As another year draws to a close and we begin to take inventory of the best interior design of 2022, it’s always fun to spot the areas where different projects overlap. When viewed together, the designs that left the strongest impression on us over the past 12 months offer unexpected insights into the colours, textures, and shapes of the moment.
Our main observations: warm wood, long recognized for its comforting power, feels particularly resonant right now. Not only is it employed to very skillful effect in Prime Seafood Palace, a cathedral-like Toronto seafood restaurant by Omar Gandhi Architects, and in the Cohen Community Food Rescue Center by Rockwell Group and Ennead Architects (which makes elegant use of wood reclaimed from Northeastern barns), but it also plays a prominent role in PAINTIT’s design for a synagogue in Kyiv.
In another nature-inspired move, several designers seemed especially drawn to the silhouettes of rippling rivers — creating meandering paths of their own in either shiny metal (in the case of the Han River-like ceiling feature in Burdifilek’s Hyundai Seoul department store) or rainbow-hued resin, which formed the centrepiece of Gaetano Pesce’s runway design for Bottega Veneta’s Spring 2023 show.
Moving to colours, deep burgundy (a not-so-distant cousin of magenta) and bright teal stood out, with the former making for an especially dramatic (and historically informed) choice of wall colour in Odami’s design for a new Toronto Aesop store, and the latter bringing bold personality to a Parisian airport terminal.
- Hyundai Seoul, Seoul, by Burdifilek
- Synagogue, Kyiv, by PAINTIT
- Aesop Yorkville, Toronto, by Odami
- Fondazione Luigi Rovati Renovation, Milan, by Mario Cucinella Architects
- Highbury Apartment, London, by Holloway Li
- Prime Seafood Palace, Toronto, by Omar Gandhi Architects
- Charles de Gaulle Terminal 2G, Paris, by Chzon Studio
- Bottega Veneta Spring 2023 Runway, Milan, by Gaetano Pesce
- Sid Lee Biosquare, Montreal, by Sid Lee Architecture
- Cohen Community Food Rescue Center, Brooklyn, by Rockwell Group and Ennead Architects
Scroll down to learn more about each project and why we love it.
To offer a truly distinctive shopping experience, a store must speak to its setting. The Hyundai Department Store Group’s 9,552-square-metre Seoul flagship designed by Toronto interiors firm Burdifilek accomplishes this especially well, pulling from its surrounding urban environment to create a retail destination that is totally of its location — complete with a rippling metallic waterway along the ceiling that recalls the Han River, as well as an all-white atrium filled with miniature nature parks propped up on stilts. The result is a shopping mecca akin to a modern metropolis. By recreating the sensation of urban exploration, the Hyundai Seoul successfully leads visitors to discover unexpected products they otherwise might not have known to search for.
As writer Nour Abi-Nakhoul noted in our coverage of the project in our May/June issue, it helps that there are so many textural, colourful areas to encounter along the way: walls of tufted chrome with yellow handbag cubbies give way to ethereal ombré displays that move from maroon to soft coral. In place of clothing racks, the store’s garments rest on steel rails that snake and twist throughout each floor. Especially as we shop for our holiday party outfits, it’s refreshing to see a project make such a triumphant case for the inspiring power of a department store.
This beautiful — and compellingly symmetrical — place of worship, situated in a Kyiv residential building, was envisioned with the express aim of being so warm and inviting that people would want to linger. In this regard, one of the space’s most transformative elements is its lighting scheme. Custom-designed to evoke candles, 480 slim tubular pendants are suspended from the ceiling. “One of the main requirements of the client,” explains PAINTIT, the firm behind the project, “was for us to create as much light as possible. At every meeting, they said, ‘more light, even more, because we are constantly reading.’”
Congregants can take a Torah from the bookshelves and sit at pews, carved at their bookends with a relief of the menorah, with seats that fold out. The floor is divided lengthwise into two zones, one for male and one for female worshippers. And in the farthest end of the space, visible to both, the Aron Hakodesh is placed front and centre in an ornate arch (another recurring motif, arches frame windows and shape interior openings). Here, the designers restored the original brick wall and applied a decorative wood carving that surrounds a verse of Psalm 135. With this temple, PAINTIT has succeeded in devising a comforting — and brilliant — respite.
Rich colour palettes. Luxe textures. A contextually sensitive approach. These are the hallmarks of an Odami-designed project (and the attributes that secured the Toronto studio’s place as our sister publication’s Designer of the Year). Skincare brand Aesop’s new Yorkville outpost is archetypical of the firm’s design ethos — and, as Bianca Weeko Martin notes in our original coverage of the project, is “a thoughtful response to Yorkville’s historic character.”
Its pièces de resistance are the burgundy-painted maple balusters that line the walls, mirroring the design language of the neighbourhood’s Victorian homes. The wainscotting-like motif was conceived more or less by chance — when searching for a wood turner, Fohring discovered the spindles in a warehouse, which were fabricated according to an outdated building code. Not only did the reclaimed elements make for a sustainable choice, they also evoked the residential character the area is known for. Their colour was also inspired by the local history — a nod to the red banquettes of the Riverboat Coffee House, a 1960s music venue.
The firm’s affinity for detail is reflected in each design choice, from the speckled epoxy floor to the off-white satin Corian handwashing counter that anchors the space. The intimate and elegant interior is a true reflection of the Aesop brand, emphasizing and elevating the ritual of self-care.
What better way to immerse museum-goers in the world of Etruscan art than to recreate the subterranean tombs of that civilization? That’s exactly what Mario Cucinella has done in Milan, in the 19th century Bocconi-Rizzoli-Carraro palace on Corso Venezia. Beyond restoring the palazzo itself, transforming it into a gallery for the Fondazione Luigi Rovati’s other collections (as well as a library, a conference room and a restaurant with a courtyard garden), the firm went underground.
Below the palazzo, it has created a series of cavernous spaces inspired by the hypogeum, the type of Etruscan tomb found in Cerveteri, northwest of Rome. To craft these interconnected galleries, and to signify the stratifications of time, the firm clad the interiors in slabs of Pietra Serena sandstone in a topographic manner that introduces a contemporary language to the ancient ambience.
Inserted between the contoured planes, large glass display cases seem to float artwork, vases and other artifacts in mid-air; the lighting scheme by iGuzzini enhances the architecture’s chiaroscuro effect. The overall sensation is one of awe and mystery — of being transported two millennia into the past while being anchored in the modern world, and into a modern marvel of an interior.
Offbeat, unexpected and absolutely original, the London flat of Holloway Li creative director Alex Holloway is a perfect encapsulation of his studio’s signature approach to interior design – one that “blurs the boundaries between historicism, decoration and digital process” and draws inspiration from both high-street and pop culture.
Thinking of his own home as a test bed for unconventional ideas and experimentation, Holloway (who co-founded his practice with Na Li in 2018) has crafted an interior that almost defies categorization. Located on the top-floor of a Victorian terrace, the apartment has been transformed from stodgy to spectacular by more than a few clever moves, not least of which was the removal of interior walls to eliminate a second bedroom and create a free-flowing “triple aspect” main living space that, thanks to the addition of two new windows, is completely bathed in natural light.
Pale pink raw plaster walls and warm Douglas fir flooring serve as a beautiful and subdued backdrop for the citrus tones of Holloway Li-designed furnishings, including sleek resin tables, the recently launched bulbous T4 lounge chair and oversized turquoise and mint green lighting fixtures. A metal-clad kebob shop-inspired kitchen anchors the open-concept space, while a bathtub placed right out in the open makes a curious impression. “Why not have a bathtub in the living room?,” Holloway says, citing the firm’s experience with breaking down traditional room functions for their many hospitality projects as inspiration for the installation. A select few vestiges of the original architecture remain, like the exposed butterfly roof and Victorian cornices (though those are now painted a vibrant Majorelle blue), and, combined with the more radical interventions, result in an overall energetic tension that feels singular, unique and entirely Holloway Li.
Tucked at the back of a courtyard in Toronto’s eclectic West Queen West neighbourhood is a pristine yet otherwise rather nondescript white box. What one encounters when they move inside, however, is something truly marvelous – a light-filled, cathedral-like space intended as an inviting escape from the bustle of the busy street. Designed by local architect Omar Gandhi with and for renowned chef Matty Matheson, Prime Seafood Palace is a refined gem of a restaurant rendered in reams of warm white maple, luxe bronze accents and an abundance of light.
Partially inspired by Matheson’s appreciation for Japanese and Scandinavian architecture and also subtly nodding to his East Coast roots, the interior is filled by a soaring wood-slat vault that successfully evokes a sense of comfortable containment. Running down the centre of its arch is a wood-clad “cloud” that filters lighting to create a glowing ambiance. Screens made from vertical bronze rods cover some of the windows, enhancing that feeling of seclusion while still allowing sunlight to permeate throughout the room. Intimate seating comes by way of semi-circular, diner-style booths upholstered in natural leather that extend along two walls and clusters of blonde wood tables and chairs, custom-made by Coolican & Company.
A rounded bronze-rod partition divides the length of the space, with its form echoed by the cantilevered canopy that hovers over and anchors the bar and an adjacent semi-private dining area. More brass can be found on the backsplash, bar wall and barstool backs as well as on the suspended conical pendants that illuminate the booths. Adding another level of thoughtfulness to the overall ambiance, an intricate lighting control system includes an astronomical timer that automatically responds to exterior lighting levels by altering the intensity inside. Warm, elegant and welcoming, it’s a genuinely lovely spot to linger over drinks and an extraordinary Matheson dinner.
Few settings are as bereft of identity — of a sense of place — as 20th century airports. In Paris, the sprawling Charles de Gaulle hub long epitomized the sanitized and interstitial (though sometimes elegant) ambiance of air travel. But the times are changing, and contemporary airports are increasingly imbued with a placemaking panache that reflects the cities they serve. And the French capital is leading the way, with a new departure hall that channels local style and street life.
Designed by local agency Chzon Studio, the previously utilitarian boarding gate at Terminal 2G has been reimagined as a plush, comfortable 1,300-square-metre venue. Featuring an array of booths, benches, banquettes, and chairs — finished in rich blue and green upholstery — the seats are defined by an interplay of subdued curves and bold, tubular forms. Doubling as bench seating, kinetic white sculptures (designed by artisans Les Simonnets) hint at the trees that line the city’s famed parks and boulevards. Meanwhile, a number of tables are adorned with inlaid chess sets, introducing another vivid note of local flavour.
The rich burgundy tone that stretches across the carpeting rounds out the luxurious, hospitality-inspired space, with the bistro ambiance amplified by playful nods to iconic local architecture. While arches and tubular forms offer a wink to the Arc de Triomphe, a showpiece water fountain takes centre stage. Framed by green metal chairs (like those found in the city’s parks), the tranquil feature is an homage to the Jardin du Luxembourg. But the details add up to more than pastiche. In the transitory, liminal milieu of an airport terminal, Chzon Studio has designed a destination in its own right.
Out to make a splash with its presentation of new creative director Matthieu Blazy’s sophomore collection in Milan this past September, Bottega Veneta tapped experimental New York-based architect and artist Gaetano Pesce to design the runway set (with production assistance from Bureau Betak).
In the wonderland that Pesce came up with, each attendee was assigned one of 400 blocky seats custom-crafted by dipping cotton canvases into various colours of resin. Flowing between these unconventional chairs (some of which were adorned with messages or happy face doodles) was a curving, multi-hued resin river. The result was a runway that felt something like a cross between the rainbow road level of Mario Kart and Flubber. Yet the show’s bold spectrum of colours also had a deeper meaning: It was conceived as a celebration of individuality, with Gaetano describing the set as representing “the world in a small room.”
And while the environment made an undeniable spectacle, it — importantly — still didn’t overpower the clothes on display. Instead, it complemented them perfectly. The accompanying fashion show celebrated the possibilities of unexpected materials, with Kate Moss appearing in an especially memorable look that at first seemed to be sewn out of flannel and denim but was in fact head-to-toe leather.
Jeans made of leather, chairs made of cotton dipped in resin — the show was weird, fantastical and exactly the jolt that we needed in 2022. We’re extremely envious of anyone who manages to secure one of the show’s now-iconic chairs, which went on sale this week at Design Miami.
Carved out from a former bank hall embedded within a public plaza, the only natural light source is from above. At the heart of Montreal’s Place Ville Marie, the new office for creative agency Sid Lee is an unexpected urban beacon. Designed by Sid Lee Architecture, the 7,300-square-metre project replaces a staid former bank branch with a bright and energetic workspace. Organized around an airy central “Biosquare” — a space that comprises a grid of stairs, seating and plant life, all lit from above — the design makes a virtue of its unconventional setting.
The light, vivid tones and infusions of greenery also characterize the workstations and smaller communal zones, weaving a sense of bright dynamism through the whole of the fluid, open-concept office, where no desks are permanently assigned. By contrast, the enclosed spaces, namely private meeting meeting rooms and lavatories, embrace a luxuriously moody ambiance. Instead of brightening the windowless spaces, the designers opted to celebrate the rich darkness — and make the surrounding spaces shine all the brighter.
As inflation soars and the threat of a recession looms, visits to New York City food banks and soup kitchens are up 14 per cent since January. City Harvest, a local non-profit that reallocates food waste from nearby restaurants and retailers, is striving to meet this growing need. The organization is on track to rescue over 34 million kilograms of food this year (a 20 per cent increase from pre-pandemic capacity), in part, thanks to its newly upgraded headquarters: The Cohen Community Food Rescue Center. The nearly 14,000-square-metre facility, a historic industrial building that once served as a repair shop for Brooklyn Rapid Transit trains, has been transformed by Ennead Architects into a contemporary, LEED Gold-certified workspace that unites the charity’s previously separate office and distribution centre.
Hospitality specialists at Rockwell Group (who also came with pro-bono experience working for other NYC-based food access organizations) led the design of the expo kitchen and event space. Placing the chef on full display at a central island, the flexible venue hosts everything from cooking demos with celebrity chefs to community gatherings. The space is elevated by humble materials — wood reclaimed from Northeastern barns, terracotta and metal — while layering in character-filled details like wainscoting and industrial-inspired pendants for a warm, inviting and almost residential appeal.
The roof terrace, complete with an outdoor kitchen and lounge, features a bold mural of native wildflowers by local artist Natasha May Platt, connecting the organization to its context — a reminder that just as the kitchen is the heart of every home, the centre is the heart of its community.
Our annual recap of the interior design projects that stood out the most over the past 12 months — from apartments to airport lounges.