Toronto has become one of the liveliest cities in North America, and local design firm Studio Munge has contributed a succession of inventive eateries, bars, and hotels that boost the area’s scene. Long-time clients INK Entertainment and ICON Legacy Hospitality commissioned the firm, led by Alessandro Munge, to put a fresh spin on Italian dining with the restaurant FIGO.
“Fashion and architecture drove the design,” Munge explains. “Inspiration came from the spring line of Dolce & Gabbana, and that found expression in the florals on the ceiling and the etched-glass windows. The tiled arch that frames the open kitchen and the Gothic arches around the wine display were prompted by my memories of Italian churches.”
FIGO is located on the ground floor of a new condo tower at the corner of John Street and Adelaide Street West in the heart of Toronto’s entertainment district. The linear 4,200-square-foot interior accommodates more than 170 patrons in a variety of dining settings. High glass-topped tables near the bar appeal to young, casual diners, while there’s also an intimate dining area with leather banquettes and whitewashed tables. Pale tones give the interior an ethereal quality that is enhanced by lightweight furnishings, reclaimed hardwood, and the sparkle of tile work. During warmer months, the space is extended by an outdoor seating area that engages with the active street scene.
“In our practice, we’ve made a conscious decision not to repeat ourselves but to create unique narratives,” says Munge. “The first meeting is critical; knowing the mindset of the client and the chef’s dreams are fundamental to the success of a restaurant. Design and cuisine have to be well matched.”
INK CEO Charles Khabouth appreciates Munge’s thoughtful approach. “Alessandro makes restaurants function really well,” he says. “FIGO is fresh, fashion-forward, and friendly, with a tilt toward the feminine. Two-thirds of our customers are women.”
“The various spaces of this restaurant are curated nicely, with beautiful materials. The elements of its design are a little bit unexpected and executed very well.... It’s just so elegant."
In FIGO, the clean lines and white decor, as well as the romantic amber glow at night, flatter diners. Munge strives to give his interiors an emotional quality, and his team carefully researches every detail of their varied projects. They collaborated closely with GZ International on the design of the ceiling mural, which was printed on vinyl and applied like wallpaper to the soffit that conceals the mechanical systems. The combination of LED and incandescent lighting—including recessed spots, wall sconces, and suspended fixtures— was tested in Munge’s studio and carefully calibrated to achieve an ideal balance. Polished concrete floors provide a foil for the ornament and the wire-mesh bar stools and high chairs. Hard surfaces reflect sound, which challenged Munge to temper the acoustics. “When people raise their voices, it brings energy to a room,” he says. “I like a buzz, but, of course, it can go too far, so I made sure that the seat cushions and ceiling would absorb some of the sound.”
The unisex bathrooms have a playful quality. “We took an inexpensive tile and had the contractor make a lively pattern of white, pink, and red,” explains Munge. “In a small cubicle, (the pattern) achieves a kinetic quality, and you have the illusion that it is moving.” Here, and in the tiled arches, there’s a reference to traditional mosaics.
Munge has a motto of “Remember the past and bring its spirit into the present.” But he is also concerned with keeping down costs and making the best use of simple materials. “Our design had to make sense from a business standpoint—stay on budget and not just be the best-looking,” Munge insists. “We are looking for longevity.”
who Interior designer: Studio Munge. Project team: Alessandro Munge; Melanie Liaw; Tatiana Ilina; Fiona Wong; Enrico Passeri; Ronnie Jose. General Contractor: Atlas Worx. Art and accessories consultant: GZ International. Graphics: UB Signs.
what Walls: Ciot; Century Wood Products; Mosa Tile; Artistic Tile. Ceilings: GZ International. Lighting: Victorian Revival; Eurolite; Humanscale. Seating: Louis Interiors; Superior Seating; Casalife; Bend Goods; David Craig; Credible Upholstery; JANUS et Cie; Locale Contract Furnishings. Upholstery: Moore & Giles; CTL Leather; Architex; Opuzen; Triden Distributors; JANUS et Cie. Tables: ALX Raw; Veranda Home & Garden; Soren Holm; David Craig; Ciot. Architectural/ custom woodworking: ALX Raw; David Craig. Patio umbrellas: Restoration Hardware. Signage: UB Signs. Plumbing fixtures: Alape; Kohler; Duravit; Hansgrohe.
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