Behind the Design with Kilogram Studio
What were your initial thoughts when LeTAO approached you to design their first North American store in Toronto?
Initially, we researched the neighbourhood and building. Our work often begins in the archives to give us an understanding of the context in which we’re working. This is shop is at the next phase of this building’s life, and should address the current moment in this neighbourhood’s life as well. We found a collection of historic architectural drawings showing the space’s history as a shop and later as a restaurant – today we’re combining both uses in a single space.
Can you explain the initial design stages or approach when designing the shop?
We wanted the space to be inherently tied to the neighbourhood and street in this case. It’s a corner storefront in a vibrant intersection that borders the Kensington Market and College Street neighbourhoods. The foundation for the design began locally to ensure that the LeTAO space would be an amenity and resource for its neighbours, and for visitors to the area. After establishing some of the key design elements, we began sewing in the LeTAO brand.
What does Nostalgic Modern mean to you?
Nostalgia played a role at the kick-off of schematic design when we gathered information on the base building and neighbourhood. Understanding the changing role of this corner over the past century puts our contribution into context and gives us paths to understanding how we can reimagine the space. Wherever possible, we wanted to honour the building’s historic assets. The flooring throughout the space is a red, black, and gold terrazzo that was likely installed when the space was used as a restaurant in the 1930’s and 40’s.
Describe the evolution of the design from its initial stages to the final rendering.
Toronto’s typical retail spaces are long and narrow. LeTAO’s advantage is its corner exposure and patio space which allowed us to focus on how we can relate the interior design to the streets to the east and south. Another consideration was the dual use of the space as a shop and café. We wanted visitors to feel comfortable whether they were walking through or staying in. LeTAO’s products are unique so it was natural to use their display as an anchor down the centre of the shop. Everything surrounding them was intending to create efficient movement and to support the multiple uses of the street. We saw the exterior of the building as a wrap, and repeated the element inside the shop in the form of a translucent fabric lighting fixture. A system of shelving that wraps around the shop provides a buffer between the street and interior. They’re constructed with a repeating frame topped with signage that mimics Toronto’s typical sidewalk A-Frame signs. The result is a space that acts both as a contained environment, and as a continuation of the public space outdoors.
What were the challenges in the project and how did Kilogram overcome them?
The storefront of the building is expansive and highly visible. Over the years the building’s façade has been modified and we wanted to balance the opportunity to bring a message to the street, with the building’s character and history. We’re currently working with a local artist to develop a mural that will tie the residential side streets to the character of both College Street and LeTAO.
Are you pleased with the final result and do you think you stayed true to the LeTAO brand?
What we drew early on from the LeTAO brand is a spirit of making. Their pride in the craft and quality of their offering is apparent. We were inspired by the attention to the natural forms that their double cheesecake takes after it’s baked in its paper mould and worked with this idea to develop a family of concrete surfaces and natural materials for the space.