In this series about how furniture functions as a key interior design element in the Broadview Hotel Café, I have spent some time discussing the overall architectural context of the room and the Circular Stacked Bar as its central landmark piece. I’m also interested in the two seating areas that occupy the threshold zone between the Café and the adjacent Lobby. These installations further demonstrate how furniture can cue spatial experience and express cultural meaning.
We expect every interior to have an entrance, a marker of movement from one bounded space to another through a recognizable gap. Good entrances create anticipation by holding back a little in the transition. While at first glance it might appear that the clear sightlines connecting the dark and glamorous Broadview Hotel Lobby through a wide opening into the light-filled Café manage to avoid this spatial signal, but this is not the case. Two carefully positioned seating areas at the entrance elicit a moment of pause in the architectural promenade. How do they do this? By grouping recognizable lounge seating types around dark, low tables in close conversation with trim, tuxedo-style sofas tucked securely against feature walls. In these compositions, the bucket seats of substantial arm chairs stay the surge of circulation into the cafe, appearing as hosts to be greeted or invitations demanding response. It’s striking!
First we meet the stately Wingback nestled with its party against a heritage brick window wall. This chair type has a long history that has been continually re-thought by designers ever since the 18th century in England. As a form, it has the benefits of a high back and side wings that permit an informal, relaxed sitting position. This version combines refined, modern lines and nostalgic brass tack detailing. The Wingback chairs cluster around a low table on wheels suggesting industrial heritage. It's perfect for sipping coffee and reading the financial pages.
Next we meet the svelte Scandinavian modern Lounger facing a glamorous panelled mirror backdrop and two casement sofas upholstered in large-scale, pixelated floral print. The moss green tweed Loungers have sculpted armrests and an integral wood frame in the style of Folke Ohlsson’s famous mid-century chair for DUX. (Thanks to Mike Mason at Toronto's Queen West Antique Centre for this suggestion. Ohlsson was a Swedish designer who moved his practice to California in the mid-1950s and went on to file many US patents for ingenious furniture construction details.) This mid-century reference recalls the elegance of early international travel, cocktail hours in Case Study houses, and North America’s sometimes hesitant embrace of European modernism. As an interesting counterpoint, at the center of the gathering are perfectly-crafted wooden stools and benches. I recognized the benches as Toronto’s own Coolican & Company’s small-bath, locally-made Adelaide bench in blackened oak. Lively convos over signature cocktails anyone?
Stately and svelte are clues to two different historical moments in furniture design history, each rich in potential to connect creatively with current users. These divergent historical references also lead us back to the storied historic past of this heritage building. I’m glad that the designers at DesignAgency have taken a composite approach to the furniture choices for these threshold spaces. With the strong draw of the windowed view just beyond, it is important that the entrance sitting zone receives due design attention in order to capture our eye and imagination.
I hope that you will join me again for the last few installments in this serialized essay. As I work through this critical reading of an interior via its furniture, please let me know if I can expand on or correct any details of identification or interpretation.
Interiors by DesignAgency.
Images: View of the ‘Svelte Salon’ is courtesy of Rose Pereira. Other photos are by Karen R. White.