Elements of Chinese architectural history are key components of this restaurant’s design

Now opening its seventh location, Congee Queen wanted to incorporate elements of Chinese culture to reach out to new customers while maintaining their iconic brand for existing ones. The seating layout maximizes seating while providing a stunning visual experience from any angle of the restaurant. 

Interior Designer: Joe Cho, ARIDO 
Design Team: Long Wu, Derek Yeung
Design Firm: J.Cho Design
Project Photographer: AZ Photography 

Customers entering feel the vibe of a traditional Chinese restaurant but are greeted with a modern ceiling that emulates one of China’s most iconic and traditional buildings, the Temple of Heaven. Dissecting its architectural features, we were able to create key interior components that recall this important building and its architectural markers.  

Two columns were added to the layout, to balance two existing load-bearing columns and place greater emphasis on a centralized ceiling sculpture in the space. The columns are a visual cue that leads the eye to the massive sculpture composed of glowing curved elements. The design team tried several different configurations before finding the perfect angle for each suspended piece. An inky graphic of a dragon, an auspicious symbol of power, strength, and good luck in Chinese culture, done in a swirling indigo welcomes customers inside.  

The focus on traditional elements is emphasized with architectural details such as traditional Chinese rooftop edges on the ends of millwork dividers, and black lacquer and bronze accents found in traditional Chinese wooden doors at the host stand. The dragon visual element is recalled in the striated blue marble tables and continues around the surrounding walls, each element extending the customer’s impression of being amongst the clouds. 

Beyond COVID-19: How the pandemic will shape restaurant design

As the pandemic continues, there is a change in how we live our lives in all aspects. It is commonly referred to as the “new-normal”.  With this restaurant/bar concept we focus on a rooftop design, as outdoor spaces are proven to be safer in preventing virus spread. Could this be the “new-normal” in restaurant design?

Floorplan of restaurant

RESTAURANT / BAR

This floor plan depicts our Room-within-a-Room™ philosophy, which is critical today, not only for social distancing but for the security and safety of the guests and staff. As you walk through the space, you can see the fiancée meeting the parents of the bride for the first time; a group of guys getting together in a room to play games and watch sports; the book club that meets every month; family gatherings; the couple out for a date; the single business travelers wanting a drink while catching up on emails and the happy bar fly wanting to socialize with others.

Rendering of bar with rectangular counter in centre of the space with hanging storage overhead.

The bar limits direct contact between the bartender and patron with a deeper counter surface and a conveyor system behind Plexiglas. When the drink arrives at the allocated seat, the small glass panel will retract into the bar and redeploy once the drink is safely in the hands of the thirsty customer. To separate the bar guests, there is a glass divider panel between each grouping of two people. The dividers can be lowered to allow groups of three to four to sit together. In addition, the glass will be digitally interactive where menu items can be ordered, and where weather, sports and the latest news can be viewed. 

Throughout the restaurant, individual booths give off a sense of being ensconced in a comfortable cocoon with full wall surrounds, a Hepa filter cleaning the air inside. These booths are popular as they add privacy and an air of exclusivity.

The Room-within-a-Room™ concept works well as the world slowly transitions to the “new normal”. It offers customers the comfort and security needed to enjoy a night or day out from isolation. Also it provides instant recognition by the guest that these individual spaces distance them from other guests, making it feel safe to enter. To top it off, it has multiple unique pockets of interest that creates a fun roof top bar drawing people to this hot spot.

Bringing Home to Hotel Design at the Kimpton Saint George Hotel

188 guest rooms, fourteen stories, and one common goal: to integrate elements of Toronto’s culture and personality and provide guests with a distinct sense of place. Our team responded to this vision with a design that communicated a narrative of local pride, diverse heritage, and contemporary culture to create the Kimpton Saint George Hotel.  The boutique hotel brand, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants is renowned for individually designed boutique hotels positioned to reflect the cities they inhabit. Completed in 2018, the Saint George Hotel, Kimpton’s only hotel operating in Canada, is situated in the heart of Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood. 

Interior Designer: Stanley Sun, ARIDO; Ashley Rumsey, ARIDO
Design Firm: Mason Studio
Design Team: Marti Hawkins, Intern, ARIDO

Project Photographer: Naomi Finlay

Its design celebrates Toronto’s layered history and sensibilities. An investigative approach was taken to dissect and analyze the city’s vernacular to better understand key materials,  patterns, and nuances that would resonate as indicators of local culture and significance. The diversity of the city’s heritage and culture with its distinct neighbourhoods is explored through locally designed furniture, original artwork, natural materials, and strong interior architectural forms that pay homage to Toronto’s varied architectural style and eras. The design concept is expressed in every facet of the hotel, beginning at the street level with an exterior black wood awning punctuated with small pin-like lights, spelling “Kimpton” in Braille lettering. This lighting feature is a subtle nod to the iconic marquee signs that once occupied the neighbourhood.

Upon entry, the reception area features a marble desk framed with wooden arches, backdropped by a hand-painted mural of a misty Toronto-inspired scene. Adjacent to reception is a guest lounge, designed to feel like a living room. The space is occupied by a collection of bespoke furniture, artwork, lighting, and objects, many crafted by local makers that continue to tell the story of local culture and design. A 400-square foot lounge situated on the main floor is realized in darker, more saturated tones to convey a feeling of warmth and intimacy. The adjacent 1,100-square-foot meeting space, named the Peregrine Room, is, by contrast, bright and spacious. The change in mood between the lounge and the meeting room reinforces the concept of distinct neighbourhoods within the city. 

The guestrooms, suites, and generous presidential suite are a continuation of the nostalgic nod to the layered heritage of the neighbourhood. The rooms were designed with a residential approach including a collection of art, custom-designed furniture and lighting, seemingly collected over time. Every element in the suites is carefully designed to provide guests with an experience parallel to a well-appointed apartment in the neighbourhood, offering guests a warm alternative to more traditional hotel accommodations.

This project was also awarded an ARIDO Award of Excellence in 2019.

Inspiration was locally-sourced for this luxurious downtown Toronto condominium

Situated at the intersection of Toronto’s landmark financial and heritage St. Lawrence Market districts, 88 Scott was an opportunity to create a standout, luxury downtown residence. 

Interior Designer: Kelly Cray, ARIDO

Design Team: Neil Jonsohn, ARIDO; Christianne Barbuto, Intern, ARIDO

Design Firm: U31

Photographer: Jac Jacobson

Standing proud at 58-storeys, this condominium is anything but meek. The towering neoclassical-style structure demanded an interior as impressive as its presence at the corner of Scott and Wellington. The design was largely guided by our client’s directive to take a ‘Canadian Moderne’ approach which involved looking to Canada’s natural landscape for inspiration. The result is an urban oasis that’s rooted in references to nature. 

The experience begins in the 1,500 square foot hotel-style lobby where dark and light coexist to create a dramatic statement. We established a warm and engaging entrance by combining textured and polished stone backgrounds with walnut-paneled walls and screens. Guests are welcomed by Euro-inspired seating that encourages lounging and a double-sided “Ocean Black” slate fireplace that provides a cozy spot for escaping the cold. The fireplace serves as the focal point of the space and overall, contributes to the grand, sophisticated flavour of the lobby.

With the executive demographic target purchaser in mind, we designed a 1,800 square foot business area adjacent to the lobby. This zone contains private workstations, a boardroom, and a lounge for the convenience of residents.

An extensive amenity program was the key to cultivating a luxury lifestyle for 88 Scott’s residents. The amenities are located across the building’s sixth and 46th and 47th split levels (spanning 10,400 square feet total) and include everything from wellness-oriented offerings to entertainment-geared experiences. The sixth floor consists of a fitness centre and a social area featuring a sophisticated party room complete with a kitchen and bar. Unique art pieces animate key areas of the party room: a geometric wood ‘stack’ installation emphasizes the grand fireplace while hand-crafted coffee tables complement lounge seating arrangements.

In the 46th and 47th split level ‘Sky Lounge’ and private dining room, we created a vibrant urban atmosphere by incorporating large windows that frame views of Toronto. By day, the space is bright and airy, while by night, a moodier atmosphere emerges as skyscrapers and Lake Ontario glimmer in the distance. The ‘Sky Lounge’ interior features a combination of raw textures (seen in the wood floors and stone fireplace surround) against more glamorous, fabricated finishes (seen in the mirrored ceiling and lush upholstery fabrics). 

One of the main challenges of designing 88 Scott was delivering a high-end yet cost-effective result. For instance, the lobby chandelier, which was originally quoted from a European manufacturer, had to be substituted by a local supplier to accommodate budgetary constraints. Fortunately, the final result achieved the sumptuousness we had envisioned. 

Challenges continued as the building’s heritage designation required us to leave architectural elements, like windows, untouched. Since we couldn’t alter the imperfect window openings and sill heights, we added white sheer drapery throughout the lobby to disguise the irregularities. 

Since the project’s completion, residents have been taking full advantage of the condominium’s many offerings. The building’s lobby is much more than a spot to wait for an Uber: residents regularly spend time in this space catching up on emails and meeting up with friends before they head out on the town.

This project was awarded an ARIDO Award of Merit in 2019.

This survivor-led project inspired a new phase of ARIDO’s charitable work

In 2018, ARIDO worked with BridgeNorth as our charity partner for the 2018-19 ROI Project. BridgeNorth exists to address and prevent the unique problems faced by survivors of sexual exploitation and human trafficking. BridgeNorth provides programs to assist with their departure and transition from the sex industry by offering direct service to women, girls, and families affected by the sex industry.

Human trafficking is unfortunately widespread in Canada, with Ontario acting as a hub for the rest of the country, where two-thirds of human trafficking violations taking place here. The average age of young women who are lured and groomed into the industry is 13 years old and 93% of survivors are Canadians.

This project focused on the improvement and refresh of the head office located in York Region. This project was hugely moving and inspiring for the association and every person involved. Unlike previous ROI projects, the design team balanced the creation of a secure environment for clients attempting to exit a trafficked situation and the creation of a more secure space for existing clients. Details as minute as the furniture selection and placement were carefully considered by the design team, to try and prevent triggering of clients. New lockers let clients and staff feel agency and ownership of the space, as well as security of their belongings.

The addition of a shower allows incoming clients to bathe in a dignified and secure environment, something survivors of human trafficking are denied daily, while the creation of a fully functional kitchen provides a space to host cooking classes and offer new life skills to clients, helping them find secure employment outside of the sex industry.

“As designers, our job is to assist clients in creating a space for them that changes or helps the way they work and go to market. In this case, it has been an incredible experience to see and understand what design could do to impact a human experience and to directly impact the clients for the betterment of their lives. Aesthetics assist in the “feel” of the space, but the functionality of the space allows BridgeNorth the tools to reach many more people and help them with their next steps. We have been honoured to work on this project and be witness to this positive change.” Lead Designer, Lucia De Biasio, ARIDO, LDB Design Inc.

“This project has left a lasting impact upon ARIDO, our members, and our industry partners. It has led the ARIDO to shift our ROI objectives from improving an interior environment for a charitable organization to creating greater social impact by means of the Interior Design community. We are now focusing our efforts on leveraging our community and resources to provide a platform for the voices of trafficked Ontarians and raise awareness of this growing crime.” ARIDO Executive Director, Sharon Portelli.

The project would have not been possible without the generous support of ROI partners: Flat Iron Building Group Inc., Brigholme Interiors Group, Mohawk Group and Office Source + SCI Interiors

It was also supported by: 3form, Three H Furniture Systems, AMJ Campbell, Benjamin Moore, Camino Systems, Caplan’s Appliances, CaTech, Choice Office Installations, Daltile, Division9 Commercial Flooring, DPI-Construction, Doner Turrin Inc. EurOptimum, Four Seasons Drywall, Inc., G&P Millwork, Group Lacasse, Haworth, The HIDI Group, HiTek Window Film Solutions, Honeycomb Engineering, Horizon Mechanical Contractors, Impact Electrical & Mechanical Ltd, Keilhauer, Levey Industries Inc., LightArt, Liteline Corporation, Panolam Surface Systems, Paul DaCunha Architect Inc., PowerOp Electrical Contractors, Salex, Shoreway Flooring, Spec Furniture, Trillium Group, POI Business Interiors, Steelcase, Ultimate Decor Ltd.

ARIDO would like to express our deepest gratitude to the support of these companies and their staff, as well as the following people who were part of making the project happen.

Design Team
Lucia De Biasio, LDB Design Inc
Sakshi Kapoor, LDB Design Inc
Leah Watling, LDB Design Inc
Sojung Yoo, LDB Design Inc
Paul Da Cunha, Paul Da Cunha Architects

Fundraising and Donor Procurement Team
Mahesh Babooram, Office Source
Dayna Bradley, Brigholme
Lisa Gushue, Mohawk
Chelsea Powell, Flat Iron
Susan Quinn, Mohawk

Project and Construction Management
Carolyn Brown, DPI Construction Management
Elvio Di Simone, DPI Construction Management
Kevin Minnes, DPI Construction Management

Pre-Programming
Donna Dolan, Kearns Mancini Architects
Jordan Fang, ARIDO Intern Director
Karin Karak, K2 Designworks

Photography
Yianni Tong

Resources about Human Trafficking:
Human trafficking services and supports (Ontario.ca)

Canadian Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-833-900-1010
Hotline Website

This government office stands out, instead of blending in

Gone are the days of formulaic government offices, with uninspired gray surroundings for employees, and thank goodness for that!

Using an activity-based design methodology, the LWG design team developed four floors of light-filled space designed within the auspices of the Government of Canada Workplace Guidelines. Using affordable materials in innovative ways allowed us to deliver an economical space that is not short on design details.

Baltic birch plywood figures prominently throughout the space, along with key pops of colour. This space provides a menu of options to support the work that takes place throughout a typical day, including areas for heads-down tasks to spaces for active, boisterous collaboration.

The LWG Design Team for this project included Marc Letellier, ARIDO; Rachel Burdick, ARIDO and Ashley Lepine, Intern, ARIDO.

Do we really need a Building Permit?

As an Interior Designer, I hear it time and time again…

“What? A building permit! Do we really need one? But it costs so much money!”

The simple answer is yes, you really do need one, but not for the reasons you may think.

The main reason for a building permit is not a money grab or a way to keep people employed. The real reason is to protect the public. To protect us in the event of a terrible catastrophe where there might be a fire or disaster. This is such an important issue that seems to be frequently overlooked.

On average each month I typically hear one or two stories about those who do not want to start the process of obtaining a building permit. As a Registered Interior Designer of ARIDO, a Building Qualified Interior Designer and Project Management Professional (PMP), I must uphold the integrity of the regulations created to ensure the safety of the public.

And I we do this by ensuring my clients and the public is aware that there is a process in place established by the provincial government which I must follow. As to the cost, there is a small fee, consultant costs, and some guidelines regarding a Permit Submission that your local Registered Interior Designer can help you follow.

Here is an easy Three-Step Guide to get you started in obtaining your building permit for your corporate premise, a back to base building landlord project, or when renovating your home:

1. Hire an Expert

A Registered Interior Designer can make this frustrating experience a breeze for you. They can provide you with information on upfront costs for the creation of the drawings required, confirm if engineering drawings are needed, advise on consulting fees, when an architect may need to be engaged, will follow up with the City to ensure the timelines are staying on track and advise on the permit costs. The money and time spend doing this early will save on potential insurance claims and will protect you or your employees later.

2. Apply & Wait

The Registered Interior Designer will apply for permit on your behalf ensuring all the proper paperwork is completed, will answer the city’s questions and after four (4) weeks for a typical Corporate Interior Retrofit project. Et Voila! You have the City’s approval to start construction! (Occasionally, we may experience longer wait times than normal but a Registered Interior Designer can advise you of potential delays in the process, especially if they have experienced them recently.)

3. Permit Received & Safety Established

Once the city provides the Building Permit, a Contractor with a WSIB & Insurance in place can begin construction, in collaboration with your prime consultant, your Interior Designer.

I look forward to continuing to see that safety is top of mind for everyday corporate, landlords, and homeowner decisions.

You Want an Interior Designer Who Tells You “No”

Hello! This is a “choose your own adventure” of an article. You can watch the video below, or if you prefer reading it you can also scroll below that to read the article. Enjoy!


…And why the best designers know that your happiness is more important than our portfolio.
Opinion alert! That last part of the statement is purely my opinion (and the opinion of interior designers, decorators and stylists I know and admire), but it’s an important distinction.

Let’s start with that title up there. What do you mean I want my interior designer to tell me, “No”? I thought I wanted a designer I get along with?

Yes, but that’s a subject for a future blog post! This is right along those lines though. Isn’t your real best friend the one that tells you that you have something in your teeth, or your shirt has ridden up on the back, or quietly tucks your tag into your shirt? A really great relationship with your designer also means they care enough to tell you when your choices are the best for your design or your home.

Why? Here at Sanura Design, our reason stems from a deep reason- I want you to love your space so much it makes you happy every time you see it. I’m not doing my job if you just get the picture you pointed out in the magazine.

A prime example can be seen above in our material palettes. These are all for our beloved Project Christiani in South Mississauga. Our client had visions of neutrals throughout, and immediately said she didn’t like wallpaper (and had visions of that awful 70s wallpaper that made us all hate wallpaper). We pushed her boundaries and put unexpected things in front of her- she ended up falling in love with two wallpapers, one for the powder room, and another a blue textured beauty that was installed in her office. We also found out a deep regret (after getting to know her), was a simple orange leather chair she passed up at a store years ago. She STILL thought about it.

You guessed it, we paired that orange leather chair with that blue wallpaper (well the image above is spoilers!), and she loves that space (paired with great wood textures). We never would have gotten to that design had I just taken her word for it and not pushed her a bit to show her a few things.

Here’s a little peek at the office:

So, we care about our clients, but what does that have to do with saying no? Well, this subject came up unexpectedly after we made a visit to our favourite showroom to choose cushions for our client’s sofa.

We had gone through the cushions to see what the client liked, and when she paired a few together that really didn’t go with the design vision, I told her so. I didn’t just say “no”, I told her why it didn’t go and suggested something that would go better. We ended up with a couple of great cushions for the sofa.

Our next visit, we discussed that exchange and my response was- isn’t that what she’s paying me for? It’s my job to tell her if what she’s picking out doesn’t go with the overall design. We’re never rude, but wouldn’t you rather I tell you the cushions don’t look that great, then me be too shy to say anything and your friends and family tell you they don’t look that great?

All that said, here’s where this article’s title comes in. In the end, if we explain why it’s not right for the space (providing there isn’t any safety concerns- those are different!), and you still just love it. Ok, let’s use it. Even if this makes for “bad portfolio photos”, your happiness as my client is much more important than my photos. We’ll then look at integrating that into the design, and as long as you love the space- it doesn’t matter what I think.

This hairstyling school lets vibrant colour pop against a modern backdrop

The project converted a raw, post and beam loft into ASK Academy by Schwarzkopf Professional, a professional training facility for hairdressing trends, technical skills, and business management. The 7,200 square foot space is also a retail showroom for Schwarzkopf products and a place for demonstrations, meetings, seminars, and launches.

Interior Designer: Valerie Gow, ARIDO

Design Firm: Gow Hastings Architects

Project Photographer: Tuxedo Boutique Marketing

This new space brought the Schwarzkopf academy from a characterless location near the airport to a bustling downtown Toronto neighbourhood. The client wanted the historic warehouse to house a teaching facility with 18 styling stations, washing areas, colour and cutting studios, two theory and colour classrooms, meeting and working space for international advisors, a student lounge, reception and retail space.

ASK Academy, Interior Designer: Valerie Gow, ARIDO. Design Firm: Gow Hastings Architects. Project Photographer: Tuxedo Boutique Marketing.

The space needed a professional and international ambiance that matched the rest of the ASK Academies worldwide. Yet, as the North American Flagship location, it also required some regional character, in a setting that enables it to stand out from its competitors and their teaching salons.

The design team built a new ceiling through part of the space, creating a polished interior for certain spaces, with slices of the raw shell revealed in others. The space is white and bright, and keeps messier parts of the academy, like the hair colouring section tucked away, like the ‘Colour Bar’ where students mix dyes.

ASK Academy, Interior Designer: Valerie Gow, ARIDO. Design Firm: Gow Hastings Architects. Project Photographer: Tuxedo Boutique Marketing.

The Colour Bar consists of stainless‐steel shelving filled with boxed dyes, and visually defines the interior’s identity with swaths of Schwarzkopf signature colours. Shelves located in front of windows vibrantly project Schwarzkopf’s presence to the street, while the open sections at counter level allow students to evaluate their mixes in natural light.

The student lounge is flexible and can easily become a formal presentation space by reconfiguring the furniture and closing floor‐to‐ceiling doors, letting the academy accommodate live events, and on‐line training, while the sophisticate ground floor space encourages walk‐in traffic for treatments and purchases.

ASK Academy, Interior Designer: Valerie Gow, ARIDO. Design Firm: Gow Hastings Architects. Project Photographer: Tuxedo Boutique Marketing.

Valerie Gow, ARIDO and her team were able to design a highly functional and professional space for the varied needs of this hairstyling brand.

The Art of Living Big in Small Spaces

City living has always been known as “tight” and “small” living, but not this time around. We call it “the art of living big’, no matter how small the space is. A space is a space, whether big or small, but the design is what introduces an element of fun and creativity.

At Sansa Interiors, we gave this project a soul by creating a way of being. We observed our clients and studied how they move, we found out their interests, their favourite colours, and their top travel destinations. We then took all of that and tailored it to a simple and clean dream apartment.

Our focus was to bring in subtle tones and finishes throughout the space with pops of colour. We experimented with manipulating positive and negative spaces to create a flow from one corner to the other.

The home office showcases the contrast between the clean white walls and the soft yet bold blush pink gallery wall and adjacent furniture. The furniture selection is very minimal and does not interfere with the ambient flow, instead, it helps create a successful grounding experience.

Some of the requirements we were given:

  1. Home office for two people
  2. A reading nook
  3. Clean/simple kitchen
  4. A place to retreat at the end of the day

Design Tips for Living Big:

  1. Mirrors near windows
  2. The more plants the better!
  3. A subtle colour palette with accent pieces to bring in pops of colour
  4. Minimal furniture
  5. Bring in your personality, via art pieces or woven pillows

Photography by Bruno Belli.