Ivy Studio


Summer is around the corner. We’re all eager to leave our homes for a well-deserved visit to a restaurant, café, hôtel, boutique, et-cet-er-ahhh…
Let’s meet a team of architects and designers who keep coming with welcoming and stimulating environments for us to return to.
IVY STUDIO needs no more introduction than the places they’ve made. Their work is featured in publications such as Wallpaper, Dezeen, Azure, Yatzer, Yellowtrace, Blue Peter, Wallowbee… the list is endless, *but that last two we made up.
From hospitality to workspaces to residential; retail, restaurants, gyms, dry cleaners… IVY STUDIO reinvents, and creates, spaces for real life, and real enjoyment. They use space to interpret feelings and  interactions, while hiding that complexity behind thoughtful and beautiful material choices.
Let’s get a quick look behind that process…

What is your guiding philosophy when creating feelings in spaces?
The most important thing for us is to implement and express our clients’ visions.
When working on commercial spaces especially, our mandate is to personify the client’s image.
This is why, before we begin the design process, we develop a rock solid grasp of the essence of the “brand”, and their intentions for the space.
Every client, and therefore every project, is unique. We work to bring that out using interpretation through space. Although there may be some continuities through our work, we aspire to create spaces people have never felt before.

SPACIAL Project (left)
Photo: Alex Lesage

CRISP SAINT-HENRI Project (right)
Photo: Alex Lesage

What motivates your design choices in creating both bright spaces and moody spaces; what dictates one direction v. the other?
There are two main factors that dictate the ambiance we create in a space.
The first is its projected function.
If we are working on an office space, for example, we will focus the natural light in the common areas. The secluded functions, on the other hand, can permit a darker setting. We like to push these “ambiances” to their extremities, as much as possible. If a space is meant to be dark, we may tone it entirely black, with subtle indirect lighting. If it is meant to be bright, we will likely use light materials, in conversation with glass and mirrors, to diffuse or enhance, and bounce light.
The second factor guiding us in our design is the existing space itself.
We love to feature the buildings’ pasts in our interiors. Some of the textures and materials found in an existing space contribute in major ways to character. By overlaying and juxtaposing chic new elements in the existing context, we can change ambiance drastically. For example, we recently incorporated a 120-person co-working space into a disused industrial building. The extant space held very few windows. Without a specific blend of architectural interventions, it would have been difficult to transcend the original feeling: A spartan artificially-lit jiu jitsu gym. So, we added twenty skylights, running above the corridors. With the existing brick walls also exposed, our new and immaculate sandstone flooring, blasted by the new abundance of natural light from above, cause the feeling of conducting the day’s work in an interior courtyard.

How do you go about selecting tones, textures, and materials in your projects?

Photos: Alex Lesage

We love to incorporate as many textures as make sense in our work.
If possible, we take inspiration from the client’s standing brand. For example, we recently designed new offices for Vention, a Saint-Henri tech company. For all of the closed rooms in the space, we wanted to build immense recreations of their unique motion controllers. For the occasion, we developed a custom navy-blue perforated steel cladding to follow the walls as would a curtain. In some areas we installed neon light behind the cladding. The effect is to give a mechanical feel to the space. For their furniture, we worked with their team to design custom tables, making use of Vention’s very own blue aluminum extrusions. Atop, as a window onto their strongly beautiful product, we set blue frosted glass.

Another interesting example are the two CRISP barber shops.
For the first, in Pointe-Saint-Charles, the owner needed to create a barber shop that felt unlike others.
Inspired by Japanese minimalism, we designed simple white oak benches. For a little “maximalism”, we implemented huge arched mirrors, and a monolithic deep green marble counter.
This combination of a few “simple” elements is the most difficult to get just right, but there is nowhere like CRISP.
For the second location, in Saint-Henri, the owner required a completely different æsthetic:
Less delicate and more industrial.
In response we designed all of the furniture, including the shelves, the benches, the planters, and even the counter, using doubled raw steel sheets. Despite this completely distinct materiality, the designs and proportions of the two spaces “rhyme” in their minimalistic features.

Photos: Alex Lesage

What are some materials that you have experimented with, that you are excited to implement in future projects?
Discovering new materials, and new ways of using them, is our favourite part of a project.
We have worked with plaster finishes on walls a lot, recently. We are finding ways of incorporating it into our furniture design.
We are also, currently, looking into producing furniture from tinted translucent resin.
The hardest part of creating something that isn’t seen often is sourcing the raw materials.
Natural stone is one of our favourite materials, and we always find ways to integrate it in our projects. Because of this we’re constantly on the lookout for new marbles and granites.
We work as much as possible with elements in their natural state. If you “concoct” the right combination of materials, afterwards you won’t need to add colour artificially.

Photos: Alex Lesage

Any industrial designers you have enjoyed collaborating with on furniture, hardware, or lighting? Any designers you would jump at the opportunity to work with?
For the majority of our projects, we like to design custom furniture ourselves. We work hand in hand with local manufacturers to assure the feasibility of the pieces before production. For lighting, we’ve collaborated with multiple talented designers in Montréal such as Jacques & Anna, Hamster and Botte.
We would love to work with Lambert et Fils one day! In a past life, we had a company that designed and sold household products such as marble clocks, steel shelves, and mirrors. Although it doesn’t exist anymore, industrial design remains very important in our practice.
The dream of designing a full furniture collection is always alive in us. Who knows, the day may come!

A brief intro to the team…
The four of us are close friends, going back to University Laval, in Québec City. After school we spread out, working for very different firms. This complimentary experience now enables us to work seamlessly on a variety of projects. Each of us brings a wide range of perspectives to each. Interior design, architecture, commercial or residential spaces: We’ve seen and done it all. The future? We’re not looking into developing a “specific” expertise, but rather broadening our scope-of-work to navigate the traps of recycling ideas and concepts, and executing holistic projects.
Day to day? Our close personal relationship dynamics play a big part in our firm’s success. We value strongly creating a light and pleasing working environment, filled with loose constraints, and a tight hold on inspiration.
Although our work is very serious, at times, we manage to keep it fun, which we’ve found to be the domain of great work.


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