Portage Design Group creates an Insta-ready exhibit space based on the principle of fun

The Museum of Illusions was opened in late 2018 and is the biggest permanent tourist attraction to open in Toronto since Ripley’s Aquarium in 2013. Located at 132 Front St. East the space is more of an interactive art-gallery and exhibit space than a traditional museum.

Interior Designer: Nick Goddard, ARIDO
Design Firm: Portage Design Group Inc.

There are eight major exhibit rooms such as The Vortex, The Ames Room and the Infinity Room as well as over 70 themed installations ranging from toy displays to visual perspective art.

The first Museum of Illusions opened in Zagreb, Croatia in 2015 and was discovered by our client while on her annual summer vacation. Being of Croatian descent and knowing a good thing when she saw it our client quickly secured the rights for all of Canada and set about the process of finding a location in Toronto. After several frustrations, a 4,500 square foot ground floor retail suite became available in a former condo showroom.

The European franchisors provided specific details about the kit of parts that make up the installations. These are basically the same in each location worldwide. Portage Design Group was retained to provide drawings for Building Permit Application, space planning, coordinate local engineering firms and design services for all elements that were not exhibits.

The point of entry was a major factor in the design. The ticket counter and cash desk are housed behind a gleaming white marble slab. Retail shelving for the gift shop are custom designed, oversized hexagons. Overlapping circular pendant light fixtures provide a welcome relief from the crisp lines of the shelving and architectural context. The interior of the museum itself is a white, teal and dark grey themed thrill ride where the emphasis is not simply entertainment but also a learning experience. Each exhibit is labelled and explained so school groups, leadership seminars and team builders can provide a more comprehensive experience.

How a public library was transformed for the 21st century

Hamilton Public Library’s (HPL) full scope included renovations to four different spaces, totalling more than 28, 000 square feet.

Interior Designer: Dora Lomax, ARIDO
Design Team: Karin Vandenberg, ARIDO; Pete VandenArend, Intern, ARIDO
Design Firm: McCallum Sather Architects Inc.
Photographer: Dan Banko

The HPL wanted to serve their community’s 21st century needs, but was held back by a dated setting and limited budget. Major priorities were more digital literacy services, like a lab and training programs, space that would accommodate group and solo study, and community gathering space for multiple music events throughout the year.

Library floor and seating area with patterned carpet and low yellow seating.

Placing new program space on the perimeter walls gave more room for the concert space, while moveable glass walls left sightlines open, while keeping equipment secure. With so many glass walls, the city views were uninterrupted, however, this left few places to add colour and interest to the space. A carpet that used hexagonal tiles piqued the interest of the city, and HPL found additional resources to inject more colour in the space.
The new space features the Discovery Hub with a Maker Space, digital media room, music room, green room, video production space, computer training room, reading spaces, multi-purpose room, art gallery and place to host the beloved ‘Music in the Round’ events.

The integrated design comfortably accommodates a hive of activity, down to the specially-made carpet designed in a pattern of a motherboard, which visually reinforces the library’s intent for this flexible, creative hub. The multi-functional space balances acoustical demands with mechanical and air flow requirements, and now comfortably supports private, semi-private or collaborative activity.

Existing furniture was reconfigured with new pieces to create a new computer training area. The moveable glass walls can be reconfigured based on the HPL’s needs, and a pull-down reel system accommodates electrical connectivity throughout the space.
Once it opened in May 2016, it quickly became a hub of activity, adding significant value to the community through access to space and equipment otherwise out of reach.

Connecting the outdoors: blending public and private space in a cul-de-sac home

Houses situated in a cul-de-sac are always attractive to young families because of the guaranteed proximity to a safe street environment. The reduced car traffic allows for a slow transition from the public space of the city to the private space of the home and its backyard. 

Interior Designer: Adriana Mot

Design Firm: Dochia Interior Design

This home in the Underhill neighbourhood of Toronto was a typical 60’s side-split, with an odd, purple Tudor-like facade. Its architecture did not reflect the preferred contemporary aesthetic of the owners and the interior space was inadequate. What this family of four knew, is that keeping two young boys busy and healthy requires a well-planned kitchen and family room and many stimulating outdoor spaces that would allow for somewhat supervised activities. Such a home would need to cleverly address visual relationships and functional needs in achieving these requirements.

To achieve this, exploring potential links between the outdoor and the indoor spaces became central to our design. From the street, through the main level of the home and all the way to the backyard, Interior Designer Adriana Mot planned areas of activity that are visually interconnected and hold a dynamic, spatial dialogue of proportion, views, textures, and colours.

The cul-de-sac is essentially a second yard, a friendly, safe, semi-private environment for playing and socializing. We designed a curved paved terrace with soft lines of greenery around it that visually balances the modern geometry of the renovated home. It defines a seating area where sleek outdoor furniture allows parents and friends to lounge and watch kids play. The entire composition creates a welcoming yet usable street presence.

Inside, the kitchen and family room additions are as responsive to entertainment and supervised kids-play as the outdoors. A controlled sense of connection between outdoors and indoors is achieved through the alignment of the glass breakfast table inside and the pool waterfall outside. On a hot summer day when the 8-foot wide sliding door opens, the sound and proximity of the water falling give a sense of eating outdoors.

In fact, locating the pool was critical in setting up the backyard to include a cooking and eating area, a comfy seating around a marshmallow-ready fire pit and a sunbathing area. As an added bonus, the convenient outdoor shower allows the kids to quickly get ready for dinner without dripping in and out of the house.


Continuing the interactive theme between the outdoors and indoors, the bookcase on the back wall, opposite from the window acts as a reflection of nature: the mixed angles of the vertical gables are an abstraction of tree trunks elegantly stylized and transferred to an indoor setting. 

Colours and textures were chosen to reinforce the spatial dialogue and pinpoint key locations. Primarily, the overall scheme is made of soft greys, medium browns, and taupes. The accents that are deliberately introduced range from the fresh purples and corals of the front yard furniture to the sleek red in the kitchen island, to the satin black panels around the tv and the rough barn board of the family room ceiling. The soft blue of the pool dominates the backyard. 

The entire main floor of the house was shaped in such way as to achieve visual continuity with the outdoors. The overall effect is an instilled sense of progression from the outside to inside and back out that blurs the boundaries of architecture and engages the entire property.

Light, colour, and nature’s splendour inspire the design of this Kamloops casino

Interior Designers: Ronald Wong, ARIDO; Gordon Mackay, ARIDO
Design Firm: mackaywong
Project Photographer: David Whittaker

Inspiration abounds in the forests and rivers of British Columbia but expressing the splendour of nature in a former big-box store was the challenge placed before the mackaywong team in the design of a new casino. This project repurposed an existing dormant big box store of 55,000 square feet. More than a gaming facility, this is a destination for the citizens of Kamloops B.C., re-imagining the landscape of “Beautiful British Columbia” through a series of inventive elements.

Carpet with a large scale floral pattern in casino lobby with a light fixture of concentric rings is suspended above.

Uniting the facility is a central corridor that gives way to the gaming floor on one side and the restaurant and bar opposite. A custom-built colour-changing river of light winds through the space while wood pillars, a nod to surrounding forests, frame the grand hall and offer glimpses into the gaming floor beyond. The gaming floor contains 500 slot machines, twenty table games, two bars, a lounge, two patios, and a poker mezzanine with a luxury private salon.

Overhead view of the gaming floor with video gambling machines.

The design team raised the floor level to run the wiring and electrical required for a gaming facility, and covered the gaming floor with a custom carpet inspired by local flora.

Lighting was incorporated creatively throughout the space starting from the river of light in the entrance corridor, a central chandelier in the rotunda, LED rings surrounding the gaming floor trees, through to the large ceiling of glass goblets glittering in the luxury restaurant. An interactive curved video wall encircles the central rotunda, engaging guests in an immersive digital landscape and providing a dramatic entrance to the gaming floor.

Carpet with a large scale floral pattern in casino lobby with a light fixture of concentric rings is suspended above.

The use of texture and colour throughout, along with regional motifs, and a hospitality driven approach to gaming combine to create an artful and memorable experience at this casino.