By Philippe Meyersohn and Hariri Pontarini Architects
The first of its kind in Canada, GE’s Monogram Design Centre and Cooking Studio is a building dedicated to the love of food. Monogram is the luxury appliance line in the GE Appliances portfolio, and appliances are designed for high performance as well as to respect food and its proper preparation.
In the world of premium appliances, it can be difficult for a brand to differentiate itself. A typical store will present brands adjacent to one another, in a visually overstimulated environment. Consumers are only presented with a list of an appliance’s features, obscuring the other benefits the product may offer. These retail environment constraints are not suited to Monogram’s message.
“We decided we had to take a dramatically different stance and redefine shopping for appliances through a unique proprietary space” says Philippe Meyersohn – General Manager, Monogram. “A space that complements current appliance stores and closes the gap in the retail experience. “We see ourselves as a lifestyle brand so we were not looking to just create another high end showroom and be another space with a lot of appliances”.
Monogram decided that what was needed was to build a commercial space that would deliver a clearly articulated and unique story to customers, and to provide an experience that is motivating the drive to purchase – a space to express that Monogram is the premium brand for those who actually use their appliances. . Working with leading Canadian firm Hariri Pontarini Architects and Ove Brand Design on brand communication, the team came up with a unique concept – a two storey building that combines a culinary studio and a free flowing design centre that is informed by consumers’ emotional and rational decision making process.
An architectural statement in the heart of Toronto’s Castlefield Design District, the free-standing Monogram Design Center and Cooking Studio is made up of two connected spaces: a 4,000 square foot showroom on the ground floor and a 2,500 square foot culinary centre featuring an herb garden on the second floor.
From the exterior, the first floor façade of the building is brick, punctured by narrow windows. This solid base contrasts with a second storey of large windows, making the upstairs cooking studio seem like a glass box floating above the street. Allowing views of the cooking and entertaining within to the street below. The glass box draws passerby into a performance where the love of food is central stage.
“We wanted to challenge the usual thinking and focused on creating a space that does not feel like an appliance showroom. We aimed to combine a home-like feeling and working environment” states Siamak Hariri, Founding Principal at Hariri Pontarini Architects. “This space aims to unlock the creation process, and in doing so celebrates the unquantifiable amount of skills and attention to detail involved in creating each and every piece; Visitors are encouraged to interact with the appliances in order to experience first-hand the unique skills and attributes which have made them the best of their kind”.
Reinforcing the overall desired brand experience, there is no front desk when one enters; instead, guests are drawn into the space through carefully designed visual cues.
The space also redefines the traditional showroom choreography, creating a flow that simplifies decision making. The ground floor layout is conceived as a river. As one follows its flow, pockets of activities – like eddies in a stream – encourage one to stop and experience them. The front “eddies” contain live kitchen displays, where one can gather, like at a house party. Similar to the mannequins in fashion retail, they provide the consumer with an understanding of what is possible.
The “river” leads to a central gathering space, where one can view all the activity and discover the full extent of the Monogram appliance line in the other “eddies”. In those, products are presented in hot and cold zones to easily identify design preference and functional requirements.
The “Inspired by your love and respect for food” brand story is delivered through the choice of physical materials, curated design elements and programming. The overall tone is that of a space, similar to a real life kitchen, imbued with understated elegance. Natural materials such as marble and wood have been selected to provide warmth. Details such as drawers filled with kitchenware (curated by William Ashley), genuine food in the pantry, and Le Creuset cookware ready on the stove imply that the kitchens are ready for use.
Another way the brand story is brought to life in the Monogram showroom is through a series of personal vignettes displayed on a feature wall. Portraits of notable personalities sharing their first memories and love for food are juxtaposed with their personal endorsements for the Monogram appliances.
Programming is a critical component of the space and is dedicated to the second floor. A dramatic spiral staircase invites visitors to ascend. Skylights above the staircase gently flood the town-hall like central space below with natural light. The staircase provides a smooth transition between the world of knowledge and the world of practice.
Upstairs, visitors are welcomed to a professionally designed culinary centre. The dramatic, inviting design of the space features a wavy, whitewashed wooden ceiling that echoes the form of the staircase, contrasted by meticulously customized blackened steel exhaust hoods.
The culinary centre is dedicated to bringing the love of food to life. It includes an extensive cooking studio and state-of-the-art kitchen showcasing the newest Monogram appliances’ line-up. Adjacent to the cooking space is a dining room that allows visiting cooks to experience the freshly created dishes while viewing an aromatic herb garden that provides the freshest ingredients.
Another differentiating feature of the culinary centre is Monogram’s partnership with two prominent personalities in the Toronto food scene to manage the space and drive consumer traffic, Donna Dooher and Esther Benaim. Events such as lunch and learns, technique demonstrations, and evening dinners will be held in the inspiring space, which will also serve as a new resource for the chef community as a location for filming and photo shoots.
“Today’s Canadian industry insiders and homeowners alike are seeking high-performance, high-style appliances and design concepts that speak to their unique tastes,” explains Philippe Meyersohn. “They are looking to experience a brand rather than just buy a product. We’re excited to break ground on this inspiring facility in Toronto, which caters specifically to their needs.”
With its inspiring design, variety of curated customer experiences, and consistency with brand messaging, the Monogram Design Center and Cooking Studio is an innovative space that raises the bar for luxury appliance marketing.
Address: Monogram Design Centre, 1290 Castlefield Ave1290 Castlefield Avenuenue, Toronto, ON M6B 4B3. Tel: 416.781.3579