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.

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!

Bow Down to Mean Bao’s newest spot

Our goal for the design of Mean Bao‘s latest location was to create a compact space that would streamline their takeout process and efficiently accommodate the restaurant’s grab-and-go system.

In order to design for a restaurant that had a full takeout model, we had to include specific highlights like a takeout window and a large front counter to allow for a smoother customer experience. We set out to do this while also designing a space that would also strengthen their brand identity.

Interior Designer: Jude Kamal, ARIDO

Design Firm: Sansa Interiors 

Photographer: Jules Lee 

Side view of the Mean Bao fast food restaurant with whit concrete counter and red logo on it, and the slatted wall in the background

Often in restaurant interior design, the design story doesn’t necessarily call for brand recognition. The focus is usually on creating an ambiance that amplifies the dining experience. This is completely different when it comes to fast food and chain restaurant design where creating a design that amplifies brand recognition is crucial.

Our design approach for Mean Bao was to create a modern fast food restaurant interior that accommodates smooth operations in an eye-catching design. To do this we had to integrate restaurant architecture with design psychology. There are several factors that differentiate interior designers for restaurants from other types of interior designers, one of which is taking into account the psychology of the design elements in the design approach. We expanded on this in our blog post The Psychology of Restaurant Interior Design. 

In spite of the tough competition in the fast food industry, we know that customers appreciate the value of smaller fast-food restaurants like our client Mean Bao. Our design concept was to create a space that reflects our client’s uniqueness and authenticity. There is beauty in the “small” when it comes to restaurants. So we played up these advantages and designed a restaurant that stands out in a memorable way but also adheres to the chain restaurant renovation requirements.

The main design elements included seamlessly blending bold colors with Chinese characters and icons to celebrate the Chinese origins of Mean Bao’s offerings of Dim Sum-inspired snacks. We built a slatted back wall in a black and green color palette and paired these colors with the traditional bamboo wood. We gave the counter front wall a rough earthy concrete surface which served as the perfect backdrop to complement one of our standout design elements-  the bright red neon sign.

This speakeasy design offers a clean and playful spin on traditional Chinese design thus creating a space that’s full of color, character, and intrigue.

The final look was a perfect representation of a modern fast food restaurant design. The design and layout improved the efficiency of operations for Mean Bao. In this completely renovated space, the kitchen area now has more space and a light and breezy feel. The front area is more stylish and very noticeable and it has an overall seamless look.

The natural beauty of China’s landscape is the perfect backdrop for a relaxing dining experience

With inspiration from the famous Suzhou Water Town in China, our design team began analyzing the natural elements and Chinese architectural features of the site. The client wished to stay away from the heavy colours and details in traditional Chinese restaurants, steering our design solutions towards a minimal and calm interior for Yan Yu restaurant. The final design of this restaurant interior pays homage to the vastness and beauty of Chinese landscape and architecture, and the harmony between humans and nature.

Interior Designer: Joe Cho, ARIDO

Design Firm: J. Cho Design 

Existing ceiling conditions made the project difficult to be designed on a vertical scale. Large structural support columns limited possible layouts that could function for client needs and meet our design criteria. Working with existing conditions, our design team came up with a creative solution that became the central design element in the restaurant interior.

We used reflective materials on the ceiling to increase the sense of space and brightness in the dining area. The end result is a stunning ceiling feature with angled sections at different positions, mimicking a river flowing through the dining area. 

The simple black and white lines outlining the ‘river’ represent the walls and rooftops of the buildings along the famous water town of Suzhou. The ceiling feature is enclosed with a row of black metal studs, acting as a fence to contain the river. 

We carried through the abstract and minimal design of the water town with collections of Chinese water paintings that are hung throughout the space to further emulate calmness of the inspiring landscape.

Additionally, a simple cut-out of a mountain background can be found at the back bar to enhance the mimicry effect. Screens and moon gates create several layers of depth to highlight key design elements similar to the bar in the back of the restaurant.

Our design team was challenged by existing conditions of the interior, but managed to fulfill the client’s vision of an original concept, one that steers clear of all the traditional design sensibilities of Chinese restaurant decor we have come to know.

By bringing into play several creative design solutions we designed a calming, minimal restaurant interior that provides a unique, relaxing dining experience.

Latest outpost hails an exciting new phase for this coffee roaster

Hale Coffee first found their home in the west end of Toronto with their large, industrial-style cafe location where they roasted their own coffee and baked their own fresh pastries. 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. 

Interior Designer: Jude Kamal, ARIDO

Design Firm: Sansa Interiors Inc.

Photographer: Bruno Belli

White brick counter looking towards the espresso machine and wooden wall detail behind that runs all the way to the ceiling above the counter area

It was important that the look and feel between their locations was cohesive. 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. 

Our goal was to keep the locations consistent in style but tried to take it up a notch with the design of the new location. We needed to make this location more than just a cafe, but an experience. Where the customer could walk in, smell the coffee brewing, and see the barista making their order fresh, before finally taking that first sip.

The cafe is both simple and clean, bringing in an earthy feel, including a beautiful peacock mural design, to complement their services and keep the main focus on fresh-brewed coffee.

This location has a jungle-like vibe to bring in a splash of fun and colour. Mr. Peacock is one of the key features and is friends with so many of Hale’s coffee lovers.  Pairing the neutral earthy tones with lots of plants and leafy wall accents, gives this cafe a fresh and natural feel.

Frontal view Mr. Peackock peeking through behind the industrial style wall shelving displaying product

Keeping our approach as sustainable as possible, the concept for this cafe’s interior design was very earthy, natural, and reclaimed. We went the extra step whenever possible to create a minimal environmental impact by choosing to source local, reused materials instead of buying everything new.

As coffee is the centrepiece of this brand, we thought it was important to showcase their espresso machine, so made it the focus of the space in the design. For the base of the counter, we sourced reclaimed brick salvaged from local demolished buildings, and we added in beautiful, modern shelving units to display the coffee and merchandise on top. The menu backsplash adds a unique touch with its plant-infused wallpaper, reiterating the earthy design. It was important that this site was both aesthetic and functional, with stunning front counters that also served as an easy, visual guide for customers to follow. 

A view of the entire coffee shop along the length of the counter that leads towards the other end of the light filled space

Hale Coffee’s new location was able to live up to the glowing reputation of their other shops, providing an easy, functional, and beautiful space for coffee lovers to frequent. It is simple, clean, and straight to the point with every square inch utilised to the max.

The design even attracted a lot of attention on its opening day, with people flocking to take pictures of the new site, excited to learn more about the newest java joint nearby. 

All of the small details and larger interior design choices came together to create a cafe that proudly continues the Hale Coffee brand. Our client was beyond satisfied with the final look and we know their customers are satisfied too.

Keep an eye out for more Hale Coffee locations popping up! 

Now, excuse us while we go enjoy our cups of Hale Coffee!

Eat…Work…Play – A hybrid lounge experience

Located on the busy PATH thoroughfare in downtown Toronto, ‘The York’ is an enticing hybrid space that introduces new opportunities for the young, hip clientele to get away from the office to refresh, meet, and socialise in a vibe that is more ‘private club’ than a food court.

Interior Designer: Stella McTernan, ARIDO

Design Team: Mallory Creed, ARIDO

Design Firm: McTernan Design Associates

Photographer: A-Frame 

Club chairs by the window, anchored by large organic globes as pendants

Initially, this oblong nook was considered an enticement as part of the lease of the adjacent space to a take-out restaurant, but in analysing its separate location from the larger food court and the unique opportunity for access the building’s urban park, an enhanced design program for the space began to emerge.

Going back to the drawing board, led us to reflect on the value of the space to a professional tenant group. Two particular purposes emerged – co-working space and event venue.

The long almost S-shaped footprint provides the opportunity for two separate zones of activity. Facing onto the PATH and directly adjacent to the restaurant is a wide and open space with an unobstructed view of the park. 

Tucked around the corner is a long room that becomes a haven from the  hustle and bustle of the main food court, calming views of natural elements and access to outdoor park side seating. The tunnel-like length provides several seating zones, alternating low lounge seating with high barrel backed chairs affording spaces for groups looking to connect and those who need some focused quiet time, respectively. Large lustrous organic globes of light anchor a cluster of club chairs at the window and continue as a spatial organiser in this space. A combination of tablet arms and convenience ledges provide space for food, beverage, and devices.

Tunnel like long seating area by the windows looking onto the patio.

Since there is more inclination to purchase take-out food if there is a seating opportunity close by, this opportunity was part of the business case for the adjacent food provider. The front room takes the form of a more typical food court setting with a combination of café type tables and longer community tables including a high top and a dining table.

Outdoor seating is also visible and easily accessible from the PATH. What immediately distinguishes ‘The York’ and puts it on the map as venue or co-working space is

the use of luxe  materials and significant access to tech connectivity through wifi, power ports, and USB ports in every location. 

Tables and chairs provided for either work and collaboration or eating, with plenty of seating spaces

Wall finishes include raw concrete, refined back painted glass, and colourful acoustic tiles. The leafy disorder created by the plants throughout creates a relaxed atmosphere while also providing sitting-height privacy.

Aptly named ‘the YORK,’ this elegant work lounge is a very popular daytime destination and now has the potential for a nightlife too. For tenants needing a convenient after hour event venue, the YORK provides space for mingling, relaxing, and chatting and a patio for enjoying the outdoors. The café tables can be removed or reorganised to create gathering space, lights can be dimmed and the space is equipped for DJ connectivity.

This future forward bubble tea shop uses lighting to draw you in

This Scarborough bubble tea shop is located at the inner corner of an L-shaped plaza with the challenge of limited exposure to the public. The designer’s aim was to redefine the space with an eye-catching feature with an industrial feel which would also highlight the store location. An elaborate mirror and lighting combination was incorporated in the design to catch the gaze of people in the plaza, drawing them into a hidden scenery beyond.

Interior Designer: Angxuan Sun, ARIDO

Design Firm: Atelier Sun

Photographer: Alex Xu

Based on the requirements and the challenges, the design concept creates a unique design feature that not only stands out from the industrial scheme background, but also creates a memorable scenery for the store.

A view of the entire restaurant interior with the vertical LED lights hanging above

Two simple materials are applied to the entire store to achieve an industrial feel. First, a dark charcoal colour was applied to the volume of the open ceiling and surrounding walls. Secondly, a rough barn wood panelling lines the floor and bubble tea bar. 

To accomplish an unique visual impact, a series of custom-made long LED light tubes were designed to hang from the ceiling at different heights. The light cluster stands out from the dark background to establish a futuristic feel in the space. 

Black circle against white wall detail close up

The LED light tubes can transform the entire space as they are designed to dim, blink, and change colours based on seasonal mood and special events. 

A large wall-length mirror lining the back reflects the spectacle of the feature lighting outside of the store, drawing people in.

A perfectly IMPerfect restaurant oasis

The design of this restaurant IMPerfect Fresh Eats in Toronto had to exemplify brand values and vision of imperfect and host customers in a countryside vineyard atmosphere. The owners wanted to raise awareness of the wasteful practice of produce ending up in landfills due to their perceived imperfections like a small bruise or scratch. Their vision resulted in a chain of restaurants where consumers can enjoy healthy foods offered at an accessible price made possible by incorporating “imperfect” produce, purchased directly from farmers at a discount, into the menu. 

Interior Designer(s): Tatiana Soldatova, ARIDO

Design Team:  Patrick Augustynowicz; Sharon Murad, ARIDO

Design Firm: Syllable Inc

Photographer: Revelateur Studio

The design would need to attract and retain customers by leveraging the sharing economy. On top of being an inspiring environment, the interior needs to offer an efficient flow during rush hour while also offering a sense of calm for those who dine in.

Dining area and the biophilic design hanging down from the ceiling with choreographed undulating light-droplets peeking through the greenery
View of the biophilic design on the ceiling filled with real vegetation hanging through a grid structure in the ceiling

The new restaurant interior was inspired by the experience of dining outdoors at a countryside vineyard under a vegetated trellis with  sunlight streaming through the vines. The dining area was conceived as an urban oasis offering a sense of calm and restorative ambiance through the integration of biophilic design. Real vegetation preserved by glycerin hangs from wooden trellises suspended from the ceiling, while choreographed undulating light-droplets come together to create an ethereal effect. 

Close up of the biophilic design hanging down from the ceiling with choreographed undulating light-droplets peeking through the greenery

The interior detailing was deliberately muted to allow the vegetated ceiling feature to take the center stage. Chevron patterns that mimic the look of building rafters undulate throughout the restaurant to further build on the farm-inspired theme. A linear condiments bar houses disposal bins and physically separates the dining area from the high-traffic barrier-free entry walkway for customers leaving their order, or picking up their meal.

The washroom on the other hand, was conceived as the antithesis of the dining space and used dark monochromatic material finishes with a jungle themed wallpaper that envelopes the visitor.

Without any efforts in marketing, the immense social media engagement and the visual interest generated by the design of the interior has helped IMPerfect Fresh Eats attract customers organically. Eating out becomes a virtuous act here, diverting perfectly edible produce from landfill, without sacrificing taste or style.

An interior that expands the horizons

As the star attraction of one of the most photographed skylines in the world, it only made sense to make the CN Tower interior just as attractive as its exterior. mackaywong responded to the international invitation extended to qualified design and construction teams, tasking them with the challenge of imagining a completely new visitor experience, that would rekindle the interest within the local community, add necessary accessibility upgrades, and deliver a high impact experience for guests from near and far.

Interior Designer: Ronald Wong, ARIDO; Gordon Mackay, ARIDO

Design Team: Malcolm Choy, Jason Chin, Rei Sosroutomo, Carine Paratian, Kye Lee

Design Firm: mackaywong

Photographer: David Whittaker

View of new glass floor and skypod lobby

In collaboration with the architects, the design team at mackaywong determined that the existing level, consisting of a dated 200 seat restaurant called Horizons, several cramped viewing areas, a staircase leading to the 360 restaurant above, two dark elevator lobbies, and some rundown quick service food and retail kiosks, should be completely redesigned. 

Dining area in the lake hub

A responsive and flexible solution was delivered to address the idea that any event at the CN Tower could be intimate or expansive. The ultimate goal was to create a unified observation experience that prioritizes the view and reimagines the food and beverage format on this level. 

View of lake food and beverage hub

By removing the existing raised seating area in Horizons and eliminating established entry and exit points in, the design team created three highly efficient food and beverage hubs within the interior edge, and optimizing paths of travel around the external edge.

Night view from North view bay with integrated step seating
Night view from East view bay showing the beautiful night views of the city below and a stunning sunset

The new design aimed to showcase uninterrupted views of Canada’s largest and most diverse city, its relationship with the stunning waterfront, and the beauty of Lake Ontario. In response to this central idea, the design team imagined a SKY PROMENADE framed with floor to ceiling glass for unobstructed views, mirrored ceilings, wrapped in a crisp neutral material palette, and bathed in soft coloured light to make the night views of the city an even more exceptional experience for visitors.

Hospitality and retail services were pushed towards the centre of the Tower and integrated seamlessly into the interior. The three food and beverage hubs subtly derive design inspiration from the respective panoramic views of the city and Lake Ontario.

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.