By Popi Bowman and Diane Chan
1 Best spa: Her Majesty’s Pleasure by +tongtong
With a flair for whimsy and sophistication, +tongtong put the crowning touch on a successful year with the completion of a hybrid café and beauty salon in downtown Toronto (the firm also designed a Spanish restaurant in the city). The inviting interior turns a simple manicure or blowout into an immersive retreat complete with a full menu of beverages, including cocktails and a juice bar, in an environment that encourages relaxation and socialization. The glossy white backdrop is accented by Douglas fir plywood – which frames the pedicure alcove and the reception at the back – while curated details, such as potted plants, graphic tile flooring, copper-finished seating, and rows of colourful nail polish provide hits of eye candy throughout.
2 Best bathroom: Royal Ontario Museum by Superkül
To mark the ROM’s centennial, the Toronto landmark initiated several renovations, including a much needed update for a well-used bathroom that was about 40 years old. Local architecture firm Superkül (which designed Canada’s first Active House) prioritized accessibility and durability without sacrificing style, by devising a trough-style, one-piece Corian countertop at two heights to accommodate children and visitors using mobility devices. A changing table and diaper disposal are discreetly integrated, while dual-purpose Dyson Airblade Taps allow visitors to wash and dry their hands at the same location, eliminating the hassle of moving around in most public washrooms.
3 Best installation: The Unexpected Welcome by Moooi
Last April at Salone del Mobile in Milan, the Dutch manufacturer transformed a 1,700-square-metre space into an awe-inspiring assembly of vibrant living vignettes complemented by the massive images of Massimo Listri. The Italian phographer’s work, depicting heritage sites like the Vatican in Rome and Florence’s Palazzo Pitti, were enlarged to heights of almost five metres, providing a historical setting for the latest contemporary pieces by such designers as Bertjan Pot, Scholten & Baijings and Studio Job. Moooi art director and co-founder Marcel Wanders explained, “In a world dominated by the new, we like to see our works in the context of eternity. Massimo Listri is the closest ambassador of this eternal heritage.” Check out Moooi’s exquisite installation from last year’s Salone here.
4 Best staircase: Les Haras by Jouin Manku
In an 18th-century Strasbourg building, once home to France’s royal equestrian stud farm, the Paris team of Patrick Jouin and Sanjit Manku (who recently completed Bayerischer Hof hotel in Munich) incorporated the four-star Hôtel Les Haras plus an adjoining brasserie with Michelin-star chef Marc Haeberlin at the helm. In true Jouin Manku fashion, the space is light, minimal and contemporary, and maintains the site’s heritage by incorporating such rural materials as solid wood, blackened metal and natural leather. Its standout feature, however, is the oak-wrapped staircase that connects the restaurant’s two levels: the piece is dramatic yet airy, taking cues from the fence that once contained the country’s top stallions.
5 Best restaurant: The Jane by Piet Boon
To realize his vision of “fine dining meets rock ’n’ roll,” Michelin-star chef Sergio Herman turned to edgy Dutch designer Piet Boon. For The Jane, formerly the chapel of an Antwerp military hospital, Boon (who also designs products) preserved the original ceiling and converted the altar into the entrance of the glass-encased kitchen, lending the feel of a modern shrine and offering a stage for the chefs. Studio Job contributed an eye-catching assortment of stained glass windows (500 unique panels in all) featuring such religious iconography as Jesus, skulls, apple cores and babies. Yet the piece de résistance is a gigantic, 800-kilogram chandelier containing over 150 metal rods and lights by Beirut’s .PSLAB. Suspended from one point, the divine pendant soars 2.75 metres above ground, and seamlessly combines art and engineering. Hallelujah.
6 Best hotel: Vincci Gala by Tekno-Bau Ibérica
For its latest Barcelona hotel, German developer Activ-Group called on TBI for a second time. The local firm, which designed Hotel Urquinaona for A-G back in 2010, worked with architect J. Campreciós to remodel the 1900 building a stone’s throw from Plaza de Cataluña and Las Ramblas in the city’s commercial and cultural districts. Many fine details define the colourful 4,600-square-metre space, especially the extravagant marble that wraps the elegant staircase, and is contrasted with humorous murals of Salvador Dalí (and his muse “Gala”). But the hotel’s most unique feature is its atrium, where thousands of golden aluminum chains hang like an enormous veil over the glass balustrades, their geometric patterns lending an optical effect. Strings of LEDs, integrated into the hand rails, give the glam curtain the spotlight treatment.
7 Best residence: Apartment by Claesson Koivisto Rune
A two-level home in a bustling Stockholm neighbourhood was successfully transformed by the Swedish studio (check out their champagne glass for Italesse) into a serene retreat, with surprising splashes of colour to accent the mostly white interior. An ice-blue Corian kitchen, partially open to the dining and living areas, shares the same Carrara marble floor as most of the main volume, while a bold red staircase leads to the upper chambers. With four bedrooms and three bathrooms in 300 square metres, the generous space maintains an airy, open aesthetic with a mix of furnishings by CKR and selections from Italian and Swedish manufacturers. Here, simplicity of design with distinctive, well-considered details are the winning combination.
8 Best corporate headquarters: Beats by Dre, Bestor Architecture
In an attempt to move away from the cartoonish dot-com interiors of recent years, Bestor Architecture – in collaboration with Loescher + Meachem Architects – created a campus-style corporate headquarters in Los Angeles that emphasizes collaboration and community, but without a play school-inspired vibe. A network of sophisticated, open-concept spaces are arranged inside two buildings, to accommodate more than 500 employees in a variety of flexible work and lounge areas. Bright colours define the different zones according to function: energetic (red) or calm (blue), while wide hallways and atria are equipped with informal meeting spaces. Bespoke furnishings and lighting treatments, along with ample skylights and courtyards, add interest and variety throughout the expansive office buildings, while wall-sized aerial photos of L.A. by Iwan Baan deliver the wow effect to the various conference and breakout rooms. Read more on Bestor here.
9 Best office: The Barbarian Group by Clive Wilkinson
For The Barbarian Group’s new office in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighbourhood, the digital ad agency brought in L.A.’s Clive Wilkinson. The architect, who was responsible for Google’s headquarters in Silicon Valley, endeavoured to foster a greater sense of community among staff members who previously worked in a two-storey space with private offices. He responded with a 330-metre-long, CNC-cut plywood desk made up of 870 unique components. It loops over 400 square metres, and houses nooks and corridors beneath its resin-coated surface. Says Wilkinson, “We think that the workforce is changing and it’s changing very dramatically. We believe that by the year 2030 this kind of thing is going to be completely normal.” The super-desk was awarded this year’s best office design at the Inside World Festival of Interiors.
10 Best airport: Heyday Aliyev International Airport by Autoban
Inside the newly expanded, glass-enshrouded terminal in Baku, Azerbaijan, which greets an average of more than three million passengers a year, Istanbul-based architecture studio Autoban (designers of such restaurants as Nopa) installed dramatic cocoons to house the various retailers, cafes and amenities, such as luggage storage, while creating a consistent grid of triangles and diamonds throughout the interior to complement the building’s structural steel grid. Hexagonal skylights and lighting fixtures continue the geometric theme, while unexpected curves complement the overall building design by Arup Engineering. Tall steel columns branch out much like the trees that dot the interior, while the Ayous wood cladding that enwraps the pod-shaped public spaces enhances the outdoors-in feeling invoked by the bright daylight and greenery.