It’s not just the exteriors of Toronto’s high-rise and boutique residences that look exactly the same—a peek inside the city’s green-glass monoliths reveals an eerie homogeneity at play. Industrial lighting, polished concrete, marble surfaces, and sleek, tiny furniture abound. But it’s not simply the result of a city-wide fetish for stainless steel and exotic woods. This pan-Toronto interior aesthetic has arisen out of practicality: As condos shrink—the average size of units ready for occupancy in 2012 is 822 square feet; in 2014, that will drop to 695 square feet—there is a premium on space-conscious design. And for many local design firms, that translates into a penchant for muted palettes and uncluttered layouts. “The success of any designer is to trick the public into believing what they’re purchasing is bigger than it actually is,” says Lisa Rochon, The Globe and Mail’s architecture critic. Here, a primer on the three Toronto firms spearheading the streamlined, minimalist-chic movement found throughout the city’s sky-high dwellings.
Partners: Elaine Cecconi and Anna Simone.
Notable buildings: INDX (70 Temperance St.) | Chaz Yorkville (101 Yorkville Ave.) | Camden Lofts (29 Camden St.).
Output: The firm has about 20 projects under construction, including the majorly hyped skyscraper One Bloor (1 Bloor E.), and between 10 and 15 other Toronto projects on the drawing board.
Buzz phrases: Contemporary and clean | Cross-pollination of design | Impactful.
Signatures: Small-scale furnishings | Vertical built-in storage | Corian bathrooms.
Major statement: The lobby of the forthcoming X2 Condominiums (101 Charles St. E) will feature a $20,000 hammock-like leather sofa by Molteni & C. The building’s units can be upgraded to include a futuristic table that can be moved up (to eat at) or down (to work on) at the push of a button.
II BY IV DESIGN
Partners: Dan Menchions and Keith Rushbrook.
Notable buildings: Bohemian Embassy (1171 Queen St. W.) | Toy Factory Lofts (43 Hanna Ave.) | Trump International Hotel and Tower (325 Bay St.).
Output: Condo magnate Brad Lamb works with II BY IV so often that he considers the firm the “house designers” for Lamb Development Corporation.The team of 30 designers has 75 active projects at present.
Buzz phrases: Cost-effective creativity | Design magically, think practically | Profoundly functional.
Signatures: Muted colour palettes | Lighting fixtures that double as sculpture | Posh finishes.
Major statement: Trump Tower residents are welcomed home by a 3,000-pound cherry-blossom Swarovski crystal sculpture in the lobby.
Partners: Alessandro Munge and Sai Leung.
Notable buildings: The Republic of Yonge & Eglinton (70 Roehampton Ave. and 25 Broadway Ave.) | One Bedford at Bloor (1 Bedford Rd.) | Residences at the Ritz-Carlton (183 Wellington St. W.).
Output: The firm has roughly 24 condo projects in progress.
Buzz phrases: Unique and appropriate narratives | Stylistic idioms | Uninhibited palette.
Signatures: Small-space functionality | Intricate accent walls made of stone and wood | Vibrantly coloured multicultural influences.
Major statement: Each of the Ritz-Carlton’s units (price tag: $1.6–$9 million plus) comes outfitted with a custom-designed U-shaped walk-in closet in wenge veneer with storage compartments made of white leather.