IDC’s Sarah Bradbury spoke with Alba Graner of Alba Graner Interior Design Inc. to learn more about Queen’s Quay Residences
Toronto’s waterfront is undergoing an extensive transformation to turn it into an inviting destination and showpiece for the city. In the midst of this revitalization are the Queens Quay Residences, four floors of exclusive condominiums that rise out of the historic Queens Quay Terminal. Though they offer stunning panoramic views of Lake Ontario, years of sunrises and sunsets had taken their toll. So Alba Graner, ARIDO Registered member and principal at Alba Graner Interior Design Inc., was called in to breathe new life into the faded condominium complex.
Could you tell us a bit about your background?
I had always been interested in art and studied art throughout my early years in school. It was my greatest desire to attend an art college and once there, I quickly recognized that interior design was it — I could be creative and earn a living too! I spent the first few years of my career in corporate design. Some years later, I was asked to consider a refurbishment project at one of Tridel’s earlier condo complexes. I ended up taking on the project and thus started my new career in condo refurbishment design. That was 15 years ago, and I haven’t looked back since.
Why is interior design important?
Interior design is an artistic discipline that focuses on creating functional and inspiring living spaces through the intentional combination of space planning, colours, textures, and objects. Interior design is important because it enables spaces to be refined to the highest level of comfort and aesthetic quality while also supporting the health, safety, and well-being of the occupants.
What were your primary sources of design inspiration?
For this particular project, the building itself played a key role in our design inspiration. The condominium residences are located within Toronto’s Queens Quay Terminal, a historic warehouse and dock facility that was renovated by Zeidler Partnership Architects in the early 1980s when four additional storeys were built. The condos occupy these four floors and sit atop eight existing floors which include a shopping arcade, restaurants, and offices, all organized around three atriums.
How did you decide on a theme or concept for this project?
Our client had a strong vision in mind when they set out to refurbish the residential corridors and elevator lobbies in the exclusive, 72-unit condominium complex that overlooks Lake Ontario. With their criteria in mind, we used the location and existing architecture as the starting point and over-arching theme for the design of the interiors. In keeping with the building’s exclusive reputation, we chose high quality, contemporary finishes that complement the historic nature and location of the building while providing a fresh, modern feel that will span the test of time.
How did the location of the project affect the design?
The building is located on Queens Quay West, a street that is in the midst of an extensive transformation and has the potential of becoming one of the great streets of Toronto. Our design had to reflect the changing environment of the area. The building’s surroundings were also a major inspiration in the design of the new interiors. The adjacent waterfront and lake inspired the colour scheme and carpet design, while the contemporary design of the building informed the choice of wallcovering, hardware, light fixtures, and stone flooring.
Why is it important to have well-designed interior space?
It is important to have a functional space with an efficient and lasting design that not only feels welcoming, but also meets all of the safety and code requirements which are necessary for a public building. It is also important that the residents feel proud to live in a space that is well designed and where the design lasts the test of time. The corridors and elevator lobbies are an extension of their personal space, their home. The attention to detail and quality of the interior design has a direct effect on how the residents feel when they come and go from their suites.
What were some unique features and/or materials used in this project?
The carpet used in the renovation of the resident corridors is one of the most prominent features of the new design. Because the corridors are lined with floor-to-ceiling windows, the previous carpet had been bleached by the sun and this was a major concern for the client, going forward. So, we chose a carpet that was designed to withstand the strength of the sun and is proven to be of exceptional quality. We chose a swirly pattern because it is reminiscent of the natural movement of water currents in the lake and worked well to provide an interesting visual experience along the lengthy residential corridors — the longest one spanning 302 feet! We chose rich colours including soft blue, white, taupe, and grey to reflect the lake and shoreline, and applied accents of soft yellow and rich, rusty gold to reflect the sunrises and sunsets over the lake.
What kinds of challenges did you face during this project?
In condominium design, it is always a challenge to design for the approval of so many clients! On this project however, most of the challenges we faced dealt with the extreme amount of sunlight that filtered into all four floors. Care had to be taken in selecting finishes that could withstand not only the sunlight, but also the intense heat of the sun. Additionally, the design had to compensate for the extremely long corridors and also had to incorporate the building’s unique crossover “bridges”.
What does interior design mean to you?
I believe that interior design is very important to the general wellbeing of the people who occupy the space. A successfully designed space can have a great impact on a person’s mood, so keeping this aspect in mind is one of the key “ingredients” to designing a space efficiently. But, I would have to say that my favourite aspect of interior design is seeing the potential a space has to be transformed. The process of coming up with a design idea, communicating it to the client, meeting the client’s needs and desires, and then seeing it become a reality, inspires and excites me!
To work with an interior designer on your next project, search IDC’s online database FINDinteriordesigner.org.