Mason Studio’s redesign of La Banane is classic with a touch of whimsy

On a trip to France, Chef Brandon Olsen learned the idiom, “Tu as la banane”, which means to be happy, or pleased, and he has been smiling ever since. To Chef, the banana has always been an emblem of happiness and contentment.

Interior Designers: Ashley Rumsey, ARIDO; Stanley Sun, ARIDO

Design Team: Marti Hawkins, Intern, ARIDO

Design Firm: Mason Studio

Photographer: Angus Fergusson

Mason Studio integrated this sentiment and used it as a guide for the guest experience and interior design for new the 1,800 sq. ft. Toronto restaurant that specializes in French cuisine. The existing space had several identifiable design elements that required a complete transformation to rejuvenate the space and differentiate itself from the previous iteration. Within a narrow client budget and construction schedule, all exposed surfaces, furniture, and millwork were fully repurposed.

The new atmosphere is one of casual elegance where guests can comfortably savor the decadence and formalities of fine French cuisine. Classically inspired references form the foundation of the interior, while artistic gestures, such as a sculptural ceramic monkey, add a charming absurdity. Like the menu, the overall environment at La Banane is rooted in traditions but is distinctly modern.

Three separate dining areas were created by utilizing the client’s personal art collection, using a diverse colour palette, and modifying the seating types. The design team relied on readily available found  objects, materials, and lighting to support the new interior environment. They sourced antique pieces and commissioned in-situ artworks to add dynamism and interest.

At La Banane, contemporary art and saturated colour mingle with hallmarks of classic bistro-style dining and create a stunning backdrop for a modern dining experience.

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.