Time to look at the design element of Four Seasons’ new flagship luxury hotel, in the Yorkville area of Toronto. Isadore Sharp had worked with local designers Yabu Pushelberg for years (their first partnership was at Four Seasons Marunouchi in Tokyo). Yabu Pushelberg was the obvious choice for this 265-room beauty, and the gal went to see it, the hotel, and her dear friend Glenn Pushelberg – one of the Yabu Pushelberg pair, the other half being George Yabu. Glenn Pushelberg seems to be the front-man of the company. Here, he was in on discussions from way back in 2006, talking with developers and architects, and former-architect Mr Sharp himself. Isadore Sharp wanted the hotel to be Canadian, but not full of maple leaf shapes. It must exude art. Hence, above the front desk, you look up to delicate dandelion mobiles by Toronto’s own Allisa Coe, part of coe&waito design.
Glenn Pushelberg is an eager-beaver of a guy, with eyes that are constantly looking out for something new, or to pick a trend (interestingly, one of his own favourite hotels is The Upper House in Hong Kong, designed by André Fu, for whom he has great admiration). The perfect hotel room, says Glenn Pushelberg, must be just that, perfect. Stay five nights and nothing should irk you.
Here at Four Seasons Toronto he has put fabulous round-ended rectangular bathtubs almost protruding into the bedrooms, and he has replaced the usual standing chair – oh so formal – by a big L-shaped lounger that his own company designs, and manufactures in Canada.
The main palette here is walnut cream, for walls, and carpets with grill shapes set into bleached walnut-wood flooring. Colour comes from day pillows, set among a total of eight day-time cushions that crown the bed all day long. In the bathrooms, there is lots of Canadian granite. Full-wall windows have simple drapes – walnut cream. Glenn Pushelberg hates ceiling-set pin-prick lamps that are supposedly good for in-bed reading. He prefers high-standing bedside lights, as in this hotel. Panels either side of the bed are pale grey linen printed with a simple black-outline plant shape. Every room has different artworks, all Canadian. Room 1601, for instance, has a simple gold-leaf moose outline on a big expanse of cotton-rag paper.
Head to the spa and, again, you know you are in Canada. Yabu Pushelberg has used acres of granite here, for soaring walls, and floors. There as 16 treatment rooms and both the men and women’s side have relax rooms that seem to go on for ever. One area looks exactly like a living room back home (is that the intent?). These are places for lounging, and forgetting about the world outside that is full of stress and work and work and stress. Come to think of it, why IS life so stressed these days?
You want to stay here, for hours, but you know the Matrix gym is pulling you – never mind, it is open 24/7 so you can always do a quick work-out if you cannot sleep.
As always, I kept the 43-foot pool for early morning – experience tells me that splashing kids are more likely to want to cavort around at six in the evening than six in the morning, when it opens. Sure enough, at that early hour I had it to myself. With side windows, and skylights above, there is plenty of natural light.
One lap and then another and another, and as I count them I think of other great pools I have swum in in the last week, both in Montreal and already, here, in Toronto. Each has its own character. Here, the pool, lined with blue mother-of-pearl tiles, is all part of the Yabu Pushelberg concept, with a giant whirlpool a few yards away. The loungers around are interspersed with fresh flowers.
And yes, this is an over-riding impression of what could well be called a design concept. The neutral Pushelberg palette is brought alive by the stunning floral art, pool side and in main floor public areas. Some of the displays seem to move, as ballets – all of which makes what Yabu Pushelberg has produced for this luxury hotel become three-dimensional, so to speak.