What We Really Do: Drawings Edition

Sure, you need drawings for a renovation (or maybe you didn’t know that?), but what are they really?

Drawings are an opportunity to try out the design and work out the kinks in a project before it’s built.

There I said it. Shortest blog ever!

Ok, ok, so maybe you have some follow-up questions to that. If you didn’t know you needed drawings to do a renovation (assuming you don’t need a permit- because we’re not going to entertain the idea that you’re passing up the opportunity to protect your biggest investment– for some of you literally- to save a bit of time or money). “But my brother did a renovation and his contractor did the renovation without hiring a designer and it worked out fine.”

Let me ask you some follow-up questions for your brother: Did everything come out right the first time? Did it come out exactly as he had expected? Even better one: How many times did he get a call from the contractor to make a decision or come show them how he wanted something done?

Hmm. So maybe didn’t come out as well as we’d all like? This is not the contractor’s fault. Read that over again, please. They are not clairvoyant, nor are they typically trained in any way to be a decorator or designer, or interior designer. This means someone needs to tell them how they want things, and if no one writes any of that down, it needs to ALL be conveyed in person, which is a LOT of time. You might already know this if you’ve DIY-d a renovation without some kind of professional help.

So maybe these drawing things are starting to make more sense?

I can tell the best contractors immediately when I meet them and we discuss construction drawings and how we do them at Sanura Design (and how a Registered Interior Designer is trained to do them, period). We usually bond over having to construct something with no drawings and some gestures or being asked to help design a space with the clients when it isn’t what they signed up for.

So what’s our special sauce? It’s actually really simple if a lot of hard work and experience.

We document everything. I’m not exaggerating in the least- a master bathroom project might have 7 drawings attached to it. That sounds like a lot, but it’s amazing for the contractor (and honestly if I wanted to spend most of my day on a job site, I would have become a contractor)- they know exactly what tiles we’re putting in where, how the tiles are laid out, where the plumbing fixtures are going, where to install the bathroom accessories, all the details of the custom millwork, where to hang the mirror, what lighting fixtures are going in and exactly where to install them, and the list goes on!.

An example of how detailed our bathroom drawings are above- we draw the actual tile layouts to any difficulties with installation or tile size can be discovered in advance

Imagine how easy it is to price a project when you know exactly what’s going in- and typically this means better pricing for the homeowner. You know exactly how much your project will cost before anything is ordered and anything is demolished or constructed.

Remember when I said drawings allow Interior Designers to test out ideas and work out the kinks in advance? They also allow us to change the scope of work/design to suit your budget better without wasting time and money during the construction process. Drawings also enable us to collaborate with contractors during the design process to get budgetary feedback and their expertise.

So hopefully you’re coming around. Congratulations! Now you’re well informed enough to decide if you need to hire an interior designer or if you’re happier doing this yourself. That’s always my goal!

And if you just decided you’d rather not take on the full-time job of managing and designing your own renovation, you know where to find us!

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Toronto’s Albion Library turns the page on dated institutional design

With a vibrant façade and a warm, light-filled interior, this revitalized Toronto Public Library branch is one for the books. Albion Library is much more than a place to house reading material. Located in Toronto’s Rexdale neighbourhood, the library functions as a social epicentre for the surrounding community. Albion Library provides a broad range of services for a diverse demographic, including many recent immigrants, in one of Toronto’s Neighbourhood Improvement Areas. 

Interior Designer(s): Joanne D’Silva

Design Firm: Perkins and Will

Photographer: Doublespace; Rodrigo Chavez; Toronto Public Library Staff

When we took on the project, it was apparent that the branch required a major upgrade. The ageing building (which dated back to 1971) was run-down and far from meeting the community’s growing needs. Our design solution needed to address deficiencies in the existing building and the community’s concerns around inclusivity, accessibility, wayfinding, public safety, and access to light and nature. 

While our initial plan called for an addition to the existing branch, community consultation quickly revealed that the proposed two-year closure would negatively impact the Rexdale community. In response, our design team worked with Toronto Public Library to develop a different approach. Designing a new library on the adjacent, underutilized parking lot allowed the existing facility to remain open during construction. When the new library opened, the pre-existing library was demolished and a multipurpose urban plaza for community events, markets, and visitor parking was created in its place.

Programmatically, Albion offers neighbours and patrons a wide range of services that go far beyond lending books. The library serves the surrounding area by facilitating programs related to cultural orientation, social integration, and employment skills (as well as providing access to technology and knowledge). For the Toronto Public Library, success is measured by the degree to which they can meet and respond to the changing and unique needs of their communities while innovating their services. As a space that puts users first, Albion Library has become a place of transition for newcomers and a haven for the community at large.

Inspired by the aspirations of the community, we used the concept of a walled garden to address the need for a safe space and respite from the car-dominated context. A coloured scrim of terracotta ribs wraps the building, evoking a garden in bloom and mirroring the diversity of the community. The scrim lifts to articulate the entry, creating a colourful and dynamic form that ushers visitors inside the cheerful space. The building also includes three landscaped courtyards which subdivide the large 2,694 square meter plan into distinct program zones, providing acoustic separation and the programming of different activities. 

Internally, the library is dominated by a folding timber roof that slopes towards the courtyards. The warmth of the wood structure plays off the lush texture of the courtyards—which are visible from every corner of the building. The neutral backdrop (cultivated, in part, by dark carpet and white oak millwork) highlights colourful and playful furniture items, light fixtures, and a striking mural by Jacob Hashimoto at the front service desk. High-level sustainable design features include a rooftop photovoltaic array, sloping green roof, daylight harvesting, and the selection of healthy materials. Occupant well-being is supported by proximity to nature and abundant access to light and views. 

We can’t wait to see what’s in store for the Rexdale community as they venture into this new chapter at Albion Library. 

The medicine wheel is a motif in the design of this Health Centre

The Sioux Lookout Meno Ya Win Health Centre is a hospital built in Sioux Lookout in 2012, and serves a population spread over a large geographical area. Health Centre clients come from 29 First Nations communities spread across Northern Ontario, as well as Sioux Lookout, where there is a non‐Indigenous population with its own rich culture.

Sioux Lookout Meno Ya Win Health Centre
Interior Designer: Taeko Rhodes, ARIDO
Design Team: Ena Kenny, ARIDO
Design Firm: Stantec Architecture
Project Joint Venture: Douglas Cardinal, Douglas Cardinal Architect Inc
Project Photographer: Richard Johnson

Menoyawin is an Anishinaabe word that connotes health, wellness, well-being and individual spiritual, mental, emotional and physical wholeness.

With a First Nations associate architect guiding the design team, many important aspects of Indigenous culture were incorporated in the planning and design of the facility. The principal concept behind the master plan was a circular path, 350 meters in diameter, cut through the forest and providing access to each building on the campus.

This path is a representation of the Medicine Wheel, a concept shared by many Indigenous cultures, that signifies the importance of appreciation and respecting the interconnectedness and interrelatedness of all things.

Within that framework, the objective of the interior design of the facility was to create an integrated healing environment, that would blend First Nations culture with the surrounding environment. Symbols of the primordial elements, earth, fire, air and water, are represented throughout the whole centre.

Tall timber columns and beams welcome everyone into the health centre with a large octagonal skylight at the centre.

The main gathering space is a heavy timber structure, oriented east, towards sunrise. Sunlight fills the space through a large octagonal skylight, and below, a central ‘fireplace’ built in tempered glass, lit with LEDs, and circled by red pipestone. A traditional sunburst pattern, created in epoxy terrazzo circles the pipestone on the ground, while a black granite waterfall next to the recalls an element that is vital to all living things, and provides a soft burbling sound.

A Ceremonial Room was built for First Nations ceremonies and healing and repeats the important wheel shape, with an actual earth firepit, bordered by natural stone and walls clad in cedar.

Cedar lines the walls and floors of the octagonal ceremonial room with an earth firepit at its centre.

The canoe‐shaped Ambulatory Lobby is built in structural timber with a clerestory window, flooding the space with natural light, while underfoot, a flooring pattern suggests the movement of water.

Throughout the inpatient wing, long walls of windows provide views to a series of landscaped courtyards, further reducing the institutional image. The circular pattern of the Medicine Wheel is also present in the cubicle curtains and floor pattern throughout the hospital as a metaphor of healing.

Landscaped interior courtyard with winding paved paths, and rock and evergreen gardens.

By incorporating symbols from Indigenous culture like the Medicine Wheel and the four elements into the design, the hospital resonates with patients and the greater community as a healing place. The architecture and the interior design successfully bridge the gaps between Indigenous and non‐native cultures.

1 SLMHC Website

Quantum mechanics inspires the redesign of this U of T Lab

The first and second floors of the McLennan Physical Laboratories were alienating, institutional spaces, harshly lit with overhead fluorescents. In the classrooms, students sat crowded along long tables; the setup was so inefficient the department was turning away 100 students from a popular course each term, due to lack of space. The space needed to introduce the greater university population to the physics community and showcase science education in the best possible way.

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

The interior design team responded with a complete reimagining of the space, incorporating the latest in collaborative technologies, styled in a sleek new visual identity that, topically, draws from quantum physics. In crafting its visual identity, the design team was inspired by the Davisson-Germer’s experiment, which confirmed that particles of matter can have wave-like properties – a major advancement in the development of quantum mechanics.

In its new form, the McLennan Physical Laboratories project becomes a hive of activity, and a site for greater student engagement. Visually, the vivid colour palette, in a previously monochromatic environment, has become strong brand marker for the department.

At the heart of the new space is the Physics Cafe – a vibrant work/study area with a multi-use video wall, full-height writable wall surfaces, and a felt-wrapped column for posting notices. A feature ceiling below the existing exposed concrete gives the space a more intimate feel. Oversized ottomans can be moved into clusters or rolled away for breakout discussions. Acoustic drywall, rubber flooring, and plaster ceiling tiles all dampen sound for a quieter study environment. Vertical bands of transparent coloured film add a liveliness to the space, while providing privacy for students at work; and are inspired by the particle wave interference of the Davisson-Germer experiment.

New teaching labs facilitate collaborative learning with informal breakout spaces, smart boards, and writable wall surfaces – all encouraging student interaction. A foldable partition allows a classroom to expand and contract as needed, while Corian surfaces ensure durability. The waiting and study spaces that line the corridors now feature seating alcoves for individual students or small groups. Plug-in points for charging devices help make this a good spot to stay and work; pin boards and well-lit chalkboards encourage the sharing of ideas and information.

Innovative thinking, collective curiosity and freewheeling experimentation are the foundation of this new building at Sheridan College

The design concept for this campus expansion was grounded in the belief that learning and creativity flourish in open and inspiring spaces that encourage investigation and collaboration beyond the traditional classroom.

Interior Designer: Chen Cohen, ARIDO

Design Firm: Moriyama & Teshima Architects

Photographer: Shai Gil

Housing Sheridan College’s Sustainable Built Environment Department (Architecture, Interior Design, Interior Decorating and Visual Merchandising), the Hazel McCallion Campus focuses its attention on the essential qualities of great collaborative spaces. These include natural light, connection to nature and views, warmth of material, comfortable scale and access to technology.

A grand orange stair ascends five stories from the ground level, drawing students and staff through the open spaces of the first two floors, toward specialized programming on the upper levels. Students and staff are invited to choose from a variety of spaces imbued with these qualities, which welcome exploration and showcase learning.

Interestingly, the facility is designed as a ‘Living Laboratory’ where the building itself can be used as a teaching tool. As a demonstration project, the building takes a “whole-system” sustainability approach, where the mechanical systems, flooring and concrete access panels are left exposed in some classrooms, and options for furniture, A/V and IT can adapt to changing needs over time.

The design also encourages the longevity and sustainability of the space through the use of environmentally friendly finishes like carpet tile made of 80% recycled material, rapidly renewable bamboo flooring, quartz and solid surfacing that features recycled glass, Algonquin limestone from Owen Sound, among other materials. Educational signage throughout the building highlights these sustainable qualities of the materials, in order to reiterate the mission of the facility.