Style and substance

It’s kind of ironic how badly Ford Models’ Toronto office needed a makeover when they approached Van Elslander Carter Architects last year, wondering if its space was salvageable. The world-renowned agency has been representing fresh, hot modelling talent for more than 60 years, and its Adelaide Street address, on the top floor of an 80-year-old, two-storey building, was out of synch with its corporate identity.

So much so, that in fact, the company was ready to begrudgingly move to a new home, since their current one was underused, outdated and overcrowded. The layout was very compartmentalized, with closed rooms along the perimeter of the building blocking out natural light. Worn flooring and ancient furniture weren’t helping matters either. Not exactly fitting for a company that is based on aesthetics and beauty.

Ford turned to Terence Van Elslander and David Carter of the eponymous Toronto-based firm last summer, hoping that something could be done with the existing location. And there was definite potential. “It was a sweet little building; unique,” says principal Van Elslander. “A real gem in the rough.”

All the office needed was some serious revamping. The design team set out with the goal to create a more functional, aesthetically pleasing space, while maintaining the original character of the building. It all had to be done on a small budget and the architects hoped to keep their work environmentally conscious.

The vision was to create a simpler and much more fluid space, while providing the client with the segregated spaces needed for business, such as a booking room, conference room, portfolio library and reception space. With windows situated all around the perimeter of the office space, it was key to create an open plan to provide natural light throughout the space, while at the same time creating sectioned off zones required, for staff and privacy, as well as public. The design strategy used by Van Elslander Carter was to maximize the natural light inside the space by freeing the perimeter.

Working with Executive Building Solutions, Van Elslander Carter created a sense of openness; rooms were mostly sealed off with glass, or kept open. There was careful consideration taken into placement of walls; where privacy had to be created chocolate brown walls — which were freestanding of the exterior walls and ceiling — were employed. Glass partitions were used instead wherever possible, allowing natural light to flow through the entire office.

Though it wasn’t a mandate, the designers were keen on sustainability in their approach in this project. “It wasn’t something the client asked for,” says Van Elslander. “It’s something we try to do when approaching a renovation; we try not to throw things away unnecessarily.” Instead, much of the existing walls, ceilings and floors were kept original and just refurbished

The perimeter walls were painted stark white and the entrance wall in bold red. The original floors were stained and refinished in a dark gloss. The contrasting colours make a strong statement, creating a look that is sexy, stylish and timeless. CI