloved travel artifacts. For instance, an oversized brass Moroccan vessel, crafted with patterned cut-outs, is transformed into a glowing wall sconce, displayed above the garden room’s fireplace mantel (pictured above).
Private areas are infused with delicate, silvery-blue-grey tones for her, including silk wall covering, while his are characterized by a more robust flavour: walnut wall panelling, black and gold accents and heavily veined caramel and black marble. Vaulted and cove ceilings are intricately detailed throughout, accentuating the 10′ and 12′ ceiling heights. The balance of rich, warm materials: marble, stone, leather and variety of sumptuous finishes expresses a relaxed luxury that the client was delighted to see achieved.
Located in an emerging part of Toronto’s downtown East, The Bartholomew demanded a design that would attract style-savvy buyers who appreciate an eclectic downtown lifestyle. A home where diversity is not only expected but is celebrated.
Interior Designer: Kelly Cray, ARIDO
Design Team: Margaret Stagg, ARIDO; Eugenia Alvarez, ARIDO
Design Firm: U 31
Project Photographer: Jac Jacobson
The challenge was to create inclusive, affordable, yet stylish interiors for a wide demographic: professionals, growing families, empty-nesters, singles, and couples. Another client directive was to have all art and installations throughout common areas of the tower commissioned to local artists to give back and support the local community. Of note, is a unique black “willow”-like wood sculpture that hangs by the side of the concierge desk against black stone, lending understated glamour.
One manner of appealing to a broad range of lifestyles was to deliver serene spaces where residents could interact and relax. Light is essential in creating a variety of moods, and the design team used this element in multiple ways. The concierge desk, for example, features hexagon mosaic tiles under a wash of concealed light, giving it the illusion of sparkling gems.
In the lobby a dramatic ambient light installation over the seating area becomes a feature element. Contemporary furniture selections, fashioned in neutral tones, continue the Zen, yet hip vibe.
Fitting a lounge, a private dining room, and television room in the compact 2nd floor party room presented a challenge. To achieve this, foldable walls were incorporated so each space could be closed off to accommodate private events; alternatively, the entire space can be opened when walls are folded back.
The rooms are visually connected through black wire lighting that appears in each space. The dining area exudes a clean, mid-century modern and Scandinavian feel expressed through light backgrounds, minimalist lighting, and pops of black, including the chairs: they are all different but of the same era, and unify the seating in a thoughtful and playful way.
For their 45 room resort venture, the clients envisioned the modernity of California beach houses with British eclecticism.
Interior Designer: Eric McClelland, ARIDO
Design Firm: Fleur-de-Lis Interior Design Inc.
Photographer: Nhuri Bashir
Allowing the cliffside topography, climate, and budget to dictate the strategy, the client’s personal preferences of roomy bathrooms, luxurious bedrooms, and exterior sitting areas guided the details.
The design team addressed the long-term life of the resort by sourcing durable finishes and moisture-resistant millwork, incorporating hurricane shutters and awnings for emergency lockdown. Tasteful beachy elements were added: nautical lamps, alongside wicker and teak furniture, keeping the focus on the breathtaking ocean views.