A contemporary interior deserving of its own hashtag

Our client’s vision of marketing their 49-storey downtown Toronto condominium was to create an unconventional presentation centre and media campaign. By partnering with Toronto Life , the go-to magazine for the city’s cultural beat, ‘VIP’ passes were given to community influencers to attend the project’s sales launch along with other special events at the presentation centre.

Interior Designers: Kelly Cray, ARIDO and Neil Jonsohn, ARIDO

Design Team: Christianne Barbuto, Intern ARIDO

Design Firm: U31 

Photographer: Jac Jacobson

Inspiration for Maverick’s two-storey presentation centre, located in a heritage building on King Street West’s ‘restaurant row’, was drawn from the social thrust of the campaign and the target market of entrepreneurial thirtysomethings. Mindful of this, our team conceived an aesthetic that is contemporary  with an eclectic edge. 

Bar with industrial style stools, greenery on the wall behind the bar and hanging wicker chairs beside, reinforcing the outdoor feel

Multiple objectives were at play in this project: it needed to communicate a neighbourhood vibe and pilot the concept of a ‘social club’ pop-up on the second level, while simultaneously promoting the building’s amenities and company brand.

The vision to market this concept in an innovative manner, resulted in establishing an unconventional presentation environment. Instead of a reception desk, visitors are greeted by a cafe style entrance where an elongated marble coffee bar, with a 12 screen media wall sets the tone of a sophisticated retail boutique. Instead of the usual marketing assets, pieces of lifestyle photography convey to the target customer what the project is all about.

Lounge area with two black velvet sofas facing each other against a wood finish wall with oversized lifestyle photographs and a built-in digital screen

This space quickly puts visitors at ease: outdoor inspired hanging woven swing chairs and a feature botanical wall contribute to the overall warm, welcoming environment. Suite finish selections and scale building model are displayed as artwork, conveying an elegant retail space. 

The visitor experience continues on the second level with zones reflecting the condominium’s multiple amenity offerings. Having potential purchasers navigate through lounges, games room, beauty bar, and co-working spaces, provides an immersive experience and offers a glimpse of what’s to come in the finished project . 

Large bar in on the right running along the entire depth of the room and lounge spaces on the left for comfortable seating and collaborating. Predominantly black and wood finishes

The overall mandate was to create a private social club vibe that would appeal to individuals with their ‘fingers on the pulse’. The design captures the look and feel of a trendy VIP destination – casual, yet sophisticated with materials that are eclectic, while dramatic: sumptuous velvet and leather upholstered contemporary furniture forms, rich woods and bold black accents.

 A major challenge to overcome was the existing, old, uneven floors. Leveling wasn’t an option due to budget constraints, so we did minor building-up of floor sections with plywood, and covered the ground and secondlevels with a very forgiving laminate flooring that possessed a measure of flex. It was a very successful solution. 

Two adjacent playful spaces enclosed by glass walls, in a predominantly black and white color scheme with some biophilia on the wall

Two well-planned ‘swanky’ events in the second level social club, attracted over 550 attendees, including many of the city’s well heeled cultural and design influencers. These parties created buzz around the upcoming development making the entire marketing effort an enormous success.

Staying Organized – And Other Ways To Keep It Together

Feeling stressed because you’re surrounded by stuff? That stuff can actually make you happy if it’s efficiently and artistically displayed.  And when organized properly, you can grab and go.  Technology has helped reduce or eliminate the need for some stuff, like books and record albums, but we still need to store the items that we do collect.

Storage, home organization or space solutions – whatever you call it – has become a science using the latest technology. For example Richelieu has teamed up with Panasonic to create revolving closet systems and shelves that pull down and return pneumatically, providing innovative ways to make our lives easier.


Whether you’re living in a tiny studio or a mansion, many of the same rules apply when it comes to getting organized: 

  • Purge: Get rid of things you don’t need or that don’t give you pleasure in some way.
  • Learn to make sacrifices:  In a small or large space, every object matters.  Real estate is expensive and learning how to use that real estate, means making choices and focus on priorities.
  • Inventory items that need storage and display:  Determine what type of storage or shelving you need and house them accordingly.  Make this scientific by knowing how much linear and square footage space is required.  
  • Design and plan:  Plan where these items are going and then find the design solutions you need to maximize and beautify your space.
  • Planned properly you can achieve maximum benefit in any space.


Storage is divided into three categories: 

  1. In sight and in mind. Open shelving allows us to see what we own, defining our unique personalities. Free standing or bolted to the wall, shelving is simple.  The structure itself can be a design feature, elevating your simple objects into things of beauty. 
  2. Out of sight and out of mind. Closets or storage rooms are enclosed empty spaces.  You can add rods or shelving to suite your requirements.  People are now choosing to turn closets into dressing rooms, enclosing items in cabinetry and revealing only what’s most precious and notable through glass cabinets.  If you own shoes, purses, belts or ties that are beautiful and cost a pretty penny, then why not put them on display like an art object in a glass case?
  3. Combining in and out of sight. Say we’ve opted for open-plan spaces instead of separate rooms for our functions. Even kitchens are now blended in, requiring special thinking on how to manage all its requirements.  While one-room living reveals all, do we really want to show off everything? 

Storage credenzas, shelving and wall units can act as free-standing room dividers to delineate space.  One company that provides unique items is Design Within Reach (DWR).  It is a go-to destination for design sophisticates.  Their variety of cabinets and shelving units are real designer heirloom classics that can make space efficient and extra special.


Each home is unique, not only in structure, but also in the personality and vision of its owner. While standard shelving and storage units are available at most home store, and while you can hack Ikea, it is best to give your storage needs the attention they deserve. Investing in custom built-in storage solutions will enhance the value of your house, much like investing in kitchen or bathroom renovations.

Knowing that everything is in its place and there’s a place for everything helps liberate us from our stuff.

And, that makes all the difference in the world.


An Interior Designer’s Mini Guide To Bar Design

A bar by any other name is still a bar.  It can be an espresso bar, a wine bar, or maybe a sports bar.  Stand-alone or as part of a kitchen. It can be dry or wet.  Which one would you prefer?

Dry Bar – No Plumbing Involved

A dry bar is simple to set up, especially where space is an issue. It can be a bar cart or a dedicated nook with a cabinet and counter (below right). Bar accessories are a definite must.

Wet Bar – H2O Required

You can modify an open-plan kitchen where the island becomes the bar (below left).  Or, you can construct one in the basement as part of your very own entertainment complex, or a spa bathroom, or bring it outside to create your own mini-resort, where you can mix a batch of frozen margaritas while you’re flipping steaks.

Anatomy Of A Bar – The Basics 

Put all your ideas on paper and just like the pros, let’s use ergonomic standards and proper measurements for optimum bar design.

  • Bar Height: 42 inches to 45 inches high. Great for sitting or standing.
  • Sitting At The Bar: 8in. deep for your knees. The more the better.
  • A special touch? Include a small hook for hanging a jacket or a purse.
  • Body Width: 24 inches per seat. 30 inches is better and feels less crowded. Stand-up or sit down, a bar stool is a great prop. Bonus points for stools that go up and down.
  • Foot Rail: 7 inches to 9 inches off the floor. A classy touch and appreciated by people with back problems.
  • Bar Top: 16 inches to 20 inches wide. Materials should be sturdy and waterproof. Add panache through colour and pattern.
  • Behind The Bar: Install a 36 inch high counter to mix cocktails, slice lemons, set bottles or install a sink. Under this counter make sure you have a waste receptacle, a microwave oven and mini fridge for snacks and ice.
  • Back Of The Bar: The highest reachable shelf should be 69 inches to 72 inches high. Above that is storage.
Bar counter with blue lit backsplash.

Other important items:

  • Back Bar Shelves: Needs to fit the tallest and widest bottles you stock.
  • Flooring: A wet bar gets messy, so a resilient floor is necessary.
  • Electrical, Light Switches And A Sound System: Party central needs power, ambience and great music.
  • Building Codes: Check them. Safety comes first.

The Extras – The Ultimate Pro Details 

  • Beer Taps: Keep in mind that flushing the system is mandatory. Too much work? Stick to bottled beer.
  • Wine Fridge: For chilling any bottled liquid beverage.
  • Ice Maker: Never run out of ice!
  • Espresso Machine: Caffeine is always required.

The Wow Factor

Here are a few tips and trends to impress:

  • Vary Your Lighting: Add style through statement sconces or titillate with LED backlighting to shelving (see below), a foot rest and bar front lip. Provide recessed general lighting overhead and add pendants to enhance your theme. Don’t forget dimmer switches for a signature mood.
  • Mix-up Your Finishes: Here’s where you can use fanciful woods, metallics and statement tiles. Think textures, patterns and colour.
  • Use Glassware and Bottles As Decor: A wine wall with fancy labels can show off your sophistication. Lots of glasses of different shapes and sizes can sparkle with strategic lighting placement.
  • Floating Shelves: Display your favourite spirits or memorabilia.
  • Television: Root for your home team in style.

And, remember no matter what age, shape, size, or planet – sitting or standing – let’s make sure your bar can accommodate everyone who wants to join in the festivities.

So use this Interior Designer’s Guide wisely and let’s make very merry fun.

All project images from Dolores Pian.  

A Stunning Lobby Transformation into a Functional and Modern Interior

Every now and then a project comes along that we know will be challenging but we cannot wait to roll up our sleeves and figure out the best way to approach the design and provide the client with the best option possible for their needs.

Interior Designer: Vitorhya Shields, ARIDO
Team Members: Marley Roppolo, Intern ARIDO; Amanda Tsui, Intern ARIDO
Design Firm: Shields and Associates Interior Design Consultants
Photographs: S+A
Contractor: HiTower Contracting

This beautiful lobby at 140 Simcoe is one of those projects. The high traffic lobby at this upscale condo building in the heart of downtown Toronto needed an upgrade for several reasons. With 50% Airbnb rental units, luggage rolling in or out, and a large volume of deliveries each day we had to rethink the entire layout of the lobby and reorganize it for better security, flow of visitors and deliveries, and storage of luggage and packages. The existing space was dark, heavy and dowdy; nothing like a modern building should be. The aesthetic we were asked to create was a fresh, bright, modern, energetic vibe with a vision for low maintenance and longevity of materials.  

The security desk was removed and a new one was built in the optimal location for the guard to be able to follow everybody coming in and out while never missing a package delivery. The concierge can even retrieve stored packages without losing sight of the entry and elevators. The desk is also large enough to accommodate two staff at the busiest times of day and year. 

The security desk was designed with a dropped counter for barrier free service. The transaction top, guard side monitor wells and movement spaces all accommodate barrier free height and space requirements and under the building code. 

One of the biggest challenges of this project was moving the security desk while keeping the security systems intact throughout the process. The second major challenge of renovating a busy lobby is keeping the traffic flowing while safely removing all the existing floor tile. We worked with our clients to communicate the process and daily schedules to the condominium residents to reduce surprises and keep everybody informed about all the inconveniences. 

We collaborated with the building security company to keep all the cameras and enter phone systems operational, with Canada Post for relocating the mail room and new mailboxes, and with the contractors for all the daily materials deliveries and garbage removal within a tiny loading space. This is one of our incredibly successful projects combining effective function and gorgeous aesthetic. 

History Repeats Itself

Everything ‘old’ is new again on this recent condo project by Vitorhya Shields, ARIDO and her team. They were approached to renovate the lobby of this downtown Toronto condo. It had great bones, with a classic upscale 1970’s look, limestone walls, and a linear metallic ceiling in bright gold.

Interior Designer: Vitorhya Shields, ARIDO
Team Members: Marley Roppolo, Intern ARIDO; Amanda Tsui, Intern ARIDO
Design Firm: Shields and Associates Interior Design Consultants
3D illustrations: Design Solutions
Photographs: S+A

The client’s three major issues were a set of stairs leading to a raised seating area, storage space for resident’s deliveries, and the lack of security equipment space. The older professional demographic also wanted to retain the existing architectural elegance while updating to a more modern take on the original. It was quite a list of challenges.

Vitorhya Shields, ARIDO and her team completed the space planning, design, construction drawings and project management of the whole project including mail room, security area and elevator lobby.

The new finishes integrated so well with the existing conditions that it is impossible to tell they weren’t originally placed together in the first place. The new and the old blend together harmoniously, making the space feel more modern and elevated.

The security desk now accommodates the agent and all their equipment as well as a barrier free counter which blends in to the new design. The entire back wall behind security is made of lockable doors for small package storage which flip up and the mail room was turned into large package storage by installing new front mounted mail boxes. The stair was removed to make the whole lobby accessible.

We couldn’t have done it without the help of BLT Construction, who did a wonderful job with the security desk and elevator feature wall using Formica laminate and solid surface. Beautiful new pendant lights in gold by Lumens and of course Olympia Tile for matching the limestone where it needed repairing.

This project is also featured on our Instagram account @shields_interiors, as well as on our website www.saidc.ca

You Want an Interior Designer Who Tells You “No”

Hello! This is a “choose your own adventure” of an article. You can watch the video below, or if you prefer reading it you can also scroll below that to read the article. Enjoy!

…And why the best designers know that your happiness is more important than our portfolio.
Opinion alert! That last part of the statement is purely my opinion (and the opinion of interior designers, decorators and stylists I know and admire), but it’s an important distinction.

Let’s start with that title up there. What do you mean I want my interior designer to tell me, “No”? I thought I wanted a designer I get along with?

Yes, but that’s a subject for a future blog post! This is right along those lines though. Isn’t your real best friend the one that tells you that you have something in your teeth, or your shirt has ridden up on the back, or quietly tucks your tag into your shirt? A really great relationship with your designer also means they care enough to tell you when your choices are the best for your design or your home.

Why? Here at Sanura Design, our reason stems from a deep reason- I want you to love your space so much it makes you happy every time you see it. I’m not doing my job if you just get the picture you pointed out in the magazine.

A prime example can be seen above in our material palettes. These are all for our beloved Project Christiani in South Mississauga. Our client had visions of neutrals throughout, and immediately said she didn’t like wallpaper (and had visions of that awful 70s wallpaper that made us all hate wallpaper). We pushed her boundaries and put unexpected things in front of her- she ended up falling in love with two wallpapers, one for the powder room, and another a blue textured beauty that was installed in her office. We also found out a deep regret (after getting to know her), was a simple orange leather chair she passed up at a store years ago. She STILL thought about it.

You guessed it, we paired that orange leather chair with that blue wallpaper (well the image above is spoilers!), and she loves that space (paired with great wood textures). We never would have gotten to that design had I just taken her word for it and not pushed her a bit to show her a few things.

Here’s a little peek at the office:

So, we care about our clients, but what does that have to do with saying no? Well, this subject came up unexpectedly after we made a visit to our favourite showroom to choose cushions for our client’s sofa.

We had gone through the cushions to see what the client liked, and when she paired a few together that really didn’t go with the design vision, I told her so. I didn’t just say “no”, I told her why it didn’t go and suggested something that would go better. We ended up with a couple of great cushions for the sofa.

Our next visit, we discussed that exchange and my response was- isn’t that what she’s paying me for? It’s my job to tell her if what she’s picking out doesn’t go with the overall design. We’re never rude, but wouldn’t you rather I tell you the cushions don’t look that great, then me be too shy to say anything and your friends and family tell you they don’t look that great?

All that said, here’s where this article’s title comes in. In the end, if we explain why it’s not right for the space (providing there isn’t any safety concerns- those are different!), and you still just love it. Ok, let’s use it. Even if this makes for “bad portfolio photos”, your happiness as my client is much more important than my photos. We’ll then look at integrating that into the design, and as long as you love the space- it doesn’t matter what I think.

A serene condo in Toronto’s bustling downtown

When purchasing this 1,205 square foot condo, steps away from Toronto’s downtown core, the client imagined a highly customized, open space that buffered the hectic city environment with serenity and calm. In the interview with the design team, the client specifically asked for a lot of concealed storage, a large home office, and a sophisticated design suitable for entertaining.

Interior Designer: Mini Ryu, ARIDO

Design Firm: Ryu Design

Project Photographer: Margaret Mulligan

Interior Designer Mini Ryu modified the layout of the space, removing a powder room to increase the size of the office space while respecting the client’s budget.

The centrally located kitchen makes a natural gathering place for guests, with warm oak flooring underfoot, and sleek white lacquer cabinetry that provides the requested concealed storage. Opposite the kitchen is a curved wall of windows, that lets natural light flood into the space. The design team carefully planned the placement of furniture, lighting, and accessories to create harmony on this curved line. A dark, smoky glass coffee table, warm accent fabrics and a collection of interesting accessories add warmth to the space.

A home office off the front entrance of the unit is partitioned with white translucent glass offering privacy and visual interest with shadows and silhouettes, while allowing natural daylight to penetrate.

In the bathroom, warm earth tones, and varied textures of wood balance the modern, clean lines of white millwork, geometric shapes and abstract art. Baked ceramic pieces are scattered across a wall like leaves from a gentle breeze, adding to a spa‐like peace at the end of a long day.

Each of these elements from the design adds up to an effective balance of functionality and style with modern, natural and rustic elements executed in visual harmony.