ARIDO Award: Florette Restaurant + Bar

While interior designers traditionally aim for perfection in their projects, this design team chose to highlight the imperfect, comforting aspects of this new restaurant space on Toronto’s Queen Street West.

Category: EAT + STAY

Interior Designer: Dyonne Fashina, ARIDO
Design Firm: Denizens of Design Inc.
Photographer: Scott Norsworthy

Comforting and welcoming athmosphere of the ARIDO Award winner for EAT+STAY category, Florette Restaurant + Bar by Dyonne Fashina, ARIDO

Centering the design around “Aunt Fern” a fictional muse, they sought to create a space that felt like the home of a dear family member, and the treasures she’s collected over a lifetime.

Moving the bar back by five feet added more space to the dining area, and the raised platform in the front window, formerly a karaoke stage, and is now a large window booth, adding a sense of occasion for patrons in those seats.

A booth next to the window featuring a a floral pendant light that looks like it belongs in a home of a dear family member
Dyonne Fashina, ARIDO sought to create a space that felt like the home of a dear family member, and the treasures she’s collected over a lifetime.

Overhead, the barrel-vaulted ceiling is an eye catching jewel that draws in people from outside. It references historic architectural detail, establishing a strong presence and identity. With a friendly clatter of plates and cocktail making, the space fosters an energetic, unpretentious atmosphere for locals and visitors alike.

A cafe interior infused with nature inspired calm

We brought in an upscale feel with a harmonious blend of sleek, contemporary design elements and warm, earthy tones into this space. As you step inside, the seamless fusion of natural wood, deep hues, and living greenery creates an ambiance that immediately connects customers with nature, bringing the outside in and fostering a sense of calm.

Interior Designer: Jude Kamal, ARIDO
Design firm: Sansa Interiors
Photographer: Luke Clelandli

The overall holistic design approach for The Black Canary Espresso revolves around three key principles: materiality, nature-inspired elements, and a high-end tailored experience for coffee lovers.

The Black Canary is crafted with a deep understanding and appreciation for coffee enthusiasts. Every aspect of the design is meticulously planned to elevate the coffee experience. The strategically positioned wooden furniture and perforated wood panels create inviting nooks for customers to savour their coffee while engaging in meaningful conversations or immersing themselves in a book. The attention to detail in the lighting and ambiance ensures that the focus remains on the art of coffee-making and the enjoyment of every cup.

Central to the design philosophy is the incorporation of nature-inspired elements throughout the space. Living greenery, such as potted plants and hanging gardens, brings a touch of the outdoors inside, infusing the espresso bar with a sense of tranquility and connection to the natural world. The soft colour palette, reminiscent of earthy tones, promotes a calming atmosphere that encourages relaxation and contemplation.

Let’s raise our glasses to these Award winning restaurant interiors

In anticipation of the 40th anniversary of the ARIDO Awards Gala, we are taking a glance at some amazing past Award winning hospitality projects by Registered Interior Designers that are sure to whet your appetite!

Have you heard? ARIDO Awards will return to an in-person format this year on October 5th, 2023!

ARIDO Award Winner: St. Regis – Whisky and whimsy reform luxury hospitality design

Situated in the former Trump Hotel in the heart of Toronto’s business district, the design team was tasked with removing associations with past ownership, while introducing Canadians to the historic St. Regis brand. Inspired by Toronto’s vibrant cultural heritage, the redesigned lobby, lounge, and restaurant express an enduring quality, setting a new standard for luxury hospitality in the dynamic city.  

Interior Designer(s): Allen Chan, ARIDO
Design Firm: DesignAgency
Photographer: Brandon Barre

Read full article here.

ARIDO Award: Aurora Armoury Canadian Food & Wine Institute

Reception area leading to an Open concept flexible space to accommodate different types of events. Archival photos arranged into large collages are throughout on walls

Constructed in 1874 for the Department of National Defence, the Aurora Armoury is a Federal Heritage Building and century-old community venue originally used for infantry training, town meetings, sporting matches and military parades across the surrounding park.

Restored in partnership between the Town of Aurora and Niagara College, the renovation and addition revives the local Armoury as a vibrant culinary and community hub, and outpost location for the Niagara College Canadian Food & Wine Institute.

The design strategy was to create an expanded teaching and event setting that serves both culinary students and community members while embracing the Armoury’s rich history and prominent location at the edge of the Town Park.

Interior Designer: Valerie Gow, ARIDO
Design Firm: Gow Hastings Architects
Photographer: Tom Arban and Rémi Carreiro

Read the full article here.

ARIDO Award Winner: McMichael Canadian Art Collection Cafe

Two screens demarcate space in the cafe area at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection.

Reinventing the café space at the hearth of the Gallery’s entrance hall required a respectful and deeply researched approach; considerate of the heritage architecture and mindful of the indigenous land it sits on. Rejecting the Eurocentric preferences among global design elite, the space is a showcase of Canadian-made products; celebrating Canadian craftsmanship, local materials, and time-honoured tradition.

The design solution is characterized by the legacy of the Gallery’s original founders, Signe and Robert McMichael. The building itself literally grew out of their home and personal art collection. The heritage architecture remains untouched, while new pieces are integrated into the design to give the feeling of a fixed-in place restaurant and the flexibility of a multi-purpose space.

Interior Designer: Dyonne Fashina, ARIDO
Design Firm: Denizens Of Design Inc.
Photographer: Scott Norsworthy

Read the full article here.

ARIDO Award Winner: Nando’s Woodmore Towne Centre

Zig zag patterned lampshares draw guest along the mid height banquette and to the counter to place their order.

Located in an endcap of a busy shopping centre in Lanham, Maryland the Nando’s Woodmore location was a great location to place what would become a busy restaurant and takeout spot. The design brief was to create an intimate environment and sense of place; a celebration of South African colour and craft. The existing space was devoid of character.

Interior Designer: Sarah Stafford, ARIDO
Design Firm: stré studio
Photographer: Greg Powers

Read the full article here.

The materials palette is as lush as the menu at this Toronto restaurant

Bar seating, booth seating and lower table provide many seating options at Kojin.

Our design team was contacted by David Chang, eight years after he launched Momofuku in Toronto. The brand has matured in new directions and experienced significant growth, so Chang called on DesignAgency to work with Momofuku once again to reinvent their signature Toronto restaurant. Kōjin, Momofuku’s take on a steakhouse, is all about treating guests to the sensations of an open flame grill. 

Interior Designer: Allen Chan, ARIDO 
Design Firm: DesignAgency 
Project Photographer: Bob Gundu

Read full article here.

Embracing a modern, fresh and colourful design for the new Trinity House Inn

We’re back with your favourite new web series…mini series…tv show…what are we calling it again?…. what are we doing here?

Episode 3 of what are we doing here? | The Construction is OUT now on our YouTube channel! 

In the long awaited episode, we witness the incredible transformation of the Trinity House Inn as construction kicks off. We bid farewell to the past and embrace the fresh, modern, and did we mention the colourful new look of the inn. 

As a design team we leave no sample unseen, no tile unturned, no fabric un-rubbed on our quest to create an original and unique new centrepiece for the Canadian hospitality scene. We reveal our final design and plan to Milton and Anne-Marie, and let us tell you dear readers, their reactions are not to be missed. 

The owners, Milton and Anne-Marie were excited, surprised, perhaps slightly overwhelmed by our vast colour selection and unconventional designs proposed. However, rest assured  there is always a method to our madness. Watch the Solis construction team bring our vision to life as they tackle the transformative process.  

As always thanks for tuning in and please share widely with your most fabulous friends.

Tune into episode three of “what are we doing here?” on our YouTube channel.

This transformation begins with an interesting design inspiration

Our sails are up and we are off to the races. We’re thrilled that you’re joining us for episode two of ‘what are we doing here?’.

In this episode the Trinity House Inn begins its transformation. We took a full inventory of the hotel’s treasures, keeping the real and unique pieces. This includes many of the original gilded mirrors, solid club chairs, and a Little Bo Peep painting. 

Now, we have to admit, our design inspiration didn’t come instantly. There are many places a design can start. It can be from the personality of the homeowner, an object, or the environment that surrounds the space. 

We started where all interesting and dramatic stories do – with a family. We kept the original room names and assigned a personality to each. This way we always had someone to anchor all our design choices back to. Stick with us here, this is where it gets fun. 

Beaurivage is the eccentric grandfather of the family. His room is the main level accessible suite that houses all of his trinkets and worldly collections. 

The sisters, Constance and Georgina share the garden view rooms. These rooms are light filled and reflective of the sisters cheerful and elegant personalities. Down the hall is their parents room, which is the regal two bedroom suite. 

Our imagined family isn’t the only driving factor in this project. For Milton and Anne-Marie, family is how and why they are taking on this project. They tell us the story behind the circumstances that led them to buy the Trinity House Inn and give us insight to the property and the history behind it.

Tune into episode two of “What are we doing here?” on our YouTube channel.

This redesign opens the door into a unique boutique hotel experience

If you’re like us, you’ve probably asked yourself the question, “what are we doing here?” at some point in your life. This fall we found ourselves on the door steps to our dream project, redesigning Gananoque’s Trinity House Inn into a boutique hotel.

We knew we had to document the experience and the result is this “what are we doing here?” a brand new 5 part mini series we will be releasing in anticipation of the Inn’s opening in the summer of 2023.

Interior Designer: Maddee Linton, ARIDO
Design Firm: Maddee Rose Design
Video Crew: Little Friday Productions

Our design team at Maddee Rose Design and owner Milton Tanswell teamed up with local video crew Little Friday Productions to create a cinematic documentary show that takes you on the redesign journey with us. Together, we’re taking on the ultimate challenge – that is honouring the original beauty of the building while refreshing the Trinity House Inn for a unique and modern hospitality experience.

Our show is not just about aesthetics, it’s about giving you a behind the scenes in depth look at the process that goes into redesigning and reimagining real spaces. It’s about the serendipity that led Milton to purchase the Inn and the magic in timing for a dream project to occur.

If you’re ready to join us on this adventure of transformation and exploration, tune into episode one of “What are we doing here?” on our YouTube channel.

Body and mind are the core of this elevated fitness experience

Exercise is more than just a physical journey, it’s a psychological one too. This was the philosophy behind the design of The Current to create a multifunctional fitness centre worthy of the commute to the office at CIBC SQUARE. This high-intensity multi-studio fitness concept is meant to resonate with the mind and body of gym goers through deep experiential engagement.

Interior Designer: Annie Bergeron, ARIDO
Design Firm: Gensler
Photographer: Ban Rahn

Entry pavilion clad in a fluted wood accent, refreshment bar, and lounge area.

With CIBC SQUARE employee health and well-being top of mind, The Current fitness centre is  conveniently located on their campus and offers all the amenities of a typical fitness centre and much more. The goal was to create an elevated fitness centre experience with state-of- the-art equipment and fitness offerings, with the added feature of a lounge where employees would want to gather for fitness, sport, and wellness events.

One of the main goals of this project was to translate the psychological journey of exercising into a space that inspires gym goers in a sensory way. It is meant to aid them on their journey of renewal;  from entering the gym, to digging deep to push through a workout, and eventually celebrating the euphoria of their achievement. 

lobby features an intimate lounge with maple wood in comination with black for a modern feel and colourful commissioned artwork

We managed to elevate the fitness experience by creating a light-filled, loft-like interior, conjuring a palette of warm wood, a calming monochromatic simplicity, and sweeping views of roof-top greenery and the city beyond.  With this approach we created a welcome retreat from the everyday pressures and the hustle of the city.

The entrance into The Current is via a reception on the fifth floor, directly off the elevator lobby – a ‘world before’ that manifests as an entry pavilion clad in a fluted wood accent, refreshment bar, and lounge area. Here, the material palette aims to embody the perfect meld of the modern urban feel while saluting the pristine natural elements of Canada’s wilderness. 

Entry pavilion clad in a fluted wood accent, refreshment bar, and lounge area.

The lobby features an intimate lounge with maple wood – traditionally utilized as gymnasium flooring – used here as wall covering and wrapping onto the ceiling. Black, white, and shades of grey give the interior an industrial, modern feel while the custom art commission by Canadian artist Erin Loree sparingly introduces a shot of colour and her painterly style evokes movement and vibrant energy. 

Offices for member services are housed within glass-walled rooms that are highly accessible. Patrons transition through the gym and into the velvety dark grey changing rooms. This marks the transition to the ‘world within’. Black runs heavily throughout the studio, intended to provide a contrast to the light maple wood and provide a modern feel in the space.

Large open exercise space with views of the city through large windows

The lighting fixtures throughout are hung on the diagonal to  create a vibrancy while a custom-designed ombre wallpaper gradient goes from dark to light in the open workout area adding a sense of energy and movement. 

ombre wallpaper gradient goes from dark to light in the open workout area

The gradient not only serves to draw the eye up to accentuate the dramatic ceiling height but it is also meant to act as a visual metaphor. As members move through their psychological journey of exercising, the sense of the energy rising inspires the individual, invoking the drive to  keep working.

Another closed in exercise room

The elemental geometry of the building’s exterior form inspired the herringbone patterned floor which lines up with the window mullions (vertical bars separating the window panes). The shower tiles in the changerooms are also laid in a herringbone pattern and lined up with the showerhead in each stall.  This is  a challenging detail to achieve but it results in a cohesiveness that puts the user at ease and is restful on the eye.

Calming gray changerooms and showers

We transformed a generic, concrete office space into a vibrant, energetic, and sculpted space through architectural and customized graphic elements. The tingle of nervous energy on arrival is met with a welcome and calming arrival area.

The rewards of perseverance and grit are ever sweeter when accompanied by the expansive downtown views and the vibrancy of the city below. After a good workout, visitors can pause to recharge and recover in the velvety dark embrace of the changing rooms.

These interiors are a celebration of green and sustainable design

Since April is Earth Month, we rounded up a few projects by Registered Interior Designers published on BLOG//ARIDO that showcase environmentally conscious or sustainable design practices. These projects create a seamless synergy with nature while keeping the health and wellbeing of occupants top of mind.

Recycled or salvaged materials, adoption of biophilic design principles, and careful selection of colour palettes and materials are just some of the ways these designs are reducing negative impacts on our environment.

Good bones? This updated office space is a sustainable and beautiful upgrade

This project was an astounding 10,000 square feet of a 1917 heritage building which had been abandoned for three decades. The design team spent six months studying integrated teams to create a modern, sustainable workplace that reflects the ways in which productivity and teamwork has evolved.

The project succeeds by balancing heritage renewal and sustainable design into a meaningful interactive workspace. Specialized coatings were applied to meet life safety requirements, which allowed the design team to showcase the incredible exposed steel trusses.

The original details are celebrated throughout the space. Original marble mosaic, terrazzo floors, exquisite plaster ceiling mouldings, and speed tile have been salvaged and restored where possible.

Interior Designer: Dora Lomax, ARIDO

Design Firm: McCallumSather

Photographer: Banko Media

View of the lobby and reception area and the light fixture installation from the second floor looking down the stairs
Closeup of the small light reflecting metal pieces of the chandelier

A playful balance of creativity and sustainability in this award winning project

Inspired by the brand’s history of innovation and problem solving, the design team created a custom art installation between two-stories of stairs to ground the space and greet visitors and employees alike upon entering the reception area.

Custom-made from components of obsolete medical technology, this thousand-pound ‘chandelier’ considers one of today’s biggest challenges in healthcare: how to break the cycle of waste and obsolescence of medical equipment and technology.

Interior Designer: Caitlin Turner, ARIDO

Design Team: Meagan Buchanan, ARIDO

Design Firm: HOK  

Photographer: Karl Hipolito and Meagan Buchanan

Bright and open central lounge area with booth seating behind and biophilia in large pots hanging from the ceiling along with large lighting globes

Biophilic design as a guiding principle in this co-working interior

From the outset, the client wanted to redefine coworking spaces by creating a deep connection to the surrounding neighbourhood, while reinforcing an indoor/outdoor connection.

In order to create a seamless synergy with nature and its natural elements, the design team behind this project adopted biophilic principles by incorporating extensive greenery throughout the walls, ceiling, and freestanding elements, further promoting a sense of sustainability within the space.

Interior Designer: Sabrina Giacometti, ARIDO

Design Team: Jessy Helmer, ARIDO; Katelynn Marshall, Intern ARIDO

Design Firm: Straticom Planning Associates Inc.

Photographer: Bob Gundu

A view of the entire coffee shop along the length of the counter that leads towards the other end of the light filled space
Mr. Peackock peeking through behind the industrial style wall shelving displaying product

Latest outpost hails an exciting new phase for this coffee roaster

Wanting to expand on their success, Hale Coffee decided to create a fourth location at Bloor & Church St. in Toronto to provide their signature coffee and snacks to this busy Toronto intersection and working professionals. 

This new location needed to feel like an extension of their main shop, aligning with their signature eco-friendly, sustainable, and client-first design. Knowing that sustainable materials and environmentally conscious design were important to our client, we went with a very natural and light-coloured palette featuring raw woods, like unstained red oak throughout the entire design. 

Interior Designer: Jude Kamal, ARIDO

Design Firm: Sansa Interiors Inc.

Photographer: Bruno Belli

A holistic design approach that serves up a warm and relaxing atmosphere

Located on Kerr St. in Oakville, Wet Coffee is a café that embodies “coffee culture” and exceptional service. Founded by a young businesswoman passionate about great coffee, Wet Coffee brings a slice of Toronto’s inviting café community to downtown Oakville.

Designer: Jude Kamal, ARIDO

Design Firm: Sansa Interiors

Photography: Sansa Interiors

When approached with the dream of creating a welcoming space where community and coffee thrive, we immediately jumped at the opportunity. We specialize in utilizing nature-inspired elements and holistic design to enhance customer experience, making Sansa Interiors the perfect fit for this project. With neutral tones and a focus on natural materials, our design creates an inviting and relaxed atmosphere that is perfect for enjoying a cup of coffee, catching up with friends or doing work.

The rounded counter with wooden slat detail in the base is on the left as one walks in and the seating with tables is on the right

Our client has traveled the world in pursuit of the perfect cup of coffee and has honed her skills in sourcing the best beans, understanding how they are harvested and processed, and knowing the optimal temperature to serve a fresh cup. She believes that coffee tastes best when wet-processed, which requires attention to every step after harvesting.

Simple seating area along the wall of the cafe as one walks in, with plain walls behind and simple white pendants. The comfy coushins bring in a calming colour palette

Inspired by the natural beauty of the coffee bean, and the intricate process of creating exceptional coffee, our client built her café’s brand around the beverage’s natural elements such as the soft curves of the bean, hand-made excellence, and a deep respect for nature.

By creating a cohesive brand identity for Wet Coffee café our team designed a unique and inviting space that reflects the client’s values and vision. Using the Wet Coffee logo as a starting point, we crafted a warm and welcoming café that emphasizes community, natural materials, and biophilic design principles.

A wall of merchandise including coffee beans and some clothing items
A little cozy lounge area at the very back of the store with furniture in blush pink and colourful abstract art on the walls

The key element of the design is the rounded main bar with natural wood detailing, which welcomes guests and guides them through the space. The colour palette, curved and organic forms, live plants, and floor-to-ceiling glass windows all contribute to creating a sense of calm and connection to nature, inviting customers to enjoy a cup of coffee and community experience.

Our focus on minimalism and neutral design elements not only creates a visually pleasing space, but also enhances the overall customer experience by putting the focus on the café’s specialty: exceptional coffee. The clean and simple design also allows unique features to take center stage and attract customers who appreciate this design philosophy.


cafe interior design in oakville

The final outcome of the project was a stunning design that seamlessly blended functionality and aesthetics. Our team successfully delivered on the client’s dream of creating a playful and welcoming space reminiscent of Toronto’s bustling café scene.

The result was a rich, layered design that was both visually appealing and highly functional. This café is now an inviting Oakville destination for locals and visitors alike. We are proud to have played a role in creating this unique space and can’t wait to visit and work from it ourselves.

Great design is part of the mezze at this middle eastern restaurant

The Tabule family of restaurants is made up of 4 uniquely designed venues specializing in Middle Eastern Cuisine. We were tasked with tackling the redesign of the quartet’s flagship location in midtown Toronto. When the client approached us to redesign their midtown location, they knew they wanted something brighter, airier, and fresher. The midtown location was their first restaurant, and it was in need of an aesthetic overhaul to create a modern and sophisticated atmosphere where their delicious dishes could play a well-deserved starring role.

Designer: Jude Kamal, ARIDO

Design Firm: Sansa Interiors

Photography: Bruno Belli

Interior of the entire Tabuleh Interior with the focal point being the bar at the end

Using the design of the other three locations as a jumping off point, I worked closely with the clients to convey their vision, delivering a cohesive new design that reinvigorates the restaurant. The focal point? An impressive new bar to anchor the design and invite guests into the bustling dining room. 

Our design approach for Tabule Midtown was to create a modern and sophisticated space that is evocative of traditional Middle Eastern and Lebanese aesthetic without being too literal. To accomplish this, we opted to avoid overusing traditional Mediterranean shapes in favour of more modern interpretations of the colour palette, materials, and overall vibe of the space. 

Original Artwork with Lebanese motifs decorate the plain white walls throughout

While developing the concept for this restaurant, we really took inspiration from the food. We immediately envisioned the dishes boldly standing out on the plate, surrounded by a simple, elegant and sophisticated design. Putting the food at the forefront and creating an area where people could sit back and enjoy it, was the true driving force behind the new Tabule. 

Middle-Eastern food is all about gathering, sharing, and spending time with people you love and care about. We took this as a way to make the space work from day to night and for any occasion, any gathering and any family or couple looking for a beautiful space and tasty food.

We executed this vision by striking a fine balance between bold and vibrant elements and upscale elegance, suitable for midtown Toronto. We also took a cue from the restaurant staff, who are artsy, cool, and unique. While imagining where we could push the design, we took inspiration from their effortless style. 

Another dining area with soft green upholstered benches along the white walls with simple white tables and light wooden chairs in front of them and greenery hanging from the ceiling

Our team made the decision to start by defining a palette of colours and finishes as inspiration, which helped to give us a better sense of the interior’s potential. We landed on a palette of neutral tones and natural materials, with a hint of pattern, to give the space the cohesive look that the client was after. We all fell in love with a serene combination of greens, blues, and neutral tones – with plenty of greenery mixed in – to give life and texture to the newly designed interior. 

The focus behind the restaurant’s interior revolves around sourcing local materials, items and artwork from BIPOC female run businesses in Toronto & GTA. Tabule’s style is a balance between our clients’ brand which is a hip Lebanese restaurant with good food, plus Sansa Interiors‘ interpretation of what it could be. We wanted the space to feel very bright and airy, as if you are sitting in a lovely breezy courtyard in Beirut.

A detail of the beautiful geometric pattern and oval mirrors adorn the wall behind the seating benches
Beautiful colourful artwork decorates the walls

We also learned so much about Lebanon from this project. The country has a very distinct style of vintage pop art, landscape paintings, and textile crafts that really spoke to us. Through their art, you can feel how proud Lebanese people are of their country and the colours they use are really inspiring. We incorporated Fairuz (who is a lebanese singer) into a large piece of art that’s hanging on the wall, with her music playing in the background. It gives diners a taste of culture through art, music, and the overall ambience of the space.

These thoughtful touches help the design feel more connected to its purpose, and make it feel authentic. It’s those little moments that help tie the design back to the culture, but in a fresh and exciting way.

The final result of Tabule Midtown’s redesign is a sophisticated and modern space that brings out the spirit of Lebanese food in a simple and elegant way. We couldn’t be more proud – or ready to dig in for a delicious bite!