The dramatic changes in the hospitality industry over the past two years have added a new perspective on the design of public spaces. As guests begin to return to the fold, designers are inspired to integrate different facets of socializing in a community setting, for work, relaxation, or play.

Sheraton Gateway Toronto located in the heart of Pearson Airport, recently completed a $30-million transformation project. A veritable mecca for travellers, the public areas designed by Toronto-based Moncur Design Associates showcase the Toronto scene. “This is the first new Sheraton brand concept to launch in in Canada, and only one of a small handful globally,” says general manager Douglas Brennan.

The contemporary design reflects a traditional public-square concept, where communities can mingle, dine, conduct business, and relax in a shared space. The grey and taupe colour palette provides the ideal backdrop for the geometric accents, soaring ceilings, and multiple seating areas for mingling.

The restaurant and bar take centre stage, surrounded by banks of studios, meeting rooms and soundproof booths. Meeting rooms range in size from accommodating four up to 20 occupants – all within a few short steps of the restaurant and the Starbucks coffee corner.

The Club Lounge provides a well-appointed oasis for its members, complete with cocoon-like chairs adding to a sense of privacy and ample technology connection points and task lighting. Guests can enjoy 24/7 access – an important bonus for travellers who can’t sleep or need to conduct business in their own time zone.

Images from local artists highlighting famous Toronto landmarks and iconic trademarks are placed strategically throughout the area. “Many travellers who come here may not have time to visit the city, but they can at least get a sense of the Toronto scene,” says Brennan.

Hotel Escad Quartier DIX30 on Boulevard Leduc in Montreal offers its own refreshing take on the local scene. General manager Jean Philip Dupré describes the property as “very much a lifestyle boutique hotel that caters to the local experience. We partnered with local artists to expose their work in meeting spaces, lobbies and on every floor to reinforce the local creativeness and uniqueness of the experience.”

The hotel, designed in collaboration with Quebec firm Lemay Michaud, features an ultra-contemporary decor with a simple black-and-white background palette, as well as wood and grass cloth accents

While the square footage is relatively small, the main floor presents as a very open space with a mezzanine. “The mezzanine and the floor to ceiling windows gives the space a much bigger feel,” says Dupré. “There is so much light, it makes the space feel amazing.” The mezzanine is also home to three booths that guest can use for private meetings.

A showstopping wall panel behind the front desk showing cutaway images of foliage represents a nod to the fact that the area was once a field in the country before it was developed, he explains. The lobby also features a brightly coloured Mah Jong lounge sofa beneath the staircase designed by Hans Hopfer.

For The Drake Hotel in Toronto, planning the new modern-wing lobby was all about presenting a welcoming community space, says Ana Yuristy, chief services officer, Drake Hotel Properties. “The bigger piece of the design discussion was creating a hub for mixed use where guests would feel comfortable having coffee, eating a meal, taking a meeting, joining friends for cocktails, or checking out one of our shows.”

Design partners for the renovation were Toronto- based Diamond Schmitt Architects and DesignAgency. True to the Drake brand, vintage furnishings and bright, rich, eclectic colours abound, from mustard and coral to deep green and rust accents. “We have always been a colourful brand,” says Joyce Lo, creative director. “When the world was going through the minimal grey phase, we never went that way.”

Many of the furnishings sourced from antique markets, help to create an intimate, welcoming setting, while works from local artists such as Malik McCoy and Stephanie Temma Hier are a visual reminder of the city’s creative spirit.

Unique touches include the striking Corian reception desk designed by Toronto-based studio Odami, a cozy eight-seat lobby bar, and a private meeting space behind a semi-opaque sliding panel that can open to expand the entire lobby area when not in use.

The layout is more of a living room effect with different seating zones, explains Lo. The anchor pieces is a large ’70s-style vintage sofa with integrated custom lighting. “The pattern mixes beautifully with the custom rug we designed,” says Lo. “It’s a lot for your senses and eyes, but somehow it all works together.”

By Denise Deveau


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