Three different moods for three distinct spaces at Victor Restaurant

Interior Designer: Allen Chan

Design Firm: DesignAgency

Photographer: Lisa Petrole

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.

Photographer: Lisa Petrole

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.

Photographer: Lisa Petrole

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.

This gorgeous house has so many dream home features

When the client approached us for the interior design of their new-build residential project they had one clear request: an industrial style family home inspired by New York lofts and warehouses.

Interior Designer: Connie Braemer, ARIDO
Design Firm: Connie Braemer Design Ltd 
Photographer: Erik Rotter

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. 

Chefs kitchen with large butcher block island and walls lined in white subway tile.

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. 

Family room with wood floors, large white sectional and eye-catching red sliding door.

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. 

Kitchen and dining room with dark, poured concrete floors and a wood ceiling.

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 luxe home mixes casual with refined details

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.

Local art with a Scandi-chic vibe welcomes everyone to this Toronto condo

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.

Luxury meets durability in this glam Toronto home

This existing 5,000 square foot luxury condo was renovated for downsizing clients who love to entertain but also wanted to make sure they have space to host family. The clients sought luxurious yet durable finishes and furnishings throughout, because of their desire to host grandkids. They selected treasured art and antiques to bring, and asked they be incorporated in the design, and wanted a beautiful space for their wine collection.

Interior Designer: Jeffrey Douglas, ARIDO
Design Firm: Douglas Design Studio
Photographer: Michael Graydon

The design team met with the clients and conducted extensive interviews with the family to understand their private and social life, priorities and tastes. The result is a glamorous space featuring luxury materials and artisan touches, integrating a selection of collected art and furnishings into a new space suitable for both family gatherings and formal entertaining.

The design team moved key rooms like the kitchen and powder rooms to new locations in the floor plan, which can be a challenge in condos, as it can affect the surrounding units. By designing rooms strategically, the new floor plan didn’t require disturbing any neighbours.

Luxe kitchen area with large curved island and maple brown cabinets.

The kitchen was moved to a prominent place in the home to take advantage of the stunning views from the floor-to-ceiling bow window in what was formerly the dining room. A natural palette of airy blues and greens with earthy caramels reflect the natural colours of the ravine view and sky. Depth and drama were to the home by using black accents throughout.

A rotunda was introduced to facilitate an elegant separation between public and private space while maximizing flow. Side panels in the rotunda seamlessly close and create total privacy, while a shimmering silver leaf mural adds flair.

Beyond COVID-19: How the pandemic will shape restaurant design

As the pandemic continues, there is a change in how we live our lives in all aspects. It is commonly referred to as the “new-normal”.  With this restaurant/bar concept we focus on a rooftop design, as outdoor spaces are proven to be safer in preventing virus spread. Could this be the “new-normal” in restaurant design?

Floorplan of restaurant

RESTAURANT / BAR

This floor plan depicts our Room-within-a-Room™ philosophy, which is critical today, not only for social distancing but for the security and safety of the guests and staff. As you walk through the space, you can see the fiancée meeting the parents of the bride for the first time; a group of guys getting together in a room to play games and watch sports; the book club that meets every month; family gatherings; the couple out for a date; the single business travelers wanting a drink while catching up on emails and the happy bar fly wanting to socialize with others.

Rendering of bar with rectangular counter in centre of the space with hanging storage overhead.

The bar limits direct contact between the bartender and patron with a deeper counter surface and a conveyor system behind Plexiglas. When the drink arrives at the allocated seat, the small glass panel will retract into the bar and redeploy once the drink is safely in the hands of the thirsty customer. To separate the bar guests, there is a glass divider panel between each grouping of two people. The dividers can be lowered to allow groups of three to four to sit together. In addition, the glass will be digitally interactive where menu items can be ordered, and where weather, sports and the latest news can be viewed. 

Throughout the restaurant, individual booths give off a sense of being ensconced in a comfortable cocoon with full wall surrounds, a Hepa filter cleaning the air inside. These booths are popular as they add privacy and an air of exclusivity.

The Room-within-a-Room™ concept works well as the world slowly transitions to the “new normal”. It offers customers the comfort and security needed to enjoy a night or day out from isolation. Also it provides instant recognition by the guest that these individual spaces distance them from other guests, making it feel safe to enter. To top it off, it has multiple unique pockets of interest that creates a fun roof top bar drawing people to this hot spot.

This home is a marriage of minimalism and tradition

An elegant residence located in Mississauga made for an interesting project for our design team. Our clients had different views about how their home should look and feel, one wanted a modern and minimalist space, while the other was set on more traditional styles that reflected their current home. Our clients needed to feel at home in their new space, so we aimed to find the common ground between their different styles as it was paramount to the success of this project. 

Interior Designer: Dana Kosich, ARIDO 

Design Firm: Hiatus Design Ltd 

Design Team: Kelly Breiter, Intern, ARIDO Project 

Photographer: Dana Kosich, Eric Malinski

The overall design for the project was influenced by the minimal exterior created by the architect and setting the tone for the design vocabulary in the interior. This compelled us to keep ornamentation to a minimum and respect the architecture while maintaining a warm and inviting atmosphere. In an effort to appease the client’s differing views, it was important to strike a balance between minimalism and tradition.

A significant interior element included a staircase located in a prominent area by the architect.  We needed the stair to be sculptural and worthy of its position in the home. Following, the lighting had to be handled with the utmost care to acknowledge the minimal design approach. Decorative lighting was kept to a minimum and one of the goals was to have the surfaces glow so that the effect of the light was appreciated without seeing the fixture itself.

Basic functional requirements like the front hall closet, elevator, and powder room door were elevated to an artful experience. The foyer amenities were completely concealed within walls paneled with warm wood. A floating stair provided a sense of weightlessness and became a focal point, while our use of ceiling coves and recesses concealed the sources of illumination, so surfaces appeared to glow. 

We designed a welcoming, open kitchen with a long island and integrated table for large gatherings. This was accompanied by a balanced use of wood and stone that created a sense of warmth. Large expanses of windows and lack of wall surfaces made it difficult to find a TV location, so a custom automated TV cabinet was designed using a motorized lift. We reworked the plans to include separate bedrooms, closets, and en-suites as this was important to the clients. This created smaller spaces which made detailing even more important to the success of the project. 

To allow for large parties, the lower-level recreation/theatre room was outfitted with another kitchen. A dual-sided fireplace separates the games room from the home theatre, which reinforces a sense of coziness. The retractable movie screen was carefully situated between the mechanized fold-away doors. This clever placement allowed the screen to serve the room and retract when not in use, preserving the views. The projector along with dinnerware was strategically hidden in a wall of sculptural millwork. Custom-designed furniture provides ample seating for guests while the wine room invites you in behind a glass wall and a showcased wine display.

Lastly, in a home of mostly glass and very little wall, it was difficult to locate basic necessities, so our challenge was to pull it all together thoughtfully. This magnificent residence started with separated views, but we pulled together a beautiful marriage of minimalism and tradition.

This project was also recognized with an ARIDO Award of Merit in 2019.

Wine Cellars & Wine Tasting Rooms – Coming Of Age

In wine there is truth and in wine cellars there are many truths.  

Wine collecting and having the “right” bottle on hand, requires a special space of its own and more homeowners are installing wine rooms in new and existing homes.  With today’s technology, refrigeration, and modern materials, wine can be stored in almost any location.  However, this ancient beverage still requires tender loving care.

Wine Is Fussy – The Basics 

Wine “breathes” through the cork and ages in the process. Too much oxygen makes the wine bitter.  The pace of this breathing is faster at higher temperatures and slower at lower temperatures.  Fluctuations in temperature and humidity accelerate this aging process.  

Wine Storage – The Basics

Wine requires a cool, dark space with higher humidity than the average living space.  Wine does not like noise or vibrations from any source.  

It doesn’t like any temperature extremes.  45F to 65F degrees are the temperature for serving wine.  55F degrees is the ideal storing temperature for long-term storage, regardless of your wine style.  Wine storage rooms come in two types:  passive and active.

Passive Wine Cellars such as caves, basements, closets are naturally cooler and only receive indirect sunlight.  They minimize swings in temperature and damage to the wine. 

Active (Cooled) Wine Cellars are fully climate controlled and can be set to the perfect storage temperature and humidity level that ensures ideal conditions.  They are more flexible and can fit into any large, small or odd space in your home. 

Modern Design Trends

  • Glass enclosures allow you to show off your wine collection and can be built as tall or wide as you want. The choice of tempered glass used is extremely important. The insulation value should maximize the refrigeration, humidification benefits, and UV protection that is required for wine rooms that are in direct contact with sunlight. Etched or frosted glass are decorative options.
  • Integrating wine cellar design into your space for that ‘wow’ factor.  Placing wine storage in living areas, man caves or kitchens, allows you and your guests to engage with your wine collection and show off your expensive wine bottles. 
  • Label-forward, displays the label art facing out.  It creates an intimate interactive experience with the user and the bottle of wine. 
  • Metal and acrylic wine racking.  These materials are gaining popularity in contemporary wine cellar design.  They provide the same quality for storage as wood and can be much more cost effective.
  • Bridging old & new – Combining wood with metal or acrylic allows for more flexibility in project design that is less stuffy and ornate and more contemporary and inviting.

Modern Design And Construction Considerations

  • Use LED lights and UV film for glass enclosures.  
  • No vibrating wall speakers and no noisy air conditioners nearby.  Insulate your mechanical air ducts or use a ductless air conditioner. 
  • Vent equipment heat outside the storage area.
  • Storing a large number of bottles requires a reinforced wall behind. Many choose plywood backing for wall installation. 
  • Make sure you have proper wall insulation, a vapour barrier, and moisture resistant, green board walls.
  • Easy access to electricity.
  • Flooring is to be moisture resistant, consider the insulation value of the floor and materials.

Return On Your Investment (ROI)

A wine cellar is a high-end investment, and in some homes, it is a must-have upgrade.  With an average bottle price of $95.00, it pays to design your investment so that it can add value to your home.

Galileo tells us that:  “Wine is sunlight, held together by water.”  Then together, sunlight and water hold the truth in wine.  Take good care of your truth.

Updating a basement? 5 things you should consider

Gone are the days of ‘low’ unfinished basements that reek of mold and mildew.  Only used as a place to do laundry, access storage, sports gear, and Christmas decorations.

Now that fixer-uppers are going for a million or more, spending $100,000 to $150,000 doesn’t sound unreasonable to reclaim existing space and is a lot cheaper than doing an addition, and basements are easier than attics.

In upscale neighbourhoods, with historical designation and height restrictions, contractors are now digging deep to create spaces three or four levels below ground, so that they can house bowling alleys, Olympic size pools – you name it – just dig it.  Called “iceberg” architecture, what you see above ground is just the tip of what lies below.

For regular folks, this newfound space, becomes a fantasy space.  When all the necessary rooms for daily living are accounted for above ground, the basement becomes a space where your imagination can run wild.  

That’s when I dubbed basements “The Lower Level Retreat”.  They’re not the ‘base’ of the house but rather another level for living, that happens to be below the ground line.  With a shift in naming this space comes a shift in thinking about the space and its functions.

These spaces can house entertainment centers with large 50” to 60” televisions, sizes that would normally dominate a regular living space.  This allows the guys to watch their favourite sports and game to their heart’s content.

For the practically minded, extra storage space is always welcome and if you’re going to have a laundry room, then why not add a little panache? The ultimate home office can double up as a guest room when grandma and grandpa come to visit.

Other leisure lair spaces include wine cellars, spa retreat that doubles as a doggie grooming centre with heated floors, therapeutic pools for athletic injuries, music studios and …. a village with a large scale train model for the kid in all of us. The possibilities are endless.

So, how do you design a livable, lovable space that feels warm and cozy?

Let’s start with the basics:

Planning: 

  • Open plan seems to work best.  And, if you need to enclose spaces for privacy then make the walls moveable, to enclose or open a space as required.

Building:

  • Ideally, a finished eight foot ceiling suits everyone best. Remember that recessed pot lights, flooring and under-floor infrastructure reduces available height.
  • Make sure to address structural issues and all possible moisture issues. Hire a contractor who knows all about basements.
  • I prefer to add radiant floor heat.  If not the whole floor then, at minimum, in the washroom spa area.  When your tootsies are warm, then the rest of you will feel warm, cozy and pampered.

Lighting:

  • The trick is to find light fixtures and bulbs that spread light in all directions, filling surfaces with light and minimizing harsh shadows.  Helping decrease the cave-like effect.
  • Choose ‘warm’ colour temperature of 2700K or 3000K.  Bluish light of 4000K is cool and will feel fridge-like and not somewhere you’d like to hang-out, especially in the winter.
  • Use different sources of lighting throughout the space such as lamps and LED strips in built-in shelving.   

Decor and Design:

  • Raise sofas and other large pieces of furniture ‘off’ the floor.  Your eye travels underneath furniture on raised legs, keeping the look light and airy.  
  • Use lighter colours and textures as a focal point for emphasis and drama.
  • Don’t place a television over a fireplace.  Together they are visually overwhelming. 

Flooring:

  • Make sure to use a modular flooring system.  Should water damage occur, pieces can be popped out of place and new product installed easily.  Large rolled goods such as carpet or linoleum should be avoided.  When wet, mold and mildew occur. 
  • I’ve had a lot of success with carpet tile over plywood.  Carpet tile acts as an insulator, removable, easily cleaned, and easily re-installed.
  • Your best options for flooring are porcelain tile, marble, vinyl, or laminate planks. Engineered hardwood is debatable, but plank flooring is your best bet. 

Fixing up the basement, I mean lower level, will add much happiness to you and your home. 

What is your Lower Level dream?

This stunning apartment is a lesson in design from a distance

Situated in the Majestic, a historic apartment building on the Upper West Side, this renovation was to be a total “interior transplant” with all physical vestiges of the old design removed and re-imagined, including the existing windows and mechanical systems. The challenge? The renovation of these suites can be compared to arthroscopic surgery in that all of the alterations, relocations and connections must take place within the space itself, unseen by neighbours below who’s finished ceilings must not be disturbed, or above who’s plumbing and mechanical systems traverse through the suite. 

Interior Designer: David Hooper, ARIDO
Design Firm: Powell & Bonell
Photographer: John Bessler 

Luxe living room area in creams, browns and with cozy textured elements.

Working with a local architect and contractor the spaces and mechanical systems were photo documented, notated, and confirmed before the renovation process took place. Using this method, solutions to complicated routing and concealment were devised by the team. Wall hung toilets allowed for toilet rough-ins to be managed within walls rather than penetration of the slab. Plumbing and mechanical was concealed within bulkheads, decorative wall articulations, and millwork to visually justify what could not be moved. New lighting technology allowed for smaller tolerances for electrical, which subsequently allowed the ceiling height to be increased. Every millimeter of space was maximized on this project. 

TV screen emerges from special millwork element in this cream and brown living room.

In the design brief, the client required two complete bathrooms where only one had existed before. Another imperative was to capitalize on the windows,  the light, and the views, where previously small cut-up spaces compromised both. Reorienting these spaces, and opening up the galley kitchen via an interior window provided room for a guest and private bathroom, an enlarged kitchen, and an adjacent dry bar. The interior window can be open or concealed via mirrored folding screens which reflect the views when a more formal dining setting is desired. 

Furnishings are oriented toward the windows and a muted natural palette blends harmoniously with the cityscape beyond. A television is concealed in a custom cabinet to not distract from the expansive vistas beyond the confines of the suite.

The open layout with a minimum of contrasting finishes allows the owner and their guests to feel the luxury of space and invites them to enjoy a natural flow from one area to another from the moment one enters the suite. The final effect is a homage to the beauty and excitement of the New York skyline superimposed against a foreground of calm and warmth. Perfect for glamorous evenings and a refuge from the frenetic city beyond.