Design for Zen and now

Restaurant conversion space promotes good health

A RESTAURANT SPACE in Montreal, Que., has been converted to foster refreshed bodies and peaceful minds. Design agency ISSADESIGN was mandated to develop the Evolution Wellness Centre in a decades-old, non-descript building in the Nun’s Island neighbourhood to accommodate a yoga studio and physiotherapy clinic.

According to Marie Eve Issa, founder and project director of Montreal-based ISSADESIGN, her firm was approached by a client who was renting the space. “The challenge was more about the layout. Because they required areas to have meetings with nutritionists, doctors and massage therapists, we needed to create a lot of small rooms in the space.”

During the construction phase, the old kitchen and restaurant equipment had to be removed, creating more work for the contractor. “We put the showers for the yoga studio near where the old kitchen was so that everything fit. Then, we put the open area in front near the street because it is all windows.”

Restaurant space before renovation.

The creative balance across the entire centre between wood, concrete, white and black results from an ingenious combination at all levels, whether in the rhythm of lighting or custom furniture. Because the studio space also faced a parking lot with vehicle and pedestrian traffic, the glass was frosted for privacy while still permitting natural light to come in.

“The client wanted something very contemporary with natural materials,” says Issa, “but not too much. They wanted a Zen space. That is why we chose plywood accent furniture and cabinet pieces for a natural feel.”

Adding warmth to the yoga studio space are hardwood floors, stained to coordinate with the plywood. The rest of the centre is exposed concrete floors, notes Issa, but “there were spaces where the concrete wasn’t nice enough.” Wood floors were laid over the flawed concrete to maintain the aesthetics of the design.

Yoga studio with frosted glass.

Overall, Issa wanted to foster an open concept so that light would flow through the spaces, included LED general lighting where windows could not provide illumination. “We have a lot of suspended lights because the ceilings are pretty high — both in the corridors and in the treatment room.”

In order to provide a functional venue in all seasons, a storage area has been defined at the entrance to store winter boots and other shoes. These wall brackets, being custom built, continue to the reception desk and form the shop area where health care products are displayed. As a result, the reception area is multifunctional and profitable.

“Business is really good,” says Issa. The client loves the space — and they are pretty busy.”

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