Bringing Home to Hotel Design at the Kimpton Saint George Hotel

188 guest rooms, fourteen stories, and one common goal: to integrate elements of Toronto’s culture and personality and provide guests with a distinct sense of place. Our team responded to this vision with a design that communicated a narrative of local pride, diverse heritage, and contemporary culture to create the Kimpton Saint George Hotel.  The boutique hotel brand, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants is renowned for individually designed boutique hotels positioned to reflect the cities they inhabit. Completed in 2018, the Saint George Hotel, Kimpton’s only hotel operating in Canada, is situated in the heart of Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood. 

Interior Designer: Stanley Sun, ARIDO; Ashley Rumsey, ARIDO
Design Firm: Mason Studio
Design Team: Marti Hawkins, Intern, ARIDO

Project Photographer: Naomi Finlay

Its design celebrates Toronto’s layered history and sensibilities. An investigative approach was taken to dissect and analyze the city’s vernacular to better understand key materials,  patterns, and nuances that would resonate as indicators of local culture and significance. The diversity of the city’s heritage and culture with its distinct neighbourhoods is explored through locally designed furniture, original artwork, natural materials, and strong interior architectural forms that pay homage to Toronto’s varied architectural style and eras. The design concept is expressed in every facet of the hotel, beginning at the street level with an exterior black wood awning punctuated with small pin-like lights, spelling “Kimpton” in Braille lettering. This lighting feature is a subtle nod to the iconic marquee signs that once occupied the neighbourhood.

Upon entry, the reception area features a marble desk framed with wooden arches, backdropped by a hand-painted mural of a misty Toronto-inspired scene. Adjacent to reception is a guest lounge, designed to feel like a living room. The space is occupied by a collection of bespoke furniture, artwork, lighting, and objects, many crafted by local makers that continue to tell the story of local culture and design. A 400-square foot lounge situated on the main floor is realized in darker, more saturated tones to convey a feeling of warmth and intimacy. The adjacent 1,100-square-foot meeting space, named the Peregrine Room, is, by contrast, bright and spacious. The change in mood between the lounge and the meeting room reinforces the concept of distinct neighbourhoods within the city. 

The guestrooms, suites, and generous presidential suite are a continuation of the nostalgic nod to the layered heritage of the neighbourhood. The rooms were designed with a residential approach including a collection of art, custom-designed furniture and lighting, seemingly collected over time. Every element in the suites is carefully designed to provide guests with an experience parallel to a well-appointed apartment in the neighbourhood, offering guests a warm alternative to more traditional hotel accommodations.

This project was also awarded an ARIDO Award of Excellence in 2019.

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.

Each room in this Markham hotel was designed for openness and flow

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.

Interior design is key to expressing the brand experience

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.

California cool meets British eclecticism in this serene resort

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.

History and place dictated the eclectic redesign of an East End icon

The new Broadview Hotel has come a long way from its former lives as a factory, a boarding house and then “Jilly’s” – an infamous seedy nightclub. Now, the landmark in Toronto’s east end is a chic 58-room boutique hotel boasting a restaurant, cafe, an indoor/outdoor event space, and a rooftop bar.

Interior Designer: Allen Chan, ARIDO
Design Firm: DesignAgency
Photographer: Worker Bee Supply

The building’s historic architecture, its varied uses over time, and the surrounding neighbourhood character inspired the design team to explore and reference its different phases and styles. They mixed styles and periods to reinforce the eclectic layers built up over time, using an array of bespoke finishes, furniture, and lighting, mixed with a pastiche of industrial, vintage and contemporary pieces. Furniture and lighting by Canadian designers including Coolican & Company, Anony, were incorporated along with custom art from a local curator.

Elegant bar area with stools and gray marble flooring.

A magnet for both guests and neighbours, the airy ground-floor cafe invites guests to sink into leather banquettes or gather at the white marble and brass bar under a halo of pink neon – an installation by the son of the creator of the original Jilly’s sign. Custom-designed wallpaper replicates designs found during demolition, and an “eroded” floor mixing wood and tile nod to the building’s history. The main-floor restaurant has the richness of a classic tavern, with surprising elements like drapery with lemurs smoking hookah pipes.

The guest rooms, the most spirited spaces of all, mix Victorian-style floral wallpaper and upholstery with deep blue ceilings, red velvet drapery, brass lighting, and even a brass rail to create a playful, modern boudoir ambience.

Bedroom at the Broadview Hotel with maroon curtains and lush white bedding.

The hotel’s treasure is found in the building’s tower, where guests find an intimate space for private dinners. The exposed brick and wood beams of the tower’s vaulted ceiling contrast with wood dining tables, leather chairs, vintage mirrors and a symphony of chandeliers – a magical space unlike any other in the city.

Interior dining room with decorative chandeliers.

The hotel has won numerous awards and the seventh-floor restaurant/bar has been voted one of the top patios in Canada, delighting guests with its stunning 360-degree views. With the redesign, the hotel is now a key catalyst in Toronto’s eastward expansion.

Flexibility is the key at this museum restaurant

Open for lunch service, the existing restaurant at the Gardiner Museum was relatively unknown, attracting mostly elderly patrons. Upon entry, spectacular city views were overshadowed by a cold, uninviting aesthetic, and the narrative of Canada’s National Museum of Ceramics was lost. Many people knew the space for its quality event service; with the ability to clear the space and create a spectacular setup for events with off-site rentals.

Interior Designer: Dyonne Fashina, ARIDO
Design Firm: Denizens of Design
Photographer: Larissa Issler

The new restaurant partner – The Food Dudes – provided a clear mandate – create a space that can easily convert between daytime restaurant service and evening events, and engage a new demographic while keeping the existing patronage happy.

Our goal was to provide the flexibility of multi-purpose with the aesthetic of a fixed-in-place restaurant.

The new design reconnects the space to the Museum’s focus while paying respect to the building’s architectural features. This meaningful concept influenced all aspects of the restaurant from the food and plating, to the branding and name. Clay itself is at the root of every detail, with inspiration taken from its properties and the process of clay making.

The minerals of clay tell the colour story, with rich terracotta hues, stoneware neutrals, and vibrant porcelain whites. Turned wood furniture and organic forms make subtle reference to the artifacts and tooling typically found inside a ceramist’s studio. 

Man serving wine behing a modern looking bar

Perhaps the most compelling addition is the custom bar. The front bar is clad entirely in durable commercial grade porcelain slabs, while the back bar integrates display opportunities to further extend the museum’s shop offerings – both a sales tool and an aesthetic choice. Smart planning decisions were implemented to create an optimal layout for the restaurant that could easily adapt to events. Modularity and compactness were key considerations due to the strict one-hour conversion timeframe. Existing storage was limited so locking storage solutions were integrated into the bar millwork.

Furniture and custom elements were strategically selected for optimization of storage space and efficiency of the teardown process. Folding dividers and mobile planters act to provide privacy and delineation within the space without the permanence of fixed partitions. Soft seating in vibrant hues define the bar/lounge area, while a more muted palette is used in the open dining area. 

All chairs stack on dollies, tables are flip-top with nesting legs, and the host and services stations are mobile on casters. These pieces adapt well for use during cocktail parties, lectures, and wedding receptions. It was important to have the functionality of multipurpose furniture, without the mundane aesthetic. The end result is a remarkably versatile space that does not compromise on design.

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.

Beyond COVID-19: The future of hotels?

The COVID-19 pandemic has people feeling insecure about their surroundings and their connection to nature is more important than ever. It’s a well-known fact that the virus spreads less in open spaces and that nature brings a sense of peace, serenity, and security. Our post-pandemic hotel takes an old 70s & 80’s atrium lobby converted into a modern biophilic space.

The repurposed atrium space easily allows for social distancing and immediately transports the guest into a sense of well-being through the biophilic environment. The impression of an indoor park psychologically conveys the message of distancing as people understand organic spaces. Meandering curves meaningfully direct the guest through tall bamboo trees that stretch to the sunlight and fresh air from the operable skylights. Water features further promote the sense of nature and serenity and add sound masking through fountains and running water.

Sketch of a post pandemic hotel space.

The multi-purpose reception desk has an interactive transparent glass screen that can be used for self check-in, information, and navigation. When the desk is unmanned, a fun and interactive display will be projected. Contactless credit card readers are installed at the front of the desk.

Rendering of post pandemic hotel space design.

Decorative light fixtures including pendants, wall sconces, table lamps and an illuminated tree are equipped with UV lighting that are activated during sanitizing periods. Materials and finishes will be treated with anti-microbial/antiviral coating in addition to the regular cleaning by the hotel staff.

The bar is designed to allow one-way traffic by staff. Interactive glass separators keep patrons safe in groups of 2, and dividers can be lowered to allow for large groups. A diversity of seating options is achieved through booths, deuces, and bar seats.

This design addresses not only our version of physical distancing but also repurposes an old-fashioned building into a unique experience. Biophilic design, a trend gaining popularity, also attracts a younger demographic. We wanted to create confidence in the guest that this is a safe, clean space, and to be considerate of the health of the guest.

Nothing strange about the design for this java joint

Strange Love Coffee is a growing Toronto-based coffee shop focusing on providing a unique coffee experience by utilizing specialized treated water and one of a kind roasts which are hand picked by a Coffee Sommelier. The intent was to create a space that communicates Strange Love’s obsession with quality coffee experiences in a setting that helps drive revenue. Our client leased a humble corner in a busy section of Toronto’s PATH Network, off the main corridor sandwiched between dental offices. 

Interior Designer: Tatiana Soldatova, ARIDO
Design Firm: Syllable Inc. 
Photographer: Revelateur Studio

The site was awkwardly shaped and hidden from view to the people passing by during their busy commutes to and from work. The two key challenges were to fit a complex coffee production program within a triangular 275 square foot space, as well as drive passerby attention to an easily overlooked spot. We were required to integrate a 26’ counter space into an 8’ storefront where five staff would seamlessly produce 1,500 coffees per week. We chose not to fight the existing site and insert a traditional linear counter. Instead, the team used the shape of the site to inform the design. 

The counter follows the main feature wall and bends inward to extend counter space –this approach maximizes linear workspace and, functionally, breaks apart the baristas from cashiers while creating additional space for patrons to order. The cafe’s production line was carefully studied and barista equipment was arranged to minimize travel and movement for all staff. This counter was also mounted on hidden wheels to allow easy access for workers. 

The second challenge was drawing customers, corporate professionals with stressful jobs, to the cafe. Located below a main staircase with a staid wall, it’s easy for potential patrons to miss. 

Our team diligently built a positive relationship with the landlord to convince them to permit a floor-to-ceiling sign by the staircase wall to entice patrons. A loud and inviting custom wallpaper adorned with tropical plants introduced a biophilic experience into a small space with a restricted budget, and Strange Love Coffee became a tropical retreat within the PATH.  

As a sophisticated re-engineered mineral water is one of the secret ingredients behind Strange Love Coffee’s award winning recipe, we celebrated the filtration system by creating an illuminated display that showcases the raw industrial beauty of the system itself. 

The shop has a weekly rotation of custom roasted coffee, which is placed at the front counter where the Baristas can proudly introduce the different roasts. Additional products on open display atop custom wood shelving with brass hardware are available for purchase.

From the bold material finishes, a flexible counter which snakes through the awkward site, water filtration and produce showcases, we created a space that puts the client’s story on display and entices passersby to stop and smell the roasts.