We caught up with Dan Menchion, founding partner at II BY IV Design Associates located in Toronto’s Liberty Village neighbourhood. We asked him about his favourite buildings, his company and what purchasers can expect to see at our new Minto 30 Roe project.
What was the brief you were given with Minto 30 Roe?
DM: They wanted to attract a young audience, and knowing the demographic of Yonge and Eglinton–lots of singles and lots of young families–They were looking for us to create something unique. They definitely weren’t looking for a beige building. With Minto being at the forefront of condo development right now and offering these great experience-based spaces, we were led to create some really interesting interiors for them.
What can we expect to see when the project is complete?
DM: The unexpected, really. This project is probably the most unique that we’ve worked on. It’s really uncommon for a developer to allow us to take this approach. We brought a lot more international style to the space. We brought a lot of influences from our travels and contemporary boutique hotels. The look is more sculptural. Some of the cities that inspired us were by Barcelona, Bilbao, Paris, London and Buenos Aires. Those are great cities with high design culture. That’s where we brought a lot of the influences from.
How did the location of this project influence the building’s interior design?
DM: I think that neighborhood is ready for something like this. 30 Roe is really cosmopolitan in its design and style. You know you’re not right in the downtown core, but you’re still in the city. I really believe that this area will be a destination. I think it was the hottest, hippest place to go for a while, but then it digressed. Now with all the new developments, like MintoMidtown, and with some of the other developments in that area it’s really coming back to life.
How does the firm’s role change as a project advances through the stages?
DM: We’re generally there right from the beginning to the end, but that’s a client-driven thing. Some clients don’t retain us to do construction management because they have their own crews come in, but we’re always there to answer questions. We are always actively involved. Minto has their own team take over to oversee the construction and they call us for questions and site reviews.
Tell us about your favourite buildings.
DM: My favourite is The City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia, Spain by Santaigo Calatrava. Just looking at photos of the complex, you’d understand. It’s spectacular. So futuristic. I love the lines, the forms, the reflections, the softness and the materials. I also like to go to London and visit the Connaught Hotel and my favourite department store, Liberty. My favourite hotel in New York is the Mercer. I’ve been staying there for thirteen years.
Does II BY IV’s work have a specific look, or does it change completely from project to project?
DM: It changes completely. I think that’s been the success of the company. We really are able to create an individual look for each client.
What are some landmark projects for II BY IV?
DM: There are actually quite a few. Yankee Stadium, the CN Tower; the Trump Hotel in Toronto; Crystal Cruises. We’re probably one of the only design firms in Canada that does the interiors for cruise ships.
What is the working relationship typically like between you and the architect?
DM: Most of our projects are very closely linked with architects, and the relationship has always been excellent. We’ve worked with every type and level of architect across the board and have had great success with them. Typically we are given a building template and we’ll inspire each other. Sometimes the project has already been designed, but they might tweak it once they see our interior work. In the case of 30 Roehampton, the building was already designed but they didn’t have a featured entrance for the lobby. We created a lovely canopy structure for them that really set a precedent for some of the design elements going forward in the landscaping and the interior.
How do you approach the design of your own home? What is one of your favourite pieces?
DM: The interior of my home evolves every year. It’s a canvas that’s never finished. It’s very eclectic. Most of the things in it are old objects or found objects, or things picked up on our travels. My favourite piece is our dining room table. It’s an old door that we found on our neighbour’s lawn when we lived on Palmerston Boulevard in Toronto. It was part of a pair of interior sliding doors and it’s about 400 lbs. of solid mahogany made in 1893. We now use that as our dining room table with a slab of 3/4inch glass on top. The legs are just vertical metal poles in the centre that kind of disappear.
Do you see a shift in the way condos and sales centres are being designed?
DM: Absolutely. As the market becomes more competitive, each developer is stepping it up a notch. We’re really seeing a lot of growth and people are bringing a lot more international style and a lot more influence from the hotel industry. So you’re seeing spaces becoming more hotel-like, with people using their lobbies as communal spaces. They become the first impression of your home, even before you get to your own unit. It’s really important for these public spaces to be fantastic.