Inspiration / Empire Livingston


In the ancient world, the formulation and dispensing of remedies was considered an art. Apothecaries also
recall a simpler time, a bygone era when compounds and tinctures were mixed by hand from local herbs
and stored in rows of bottles. That feeling is what Figure3 conjured for visitors to Empire Livingston’s
presentation centre in Hagersville. Creating a meaningful, location-specific experience in a presentation
centre requires that kind of alchemy, one that not only appeals to potential buyers, but embraces the
long-time residents of the area.

Old apothecaries were often small town hubs, a nexus for community connections and care. That era was
something Figure3 Principal Dominic De Freitas wanted to explore when designing the Hagersville
presentation centre. “You wouldn’t want to buy a home in the rural suburbs unless you were eager to tap
into some old-town charm. That was a jumping off point for this presentation centre: we wanted it to feel
homey and very welcoming,” he explains.

Empire frequently builds in rural communities on farmland and locals (often with generational roots)
sometimes resist development. The large developer was acutely aware of how they could be perceived
by this small town and wanted to be sensitive to the neighbourhood. “We thrive on creating beautiful
design solutions to address client challenges,” says De Freitas. “We wanted to be sensitive to those issues,
therefore instead of a slick presentation centre, we took a different approach. We knew we needed to be
very thoughtful in the design, it took some time to come up with a solution that felt right and could help
tell the story.”

“Old apothecaries were often
small town hubs, a nexus for community
and care.”
/ Dominic De Freitas

De Freitas ran with the idea of a small town apothecary, filled with plants traditionally used for healing
that would in turn ameliorate the lives of the residents. “What you want is to throwback to a past when
things seemed friendlier with an emphasis on a close-knit hometown. The space has the feel of holistic,
small-town retailer,” he says. “Empire appreciated the concept was perfectly appropriate for this area
and they liked we’re helping to address some of their thornier issues.”

The presentation centre’s entrance is tiled with old school basketweave mosaic tile, discretely depicting
the Empire logo. A feature wall is created using rows of potted plants which contain herbs and spices
used for elixirs. A branded messaging wall is a common element in all Empire’s presentation centres,
but this one is populated by sepia-toned images. “It’s a little bit of Empire’s history told in a graphic way.
Generally it’s quite modern and we have used that in other presentation centres, but here we had
to make it feel a bit more vintage via the lettering and sepia photographs.”

The logo is also incorporated in a wall of subway tile with black grout, a standard turn-of-the century
treatment. “This presentation centre is unique in that it’s a little unassuming, subtly conveying the idea
that healthy, good things can come from this space, that it’s linked to the community and appealing to
the new demographic of homebuyers coming in.”

Rustic plank flooring in a dark, mellow tone is laid throughout the centre, and repeated in the millwork
of the display units. The reception desk and the island both hearken back to the heavy counters that were
necessary to mix and dispense medicine. Rows of faux drawers with old-fashioned finger-pull hooks
and labels that denote the ingredients is a classic apothecary hallmark. A tufted leather chesterfield,
Windsor bench seating, and thick glass pendants emphasize the modern farmhouse character.

The centre of the space is inset with mosaic tiles to form an ersatz carpet under a large communal farm
table. One of the most evocative elements is the collected displays of local artifacts — such as bottles,
scales, a brass mortar and pestle, carafes and clocks — sourced though nearby antique and vintage
stores which add local authenticity.

The community has several phases, and during the initial launch the presentation centre was used for
appointments with purchasers to host large events. “We needed a kitchen where we could host events
that the caterers can use, so we designed the area to feel like something you would see in an old store.”

The generous farmhouse sink has a large apron, and wide counters can accommodate a spread of food
and beverages. Above the sink, an antiqued mirror mimics the foxing that occurs with age, while rows
of brown bottles (once used to safeguard ingredients from breaking down in sunlight) are accented by
inset lighting.

Figure3 didn’t want to be too literal and was wary of making this presentation centre environment feel
old: after all the developer is selling a brand new product. “There are enough modern elements in here
that it doesn’t feel like an old space,” De Freitas says. “This is something the client has never seen done
in a sales environment, so it was quite exciting for us to tackle. Sourcing those accessories was fun,
that’s what we are trying to achieve by adding in these layers of character.”

Inspiration / Menkes Adagio


Long before Joni Mitchell and Neil Young strummed their guitars on the smoky coffeehouse stages
of the Penny Farthing and The Riverboat, Yorkville was home to another kind of artistry. In the 1930s
Russian emigré and ballet master Boris Volkoff (often considered the father of Canadian ballet) was
adjusting arabesques and choreographing original pieces at his studio at 771 Yonge Street. From 1931
to 1945, the studio was housed in a modest Georgian building with a gabled roof on Asquith Avenue set
at the edge of Yorkville, where it still stands today.

All those historical strands weave together to create a new tapestry that combines theatricality, grace and
movement in the Adagio, a new residence slated to launch soon. In ballet, Adagio refers
to slow, fluid movement and the design of this project is similarly balletic in spirit, full of curvaceous lines
that mimic the overhead sweep of a dancer’s lithe arm.

Dominic De Freitas, Principal at Figure3 passed by the building frequently and knew it was a heritage
building. “I noticed the plaque outside describing it as one of the first ballet studios in Canada. Volkoff felt
inspired to break the mold and get more avante garde with the performances, pushing the boundaries by
starting his own school. The location has a very vibrant past.”

De Freitas explains that it’s not uncommon that developments are attached to historic buildings, but often
they are not celebrated. “It becomes an afterthought, it’s never a part of the marketing story. It would be a
shame if we didn’t leverage that this famous Russian ballet dancer started his own school here. That was
the jumping off point for me and Tamara Rooks.”

“His style of ballet was edgy
and raw
. We loved that idea and
used it for some elements.”
/ Tamara Rooks

A zipper-like treatment of the windows creates an exterior with rhythm and repetition, which De Freitas
likens to the edge of a tutu. Inside, curves are a recurring leitmotif, embedded in brass inlays on the
lobby’s quartz floor, soaring above doorways, and looping over the backs of petal-shaped chairs. To honour
Volkoff’s vision, a vignette depicting a scene from his ballets appears above a bench in the lobby.

“His style of ballet was edgy and raw. We loved that idea and used it for some elements,” notes Tamara
Rooks, Creative Lead, Figure3. “Going to the ballet was quite the event in Volkoff’s day, a luxurious,
sophisticated experience,” she explains. “It was glamorous and theatrical.”

“They really embraced the ballet studio
/ Dominic De Freitas

The performance starts in the lobby with a series of arches that lead to an oversize circular mirror, framed by
drapes. “This is a narrow building and the archways help the sections feel more intimate, and make the space
feel expansive at the same time,” says Rooks. “The goal was to make this thoroughfare intriguing. We wanted
tenants to experience the succession of archways leading to a large, round mirror to reflect Yonge Street, the
city’s longest artery. It turns tenants into participants of the theatre of the city, putting them centre stage.” To
give the narrow lobby more presence, a slim reeded glass fireplace in a brass recessed cove is a warm focal
point. Overhead, ethereal custom lights based on dancers’ tutus are suspended in between the archways and
seem to float down from the ceiling like bits of tulle.

The large round mirror makes appearances on every floor of the Adagio as a spot for last minute checks
before entering the elevators. Generous use of drapery helps soften the linear space and nods to the concept
of the lobby as a stage. “We wanted to play with drapery and whimsical furniture to convey the essence of
a theatrical ballet performance,” says Rooks. The plushness of furniture upholstered in jewel-tone velvet is
reminiscent of auditorium seats.

The amenity floor includes an in-house ballet barre studio, complete with brass barres and plenty of mirrors
and luxuriant drapes, where tenants can host private classes and monitor their position. “They really
embraced the ballet studio concept,” says De Freitas of the client. The 600-square-foot gym is lavished
with rich walnut veneer and brass elements, and bronze glass clad the columns giving the studio and gym a
classical appeal.

In the bar area, the centrepiece is a backsplash crafted from flower petals (a nod to bouquets that were
typically tossed to prima ballerinas by adoring audiences after a performance) encased in pink epoxy by
Toronto artist Stephanie Singh. Over the reeded wood bar, a Vibia Palma light fixture with an inset plant
conveys a high-end lounge vibe.

A double-sided fireplace separates the dining area and co-working space, dressed in silk linen wallpaper, creating
a luxurious spot to flip open a laptop or meet friends on the patio outside. Generous sized windows flood
the lounge with natural light.

And finally, proving every dog has his day, the pet spa is dressed in luxe greyhound motif toile wallpaper and
pastel tile for a show stopping (and playful) moment. Because not every prima donna wears a tutu.

Inspiration / Thompson Dorfman Sweatman


How does design shape behaviour at work? Especially in the formal confines of a law firm,
home to large libraries swathed in dark woods — and conservative values. The communal
quarters (replete with saggy sofas and vending machines) are small, dark spaces.

The answer for Winnipeg’s Thompson Dorfman Sweatman (TDS) was to literally blow the roof
off when they moved to True North Square. “It’s the first new office building in 20 years in the
city,” says Figure3 founder Allan Guinan. Now occupying the top three floors of the new 17-
storey building, Figure3 suggested the landlord constructed a huge skylight over the central
staircase, creating a column of light to illuminate the centre of the offices for everyone traversing
the three floors. “Most ceilings in law offices are flat, at TDS you don’t feel like you’re in an
office tower which features open ceiling exposed to the structure,” Guinan says.

This project represented a full-circle moment for Guinan. Growing up in Manitoba, he knew one
of the selling features in the prairie city was the horizon, with an abundance of seemingly
limitless blue skies. One side of the building is curved, exposing a 60’ wide vista of Winnipeg’s
skyline. The access to natural light and views for everyone was a conduit to convey a new
corporate culture of openness, interconnectedness and yes, transparency..

Native materials like white oak wall slats and large-scale ceramic flooring references the city’s
history of modernist architecture and affinity for Scandinavian design. The wall behind the
reception desk is made of Tyndall limestone, a swirling sandwich of burrowing marine fossils
unique to Manitoba, acting as a cross section of the region’s architectural history. “Everyone
responds to natural materials that are simple and honest. They didn’t want it to feel overly
opulent, the luxury comes from the abundant space, light and materials.”

“We wanted to be nimble and future
and I really feel like they designed
for that and it worked.”
/ Alan Fineblit

Guinan wanted to play up that transparency with glass partitions but there was some initial
pushback. “The staff asked for frosted glass since they were concerned about being on display.
The offices are a compact 150-square-feet and could feel very enclosed so I suggested a 90-day
trial. Afterwards they said: we love it, leave them open. All transparent glass offices is almost
unheard of in a law firm.”

The previous office was very dark, and everyone worked behind closed doors. TDS requested a
dynamic space that moved them forward with integrated technology. In a nod to modernization,
each office is equipped with standing desks. Features like pivot doors further contribute to the
sense of openness. TDS was looking to break with tradition and make a transition, integrating
technology into a light, bright space that encourages collaboration and movement.

The firm’s previous library (complete with Corinthian columns and spiral staircase) occupied
two floors and Guinan shrunk it down to one wall, while the communal space was increased ten
fold. The Manitoba Room, a large lounge/lunch room area on 17th floor, has spots to plug in as
well as WiFi, mirroring the trend for more portable technology. “Lawyers work long hours often
in isolation, so amenities like a coffee bar off the informal reception area encourage people to
step away from their desks and go somewhere.”

Suzanne Wilkinson, principal at Figure3 adds: “TDS didn’t say they wanted a social space, it was a
pleasant byproduct that inspired them to do more. Law firms need to attract talent fresh out of school
or other cities, this new space does that, it’s another welcome outcome.”

“TDS didn’t say they wanted a social space,
it was a pleasant byproduct that
inspired them to do more.”
/ Suzanne Wilkinson

Alan Fineblit, former COO of TDS observes “Lawyers don’t do change well. We are taught to be
risk averse and to follow precedent,” he observes. “Yet as soon as we moved into our space the
culture changed, we became more collaborative, more collegial and we embraced all the opportunities
our new design and new technology presented. It’s transformed our culture, design is the means.”

And there was a strong desire to not only connect employees but the community. To further bolster
the city’s arts scene, works by local and indigeneous artists, such as the portrait of Louis Riel by Franco-Métis
artist Candace Lipischak, are prominently displayed throughout the offices.

Subsequently the TDS office has become a site for arts fundraisers, with hundreds of people gathering in
the public reception spaces. “We are looking forward to when we’re able to resume our events in the Northern
Lights Lounge, hold meetings in our spacious meeting rooms, and enjoy spending time with peers in the
gathering areas throughout the office,” says Keith LaBossiere, CEO and Managing Partner of TDS. The inherent
beauty of the office easily segues into a glamorous setting after hours when the sky is navy velvet, the city
lights are twinkling below and the stars can be seen above.

Inspiration / Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation


In 2018, the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation developed Project Sunrise, an inspiring new vision for
their organization moving forward. Project Sunrise re-envisioned the office space to create an environment
that embodied their passionate mission, motivated their team of cancer fighters, and promoted sustainability,
health and wellness. A new home for the Foundation would be required to deliver their new strategic
plan. These new offices would be designed in a completely new way, enabling the team to collaborate and
innovate to accelerate fundraising, strengthen their commitment to their mission, and serve as a platform to
recruit and retain the best talent in fundraising.

“They were looking for a new beginning that would align with their people, the culture that they created
and future business goals,” says Mireille Metwalli, Senior Team Leader for the project. “They saw this as an
opportunity to reemerge with a much larger presence.”

The design team agreed that the office would be designed as a space to celebrate and bolster the Foundation’s
goals and achievements, while conveying a sense of hope and welcoming through the uplifting range
of spaces, colour and branding.


It was important for the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation to create their own identity within the larger
brand of UHN (University Health Network), giving a spotlight to the human aspects in all the great work
they do.

“The most inspirational thing for us was the people working in this office,” says Norwood. “They’re doing all
these exciting, positive things and so we wanted to bring that positivity and light into this space.”

“They were looking for a new beginning
that would align with their people, the culture
that they created and future business goals.”

Visual features included interactive donor and history walls in the reception, which incorporate physical and
digital elements to inspire and engage donors with the track record of research breakthroughs that have
happened at the Foundation while also highlighting the most critical funding priorities in need of support
from donors. An additional visual feature included shadow boxes inspired by museum displays created and
placed along a wood-slatted corridor where items of significance are on display, such as the iconic yellow
Ride For Cancer bike.


The colour palette was carefully curated to take staff, partners and guests on a visual journey that explores
wellness, creativity and movement. Referencing Project Sunrise, the colour journey begins with yellow and
orange hues, evoking energy and hope, as well as symbolically marking the beginning of a new day. The
space then transitions to graduated blues and greens conveying calm and confidence. The end of the journey
is punctuated with the vibrant purples and reds of a sunset. The range of colours is beautifully accented
by natural light, with careful placement of built-out spaces, glass offices and meeting rooms throughout the

“We took the hues, tones, and feeling of how the sun would make its journey, starting from sunrise and going
to sunset,” explains Daniel Norwood, Senior Team Leader for the project.

Another important aspect of the visual journey was the materials. The design team wanted the spaces where
people would gather to be a celebration of nature and life. The use of sustainable wood and biophilic design
elements, a type of greenery, combined with polished concrete, which was maintained from the original
finish, reflects the energy and pace of the organization.

“We took the hues, tones and feeling of how
the sun would make its journey, starting from
sunrise and going to sunset.”


The team chose an activity-based office to promote movement and support the workforce for their variety
of tasks suited for individual needs. The office is split into differing sections, or “neighbourhoods”, made up of
flexible workstations with height adjustable surfaces and provide a nice alternative to private rooms and offices.
Defined pathways act as “sidewalks”, which connect the neighborhoods together, all while supporting a natural
flow to the way people move throughout the space.

With the inclusion of a custom moss green wall in the reception area plus other biophilic elements, the team
was able to create a sense of calm and belonging within the space.

“Having live plants in a space does so much for people emotionally,” says Norwood.

Each part of the office was designed with a sense of purpose, multi-use and connection. The main café was
designed to be the central hub for staff to gather and interact throughout the day. The cafes, quiet zones, and
meeting rooms were designed to open up into larger spaces so the foundation can host town halls and staff
celebrations. It was important for the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation to ensure that the overall feeling
was positive and inviting for everyone, whether it be a cancer patient, a donor or an employee coming into the

“The design for this project was really about giving their people pride in where they work,” says Metwalli.
Overall, the new workspace aligns with the Foundation’s mission to fight cancer while promoting collaboration,
innovation, and communication – all needed to deliver on their bold new strategic plan.

With enhanced navigation, an appropriate mix of spaces to support different methods of work, and tons of
natural light, the office staff are fully equipped to work and feel their best.

Inspiration / Distrikt Trailside


Modern meets traditional in the design of Trailside – a luxurious apartment building surrounded by natural
landscapes and extensive trails in the city of Oakville. While the architecture of the building started
off as quite modern, it was important to Dominic De Freitas, partner at Figure3, to ensure that the city’s
appreciation of the old world was brought into the look and feel of the entire project.

“Oakville as a city is known to leverage the history of England and the different aspects of what the U.K.
was in Victorian times,” explains De Freitas. “They have really retained that appreciation for the interpretation
of Victorian-English style into the Canadian culture.”

Along with the Victorian Era, De Freitas looked to European boutique hotels and the likes of Ted Baker
who have mastered the art of taking inspiration from the old and modernizing it in a way that results in
a beautiful, timeless piece of work.


Originally, the exterior of the building was all glass with lots of grey resulting in a very cold look. To pay
homage to the Victorian era and to add some warmth, a copper band with lighting within it was added
to the underside of the soffit on the roof, becoming the crown of the building. Vertical wood pieces
were then placed around the facade to tie in the base elements of the roof. To evoke a sense of history,
an iron canopy structure with reeded glass creates a major statement to the main entrance. “Before, you
couldn’t see the front door because it blended in with the full glass facade,” says De Freitas. “And we
know in traditional design, the front door is the showstopper.”

Inside, the lobby is grand with tall ceilings and herringbone floor tiles done in a large scale to mimic an
old English estate. Traditional wainscotting on the walls have been modernized here with antique mirrors
between each panel. The white marble fireplace, a popular feature in the Victorian era, embodies
a natural veigning and sharp framing. It is anchored by Tom Dixon wingback chairs paired with coffee
tables that mimic the design of traditional Victorian bird cages.


One of De Freitas’s go-to’s for inspiration is fashion. For this project, Ted Baker was a major influence.
His ability to blend men’s suiting fabrics along with feminine notions of florals, silks and satins was the
jumping off point.

“He had a strong floral statement in his patterns that he was using in his clothing and juxtaposing
those with houndstooth, herringbone and pinstripes,” explains De Freitas.

In the party room, a traditional herringbone floor has been connected with marble to create a
zig zag effect to resemble the top stitches used in outerwear. “Almost like a baseball stitch, that was
overemphasized,” he says. The jewel toned furniture and fabrics were inspired by the colour pairing
Baker uses in a lot of his collections.

“He had a strong floral statement in his
patterns that he was using in his clothing and
juxtaposing those with houndstooth,
herringbone and pinstripes”


The focal point in the lobby is an oversized floral piece situated behind the reception desk. It’s a
traditional Victorian image of oversized peonies and roses created from an original painting by Belgian
still painter Jan Davidsz. de Heem. The artist is from the 1600s but his work was very popular in the
Victorian era. “His paintings ended up being used as these floral patterns and wall coverings in Victorian
times,” explains De Freitas.

For the Trailside lobby, the image was oversized and printed on silk, then sandwiched between glass
and inserted into panels. Another floral art piece by de Heem was printed on translucent film and applied
to glass, and acts as a separator between the party room and the corridor.
uses in a lot of his collections.

Jan Davidsz. de Heem

Shay Mitchell interior

Dominic De Freitas, Principal Figure3


The final look does mimic one of a European boutique hotel, but that wasn’t the goal. It came about organically as the traditional and modern elements were married together.

“The hotels I had been to in London and England, nothing is overly matched,” says De Freitas. “They’re not afraid to mix patterns and colour together. When I look at boutique hotels in Europe, they’re layering different materials together that create the depth in the space.”

Which is a similar result in the Trailside project. Everything is strategic – even the lighting. If you look up, the ceilings have been completed in a dark colour so the light filtered into the room can be controlled to set the mood. “By doing the ceiling dark here, we focused the light to shine exactly where we wanted them and not be reflected off of a white ceiling,” says De Freitas.