Turning a Garage into Gallery

Established in 2004, the Nicholas Metivier Gallery has become one of Canada’s most distinguished contemporary art vendors. With business growth, the Gallery required a significantly larger display space and the opportunity to host more than one exhibition at a time. The design challenge, however, was to transform a derelict auto shop into an evocative spatial experience. This project was completed in 2018.

Interior Designer: Stella McTernan, ARIDO

Design Firm: McTernan Design Associates

Photographer: A-Frame Inc.

The interplay of the building’s perimeter glazing and interior structural grid ultimately informed the layout. The original overhead garage doors were removed and replaced with new windows, consisting of a central clear glass panel, flanked by two slender translucent side panels that obscure the view directly in and out of the Gallery while leaving intriguing oblique views. Floating drywall panels mirror the centre windows and establish a unique display opportunity that connects the street and gallery environments, and diffuses natural lighting throughout the gallery interior. The formal symmetry of the gallery space gains a relaxed edge from the gritty characteristic markings of the original concrete floor, a patina now activated by a polished finish. 

Fire-rated structural columns and overhead trusses, remnants of the garage structure, are embedded within the walls, which informs a sense of flow and creates three distinct yet interdependent gallery areas. Taking advantage of the depth of these walls, the design team saw an opportunity to add concealed storage spaces at each end. A recessed track and rod hanging system, which permits sleek staging of exhibitions, creates a greater range of adaptability within the Gallery space. A track lighting system with exceptional colour rendering capabilities and flexible beam angles acts in unison, providing optimal lighting and flexibility to best show off the works on display.

In planning the space, the intention was that the Gallery would separate office work and Gallery areas so that entry into the Gallery space becomes a pure experience. As such, staff work areas are easily accessible, yet unobtrusive. As the space narrows towards the back of the gallery, the design signals the more private areas of the Gallery. The Viewing Room and office are located with direct access to the Art Storage Room. On the opposite side of the gallery, concealed by an oversize sliding door, are the receiving area, coffee bar and accessible washroom.  

The design solution considers the needs of all end-users; owner, staff, clients, and artists. The owner noted, “I feel proud – it is a beautiful space. I get relentless acknowledegment from clients. My artists are ecstatic – they think the lighting is fabulous. The Viewing Room is brilliant and clients really like it. It is very private and has a different vibe. When I meet with people there or in my office, they are relaxed so they can be open to talking about art. Sales increased significantly over the same time last year.” The gallery display space is open and inviting with a clear sense of orientation that makes people feel relaxed and welcome. 

The design solution can be best understood as an exercise in confidence and restraint, a neutral yet inviting space that allows the architecture to sit back as the artworks move forward in visual prominence. 

A clear understanding of concept eliminates the need for luck

Bell Mobility Inc. wanted a dynamic design for the launch of their new brand into the Canadian mobile phone market. The innovative Lucky Mobile kiosk focuses on the simplicity of service and their core offering of pre-paid SIM cards to new Canadians, seniors, and students.

Design Team: Allan Guinan, ARIDO; Nicole Hoppe, ARIDO; Suzanne Wilkinson, ARIDO
Design Firm: figure3
Photographer: Steve Tsai

The brand presents a straightforward offering: targeting a value-focused customer, with the design challenge of standing out in a vastly competitive market. Education was at the forefront of the strategy, as the kiosk needed to demystify what is often a complicated and frustrating process.

The big idea embedded within the design is the instantly recognizable ‘SIM’ card shape as a visual signal, instantly communicating Lucky Mobile’s focus. The approach was critical to differentiate this offering from their competitors while removing language barriers and increasing accessibility to those new to Canada. Clients can interact directly with phones while simple and engaging infographics throughout the kiosk help direct and inform customers.

The 8’x10′ kiosk design naturally guides customers through a step-by-step journey of discovery to selection, with every square inch being maximized for storage, technology, product, and security all within a specific per-kiosk budget.

The kiosk breaks the mould of traditional intercepts, with an open and social floorplan, removing barriers and allowing customers to interact more easily with the sales team. The space even incorporates customer seating which supports the employee’s ability to engage in a deeper, more meaningful dialogue, which is a necessary component of the sales process for clients not yet familiar with Canadian mobility programs. The kiosk also offers a place for families often shopping together or arriving at an airport (where some kiosks are located), the ability to wait and rest during the interaction.

The entire experience represents a new opportunity to engage with people looking for simple connectivity in what is often a complicated and frustrating market. The booth can be customized with ease, using interchangeable magnetized and window cling graphics. This allows marketing messages to inexpensively change position, languages, and styles to support the diversity that is a hallmark of Canadian culture.

The results are clear, the Lucky Mobile kiosk has exceeded expected sales targets, resulting in a new sales and real estate strategy. The brand is now expanding their network beyond the expected targeted of malls into premium malls.

Creating a Neiman Marcus experience

American luxury department store Neiman Marcus was selected to anchor the new luxury wing at Roosevelt Field’s mall expansion. The first store for the established retailer in New York, a response that marks an important milestone in the company’s growth as the state had been reporting high online sales and strong brand recognition over the past few years.

Interior Designer: Diego Burdi, ARIDO
Design Firm: Burdifilek
Design Team: Jeremy Mendonca, ARIDO; Tom Yip, ARIDO
Photographer: Ben Rahn

The design firm was tasked with crafting a holistic Neiman Marcus experience for this new space, featuring women and men’s fashion, shoes, jewellery, and cosmetic offerings while also housing the brand’s signature cafe and other VIP services. The goal was to design a coherent space in terms of planning and finishes to provide the store with a proprietary Neiman Marcus identity while allowing various departments, vendor shops, and brands to co-exist in a complementary manner. The retailer also wanted to reduce the long lead times associated with previous vendor reallocations by introducing a new “open pod” framework design to maximize brand and vendor representation. The need for clear delineation and flexibility in the new space was key to design success, creating opportunities for Neiman Marcus to respond quickly to changing consumer wants and needs.

Handbag area at Neiman Marcus with purses on display, marble covered pedestals at centre with shelves of handbags set against a flecked stone background.

The new Neiman Marcus Roosevelt Field is a haven for luxury shoppers. A luxurious palette of warm tones create a serene backdrop for the high fashion product collections and a grand cafe is a welcome social spot for patrons. Signature features and design elements anchor each department, and the selection of key finishes providing visual continuity and consistency across the large floor plates.

The design of the new “open pod” vendor shoppettes play a pivotal role in how Neiman Marcus innovates in this new store. Understanding the collective needs of both the retailer and vendors ensures the framework meets brand design requirements for both parties – Neiman Marcus needed to own its brand presence through the architecture, while vendors demanded opportunities for customization.

Airy garment display area at Neiman Marcus with open display racks for hanging garments, and carpet flooring.

The resulting design utilizes an outer shell that is owned by the retailer, while the inside structure, backdrop, and complementary platforms can be customized by the vendor to express their brand guidelines. The framework takes shape in multiple forms throughout the department store, with the enclosed freestanding fixtures in the handbag department and the perimeter wall framing and fixture system in the fashion departments.

This focus on flexibility has equipped the Neiman Marcus team with the ability to respond quickly to changing trends and consumer needs, a critical measure for brand loyalty given the fashion-forward nature of the luxury retail industry. With brand presence well received since launch, it’s clear New York is eager to transition from e-commerce to experience the Neiman Marcus brand in person.

Luxe redesign crystallizes William Ashley’s 71 year legacy

After nearly twenty-five years in Toronto’s Manulife Building, William Ashley relocated to The Colonnade, one of Toronto’s most renowned retail addresses and a designated heritage building. The design team’s task was to create a space that modernizes the brand and attracts new clientele.

Interior Designer: Allen Chan, ARIDO
Design Firm: DesignAgency
Photographer: Ben Rahn, George Pimentel

Inspired by William Ashley’s 71-year legacy, its abundant offerings, and the distinct character of the host building, DesignAgency created an aesthetic that balances tradition and modernity, appealing equally to a broad array of demographics. The glittering jewel-box like interior is defined by bold, monochromatic shelving that unifies offerings while allowing the array of products to convey their unique stories. Gold detailing recalls the brand’s signature boxes, and chandeliers and luminous materials accentuate the store’s sparkle. One remarkable feature of the store is its functionality – for example, the lounge is a place to relax or sample the products first-hand, and display tables can be joined in the central galleria to create a dining table for 120 people.

The main entrance to the Colonnade is now an elegant white and gold entrance to the store. Customers ascend a golden escalator and are immediately welcomed by the bright and airy setting. The design team established zones, demarcated by their materials, shelving, and lighting to create unique atmospheres for different products such as crystal, silverware, and casual dinnerware.

Each zone is rendered in a complementary neutral palette to let the displayed products take centre stage, with materials chosen to absorb and reflect the natural light that pours in from clerestory windows. Luminous white marble plinths display a range of glass and decor, adding a sculptural feeling to the space while maintaining clear sightlines. Recessed lights and glittering chandeliers from feature brands such as Baccarat and Lalique add to the sparkle, calling out products that William Ashley sell, and getting people in the mood for entertaining.

The design also facilitates the store’s multitude of experiential functions. Customers can sit in the lounge, outfitted with Johnathan Adler furnishings to enjoy coffee or tea while waiting for purchases to be wrapped, or have a refreshment from the bar. The grand hall is easily convertible into a dining and event space for 120 guests. 25 hidden point-of-sale systems mask the digital commerce and help staff orchestrate a seamless personal experience.

Samsung’s Experience Store is a playground for techphiles

In response to the rise of e-commerce, Samsung enlisted our firm to create a new kind of flagship store to establish a ‘touch point’ for the brand – a place to experience its latest products, to receive personalized advice and instruction, and to partake in a full calendar of experiences including design workshops and on-site cooking demos.

Interior Designer: Young-Kun Yoon, ARIDO

Design Team: Victoria McGlade, Intern, ARIDO

Design Firm: Quadrangle

Project Photographer: Bob Gundu, Adrien Williams

Samsung selected a two-storey, 21,000 square foot shell at the main entrance to Toronto’s Eaton Centre opposite Yonge-Dundas Square – a vast urban space at one of the busiest intersections in Canada. Right away, it became apparent that conventional, closed retail façade wouldn’t give the store a dynamic urban presence and bolster the brand’s identity within the city.

Samsung prides itself on putting out products that ‘talk’ to one another, enabling users to link their tech world together, from refrigerators to tablets, to televisions, and more. This flow among devices inspired the design team to create an environment where everything flows harmoniously, with the word ‘infinity’ in mind.

Large glazed areas put three-quarters of the store on display to the city. Passersby enjoy views deep into the space, and shoppers are constantly reminded of urban life. Externally, Yonge-Dundas Square is a blinking, bustling nexus, contrasting with the calm interiors of the store. A metal ribbon motif flows over the exterior and through the entrance canopy, leading visitors inside. Softly lit swirls sweep across walls and ceilings, encircling a grand curvilinear staircase, a sculptural element that ushers guests to explore the second level.

Colour and contrast define the merchandising strategy. Monochromatic grey tones in matte finishes create a muted background to the glowing technologies. Visitors are instinctively drawn to the tables, counters and displays where they can interact with products or agents by both their targeted lighting and white Corian surfaces, while realistic kitchen and living room zones allow staff or special guests to demonstrate how the products integrate with one another.

The second-floor doubles as an event space so all furnishings are flexible and easily movable. Celebrity chef demonstrations, photography tutorials, and even screenings for Hot Docs Film Festival are just a few examples from the popular schedule of events that take place there. The flagship contributes to the greater social fabric of the city and builds a new brick-and-mortar retail concept.