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You’ve seen this room before. Past the door, the bathroom is usually to your right. A bed — or two — sits against a wall, perpendicular to the window and facing a television. (Depending on the room’s age, the TV might be wall-mounted, or sat atop an armoire.) Space permitting, an armchair and side table take their slightly slanted place in the background, facing the door. 50-50 odds of a desk. From corporate mega-chains to boutique destinations, the layout of hotel rooms the world over fits a surprisingly rigid standard. At Toronto’s W Hotel, however, hospitality specialists Sid Lee Architecture have turned the typology on its head.

Exterior view of W Toronto from Bloor Street at dusk

A thorough revamp of the downtown destination — covered in our sister magazine, Designlines — saw the hotel reimagined as a celebration of local culture. Particularly inspired by Toronto’s heritage of cinema and theatre, the 17,650-square-metre complex is distinguished by its dynamic shared spaces.

Conversation pit at W Toronto hotel

Housed within a mid-block brutalist structure with little street presence, W Toronto is animated with a ground floor café and cocktail bar, as well as a rooftop bar and a restaurant, and a true hangout space of a lobby, complete with a conversation pit. A playful backstage ambiance pervades throughout, thanks to the suspended ceiling grids, long curtains, elegantly simple black walls, and movie projector-inspired lighting.

A view down the hallway

Throughout the hotel, hints of a proscenium create the notion of a stage. In the hallways, the whimsically cloudy, impressionistic carpet pattern is paired with the vivid blue hue that frames the room doors, conveying the sense of passage. Inside each standard one-bed guest room, the same monochrome blue accent immediately draws the eye — with the window at the end of the room framed as “a kind of a stage,” says Sid Lee Architecture Principal Partner Martin Leblanc.

View of a standard guestroom, looking towards the bed.

And while the floor-to-ceiling-to-curtain blue is a bold design gesture, so is the placement of the bed at its centre. In a twist on the near-ubiquitous hotel room layout, positioning the bed at the window opens up the middle of the space to accommodate a small seating area — complete with a couch, side tables and ottoman — at the heart of the room. True to the venue’s sociable spirit, this central space facilitates hosting visitors. “This dual perspective enabled us to create a dynamic guest room that is adaptable to a myriad of uses throughout the day,” says Leblanc.

A view of the vanity and bathroom

And at the front of the room, the shower and toilet are tucked into the corner, while the vanity takes pride of place at the entrance. Hinting at the ritual of the make-up counter, the long, open vanity can do double duty in the social hours. “The open concept bathroom’s vanity can also smoothly serve as a bar,” Leblanc notes, “should the guest feel inspired to host and entertain.” At W Toronto, the inspiration isn’t hard to come by.

A view of the guestroom, looking from the foot of the bed towards the door
Sid Lee Remixes the Hotel Room at W Toronto

In a sensitively renovated brutalist structure, the ubiquitous guest room typology is turned on its head.

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