Drake Hotel Modern Wing, Toronto

DesignAgency and +tongtong, Toronto

Photography by Brandon Barré (exterior by Norm Li) 

A forerunner of the small boutique experience in Toronto, the Drake Hotel recently built a five-storey addition along its Queen Street West expanse, adding 32 new guest rooms to the 19 in the original 19th century granite structure. Also new are the street-front bar, meeting and event spaces, the rooftop penthouse suite with a large terrace, and the living room-style lobby. Or, perhaps “suburban rec-room style” more accurately describes the lobby. Subtle refinement was not on the agenda; the new interiors bask in the hotel’s hipster reputation with their in-your-face, low-brow retro design. The lobby’s focal point is a cane-and-tambour wood midcentury-modern banquette. From the front, however, it presents as a more-tailored and -sophisticated version of those cushy floating low-budget sofas at Lastman’s Bad Boy Superstore, its hyperactive upholstery fabric evoking hockey broadcaster Don Cherry’s busy plaid suit jackets. The tongue-in-cheek fun continues with pops of colour and jazzy patterns in the furniture, wall art, carpet and terrazzo floor, set off against the whitewashed brick fireplace. Guest rooms feature saturated colour palettes, original art and signature wallpapers ranging from traditional Arts and Crafts to Op Art geometrics. These change from floor to floor, giving each floor a unique mood. A spirited scene has always spilled onto the street from inside the Drake. The bar’s prime perch, pressed close to a curved, full-height window, brings the street to the bar and vice versa. Also noteworthy is the sculptural check-in desk created by Toronto’s Odami design studio. Such touches, combined with custom-made quilts, patterned rugs and lighting by local artisans, underscore the hotel’s commitment to creative expression.