Design Diary

A personal review of design creations.

Saint George Hotel: Toronto’s untold story

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In the heart of Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood, the Saint George Hotel mixes local heritage with a tasteful contemporary flavour.


The interior design of the Saint George Hotel communicates a narrative of local pride, diverse heritage and contemporary culture to create a hotel experience that celebrates Toronto’s layered history and sensibilities. The 14-story hotel integrates elements of Toronto’s culture and personality, giving guests a distinct sense of place. The experience of being a guest in their own well-appointed apartment. With 188 guest rooms and suites, a fitness centre, meeting and event space, the property provides unique guest accommodations within a neighbourhood setting.

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Guests initial experience with the hotel comes via an exterior black wood awning at the main entry, giving the hotel street presence and welcoming guests for their stay. The lighting is a subtle nod to the iconic marquee signs that once occupied the neighbourhood.

The most visually striking element on the exterior is the 10-storey high hand-painted mural on the west-facing facade of the building. Mason Studio commissioned well-known street artist BirdO to create a surreal geometric bird that continues the narrative of the interior experience to the exterior.

Upon entry, the reception area features a marble desk framed with wooden arches, back dropped 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 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.  

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Arches are used throughout the hotel as a physical indicator of moving from one experience to another. They visually guide guests throughout the space while paying homage to Toronto’s diverse architectural style and eras.

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A 40-sqm lounge situated on the main floor, just outside the meeting room is realised in darker, more saturated tones to convey a feeling of intimacy. A custom bar and beverage area offer the opportunity for guests to relax before entering the meeting room.

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On the guestroom levels, a collection of original, small vintage black-and-white photographs from a couple’s vacation to Toronto appear at each guest entry. These images tell an intimate story of early post-war vacationers discovering the city.

The suites are a continuation of the nostalgic nod to the layered heritage of the neighbourhood. The rooms are designed with a residential approach by housing a collection of art and custom designed furniture and lighting that is 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 with an alternative to more traditional hotel accommodations.

 

Photography: Naomi Finlay

A Treehouse Hanging From A Cliff

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We all love treehouses but often their comfort is limited. 90 minutes away from Montréal, yh2 created a home that benefits from an untouched environment.


"Dans l'Escarpement" is a light-filled house, literally hanging from a cliff (hence its name). It is located at the Domaine Valdurn (Saint-Faustin-Du-Lac-Carré), on land pertaining to an estate started over a hundred years ago and known for its remarkable landscapes and pristine lakes.

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The clients commissioned the architects to design their house in such a way that it would blend in the hill and cause as little disruption as possible to its surroundings.

To keep the house’s imprint on the ground to a minimum, the house was designed around two concrete “boxes”, the first one, vertical, and the second one, horizontal. A totally glassed-in volume was anchored to both. The main entrance and the owners’ private suite are on the upper level of the 3-storey volume. One level down, one finds a small office/library area, adjacent to the kitchen dining area. The lowest level of this vertical “box” features a sauna/spa facility.

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The one-level horizontal “box” was set a few meters away from the first volume. Planned as guest accommodation, it gives direct access to the forest floor and connects to the sauna/spa area from the outside. The intermediate level is the true heart of this house with its windowed walls opening up to the surrounding forest. The living dining area expands outdoors with a terrace built on the roof of the guests’ suite.

The prevailing material used inside is mahogany, selected for its enduring qualities and for its rich hues. In the living dining area, floors, ceilings, beams, window frames and kitchen cabinets are all finished with this rich dark wood recalling the trees just beyond. With light constantly shifting, interiors and exteriors seem to mesh. Keeping within the same color palette, Corten steel was introduced for the fireplace and for outdoor sheathing. Exposed concrete was used extensively on exterior walls; symbolically, it refers to the huge boulders, which are characteristic of the territory.

Access to the house is walking down a metallic gangway stretching from a concrete garage near the parking area. As one progresses on the light bridge structure, particularly on a misty day, there is a sensation of going towards a tree house floating in mid-air.

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Pictures courtesy of Maxime Brouillet