We’d like to start with the reclaimed wood
Design-hungry patrons want to take home their favourite restaurants’ cutting-edge decor
Take a look at a few design elements in Toronto’s restaurants these days. They are bordering on the ubiquitous: open kitchens, chef ’s tables and, the powerhouse, reclaimed wood.
All of it is indicative of a new shift in the city’s restaurant interiors, says Robert Walshaw, a project leader at Yabu Pushelberg. “A lot of restaurants, over the past five or six years, have tried to adopt a more residential feel as opposed to a restaurant feel,” he says. “There’s a lot of crossover between the two.”
What better time, then, to start finding decor inspiration from some of the city’s hottest restaurants? We spoke with several lead designers to find out how to bring restaurant charm into the home.
From left to right, unique lighting at Origin on Church Street, sustainable style at Böhmer on Ossington Avenue and stools with spring at Parkdale’s Parts and Labour
Origin’s design anything but ordinary
Jason Stroud admits he shot from the hip while designing Origin Restaurant (107 King St. E.),but he knew he wanted to do something out of the ordinary while still paying tribute to the building’s history. He and his team at Stroudfoot Inc. made use of found items, including some burned wood that was still sitting around from a long-ago building fire. That wood now comprises the hostess stand, while the DJ booth is made up of support columns taken from the basement. The lesson here is that derelict house relics should be thrown away with caution — they could be useful.
For a more direct emulation of Origin’s look, there’s a giant light fixture in the private dining room, affectionately known as the kaiju (that’s Japanese for “strange beast,” roughly). Stroud put it together by making moulds of some of his favourite toys — including Godzilla and Mothra — and surreptitiously zip-tying those moulds to a powder-coated metal frame (the decorative power of action figures, it seems, should never be underestimated).
Most of the furniture here has been custom-made, but the dining chairs have not. Look for Alfa chairs ($550) from Italinteriors. To capture the molten metal look of Origin’s dining tables, try seeking out some “illusion” metal, which has a lavalike, bubbly quality. Origin’s floors are made of reclaimed barnboard (those from Revival Flooring in Woodstock should do the trick). And we wouldn’t recommend recreating Origin’s aggressive barbed wire light fixture (painted pink, for effect), unless one has an aesthetic affinity for gulags.
Simplicity and Swarovski at Böhmer
To achieve the look at Böhmer (93 Ossington Ave.), go with a simple shell. Designer Roy Banse stuck with polished concrete floors and white walls (“decorator white,” from Benjamin Moore) retaining a hint of minimalism that allows other design elements to shine.
“A big mistake some people make is jumping on trendy colours,” he says, “and then they get tired of it.” The space’s clean exoskeleton allows for the warmth of reclaimed wood, as seen in the benches and the large communal dining table, to really stand out.
Indirect lighting, too, can make a space jump. Böhmer’s eye-catching chandelier, a Brothers Dressler creation rife with Swarovski crystals,certainly steals the show, but the real unsung heroes of Böhmer’s lighting are LED strips. Placed behind banquettes and at other strategic areas, they spill light upwards onto the walls, creating an especially dramatic nighttime atmosphere. Banse is currently using LED strips at a condo he’s working on, under the overhang of an island.
Other Böhmer characteristics speak to the benefits of being a pack rat. A “wall” that separates the private dining room from the main dining room is comprised of a hodgepodge of old windowpanes. And, sometimes, treating a design element like an abstract work of art can pay off. The shelves behind Böhmer’s bar are staggered, with no repeat to the pattern, for a more interesting look.
Hair-on-hide creates One’s signature look
Designers of Mark McEwan’s Hazelton Lanes restaurant One (116 Yorkville Ave.) had to adhere to a high standard of opulence, so those seeking to emulate the look at home probably have glamour in mind. Walls in the dining room are decked out with hair-on-hide panels (that’s cow skin, to the layperson) framed with mirrored bronze. The characteristic chandelier was custom-made by Unit 5 in Toronto. Ask the team there for something with metal rods that explode out into space. Such pendantic design elements are not uncommon in residences, says Robert Walshaw, who was part of One’s Yabu Pushelberg design team.
Part of the fun of getting One’s design together was in making transitions — from hotel to restaurant to lounge — seamless, Walshaw says. The hotel does that, in part, with the use of metal “screens,” steel framing with a hairline bronze finish. That framing might be a bit imposing for a residence, but screens are a great way to ease the shift between rooms. “It’s much lighter than putting up a solid wall.”
One’s lounge area has decor elements that are residence-friendly, particularly the floor lamps ($4280) from Baker Furniture, the posts of which resemble knotted tree branches. The floors throughout are wood planks made of white oak with a custom ebony stain, and for something practical and lavish, the translucent sheer net drapes in the dining room allow natural light to flow inside while providing a veil from prying eyes.
Post-punk chic at Parts and Labour
The industrial, post-punk elegance of Parkdale’s Parts and Labour (1566 Queen St. W.) shouldn’t be hard to mimic at home, since the restaurant is essentially a showcase for Castor Design (co-owner Brian Richer is part of the Castor team). A more challenging task would be infusing Parts and Labour’s too-cool-for-school vibe into the home, which probably can’t be done with design elements alone. To start, we recommend gaining a better appreciation for the Stooges.
For a superficial re-creation, the barrel- like florescent tube fixtures above Parts and Labour’s communal tables are tried-and- true Castor stalwarts. Composed of burnt- out florescent tubes, they’re lit from inside with incandescent bulbs. The mishmash of lights made from repurposed fire extinguishers above the bar, as well as the bar stools that resemble industrial springs, are also readily available from Castor.
Emulating the floors could present a problem, since the team stuck with the old, worn floor from the hardware store that previously occupied the place. To complete the transition, a rooftop garden would be in order.