Contrasting design elements create a modern and memorable lobby

This 30 year old Toronto office tower lobby was a series of dark, awkward spaces lacking a clear flow of movement before the design team transformed it into a modern memorable space through a skillful reconfiguration of the architecture and the insertion of several statement-making elements. The furnishings and finish choices offer a timeless aesthetic that will ensure the space looks fresh for many years to come.

Interior Designer: Inger Bartlett, ARIDO

Design Firm: Bartlett & Associates

Photographer: Tom Arban

We were tasked with repositioning the building as a desirable location, attracting vibrant, youthful companies as new tenants and transforming the lobby from a utilitarian transition space into a tenant amenity. The design solution needed to enhance the functionality and accessibility of the lobby and bring a fresh, modern look to a 1980s office tower. 

Upon entrance to the lobby interior, the wow factor of the towering screen combined with contrasting colours and textures create a sense of drama to stand out to prospective tenants.

Elevator lobby with wood paneling and modern linear light fixtures in black finish

The custom  perforated metal screen is a singular feature that instantly transforms the space. It’s not just a great piece of art for the lobby, but it also functions as a visual marker drawing visitors in the right direction once they step inside. The lobby was formerly a series of awkward annexes with no clear path beyond the bulky reception desk which felt like a blockade. Drawing the eye upwards, the screen also establishes a new vertical axis and emphasizes the 30 foot ceilings. 

A dynamic art piece, an anchor for the desk, and an acoustic intervention, the screen also defines the elevator bay and masks a bulkhead wall above. The sleek black coating is contrasted by an adjacent textured white wall, its three-dimensional surface capturing light and shadow in a manner that evokes a rippling body of water.

View of the entire lobby interior from the main entrance, where the black finish metal screen, the white 3D textured white wall, the lounge/waiting area and the small cafe are all visible and beautifully contrast each other.

The calming biophilic references continue with the flooring, which includes visually textured carpet and ceramic slabs in stony greys. Marble-like tiles were chosen for their scale – their vast three-by-nine-foot span makes the lobby feel larger. 

An injection of colour is finally added in the public café, a cozy space created by opening up an unused storage room. Defined by a high-back banquette in striking red upholstery, it’s an ideal space for tenants to eat lunch, or hold impromptu meetings. The café is crowned by a series of walnut slats that serve both to enhance acoustics and to hide mechanical systems.

View of the entire lobby from the main entrance, where the black finish metal screen, the white 3D textured white wall, the lounge/waiting area and the small cafe are all visible and beautifully contrast each other.

At the center of the main lobby space are two smartly tailored back-to-back lounge areas, introducing a vibe that feels more akin to a hospitality setting than an office tower. An amenity for visitors and employees alike, the lobby is more than just a transition area, it’s a flexible space that supports a range of activities, from quiet breaks to company events, that is also completely barrier free and accessible.