Contrary to its evocative name, Rouge, a new restaurant in Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood, is an airy and subtle space. “A fresh twist on French bistro,” explains Sasha Jospioivicz, the head designer of the $400,000 project and one of three principals at Toronto-based design studio The Element Group. “It’s a manipulative name,” he admits, “It’s Rouge, not because of the colour, but because of a passion for food.”
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Instead of attempting to disguise the narrowness of the space, the designers chose to accentuate it. The entrance is set back from the floor-ceiling glass facade. Inside, a glass partition extends past a “kinetic piece” made of uneven red blocks of MDF on the wall. On the other side of the partition, a set of stairs further decreases the already narrow frontage. Prominently positioned and handsomely finished, the stairs are intended to make passersby wonder what they will find on Rouge’s subterranean level. (Answer: Only the washrooms and the coat-check facilities.)
A red Murano-tiled bar at the back anchors the 115m2 room. Brightly lit by two sets of spotlights hanging from spanned aluminum arms, it draw the eye and echoes the shape of the larger squares in the front.
The finishes are clean and subdued but reflect a great attention to detail, particularly in the use of wood. The floor is unstained, wide-plank Brazilian Ipe, a hardwood that naturally contains a wide palette of colours, from chocolate co khaki green. Under dimmed lights, during the dinner service, the reflection off the floor gives the otherwise stark room a warm glow. The tables are of thick , reverse etched, Russian plywood and their tops are finished in an Indian rosewood veneer. Rosewood is also used on the back wall, and its grain repeats the horizontal lines of the plywood. Square recesses in the white walls hold amaryllis in beds of moss and pebbles.
Rouge is a reprise of Goldfish, another Annex eatery by The Element Group. While Rouge boasts greater polish and more expensive materials, both spots reflect the designers’ mantra of “turning a disadvantage into and advantage.” Here, as at Goldfish, they have worked with the long, narrow storefronts typical of this area of the city to create intriguing spaces. Rouge is located at 467 Bloor Street West in Toronto.
Azure, May/June 2002