July 2010

Creme Brasserie - Our 1st Restaurant Design

Jul 28, 2010 5:01 PM
Manuela Gobbato


This spring, we were asked to design a restaurant, our first! And in Yorkville no less. We met the owners, the 2 Ricardos, on a cold, blustery March day in the space that used to be the much loved and design award-winning Michelle's. We had to turn this dark space into a bright and airy French bistro. Our timelines were going to be tight - they didn't even have possession of the space yet and they wanted a late spring opening. Everything had to go! And did I mention the design budget was tight? Of course, we could do it!

The inspiration came from Manuela's fall trip to Vegas - the reception lobby of the Paris hotel. Cream coloured walls with moldings (Anna is “the molding queen”) and crystal chandeliers. It so happened we had a picture on our camera to show the Ricardos. They loved it. "That's it, that's what we're thinking of!"

Off to select dishes, glasses, flatware from a nearby restaurant that was closing soon. Okay, not really the order we would have done things, but it all had to get done sooner or later and we had to make the deal while we could. Did I mention, the budget was tight?


Back to studying the space. What could we keep? The built-in at the back would be perfect for the wine, it just needed some refinishing and new hardware.  The cabinet on the other side was in rougher shape. Paint maybe? This was the easy part.

The big question was the bar. The existing bar was at the back of the space. It was beautiful – it had the potential to be beautiful once again. It was massive and had a ledge, all it needed was new granite. The owners really wanted an open kitchen so the bar would have to move. Could we cut back this bar and move it to the side?

Hmm, we really wanted to work with the banquettes that were already there on both sides of the space and leave the bar at the back. It would allow for maximum seating capacity and we’d save so much time & money by not moving the bar (including the plumbing which would have to be brought over through the under-ground garage below if we weren’t going to change the floor heights in the restaurant itself.)

So we played with the floor plan. The best layout was to leave the bar where it was, cut it back and create an opening to the kitchen.   We also had think of something to block the view to the washrooms but the banquettes could stay  in the same place.

This will be easy, no problem staying on budget... until we all decided that we wanted to maximize the overall height: The HVAC had to move. This is going to be a bigger job than we all thought and we were still working toward a spring opening. And as it turned out, they needed to do a lot of work in the kitchen – not our domain. That was left to the commercial kitchen designers – and they had a bigger budget.

Permits in hand, demolition began & we had to get all the furniture, fixtures, lighting, fabrics & art – in a hurry. Off we went with the Ricardos. They took us to see some things they liked: some we loved, some we didn’t. Over the next couple of weeks, everything was firmed up. It all had to be in stock or ready to ship quickly, so the hardwood floor we liked was replaced with porcelain tile that looked like hardwood. It was in stock and it turned out to be the best thing: it looks great & easy maintenance. Evidently, curious neighbours regularly dropped in and some started to take bets on whether the floor was real wood.


Checking in at the construction site: Marco of Calado & Lima Construction, and his guys were working so hard and yet May 10th deadline was becoming May 20th, then May 30th, then early June. Still it was unheard of to get a project like this finished so quickly.

One more thing about the design: Manuela asked Marco to keep some of the scroll work from the previous restaurant. Michelle’s was designed to look like it was situated under the Eiffel Tower. The ceiling was made up of MDF painted green (verdigris). We had no idea what to do with this (and Marco would have preferred getting it out of his way on the job site) but we thought it would be cool to preserve some of it.  Reduce, reuse and keep something of the much loved predecessor. We’d figure out later where it would go. Everyone thought we were crazy but of course, we weren’t intending to keep it green.  It ended up going all around the coved ceiling giving an interesting detail and hiding the new HVAC vents.  It looks great.


Some of our other favourite finds: the ledgerstone used behind the bar and a few other key places; the red quartz bathroom countertops; the gorgeous granite for the bar; and great paintings provided by Joseph Capciotto. Anna did the flower arrangements, and the owners found the four pendants, the onions we call them, when learned at almost last minute that the pendants we had ordered weeks earlier weren’t going to make it in on time. This too turned out for the best.



Need Extra Living Space? Head Downstairs

Jul 26, 2010 2:57 PM
Manuela Gobbato

Do you need an extra bedroom or a kid’s play room?
Is it extra storage for all the seasonal clothing and sports equipments that you need?
Perhaps a theatre room, TV area or a games room?

The basement can be an ideal way to expand your living space … and less costly than building up or out. Here are some simple tips for transforming your basement from wasted space to prime living space.

• As with all renos, planning is crucial to make the most of the square footage and your budget. If your initial budget does not allow for all your needs, starting with a proper design plan will allow you to add on in stages with continuity.

• If you are living in an older home, digging out the basement will allow for higher ceilings. Two methods are underpinning or benching. Benching is all done from the inside, is less expensive but will eat up 1” into your space all around the exterior walls for every inch you dig down.

• Digging out the basement is very specialized work. Be sure your contractor is an expert and don’t even think about doing it yourself; it means the integrity your house’s foundation.

• Whether a home is old or new, mold can be lurking beneath behind existing insulation. Always be careful when removing old insulation. If mold is discovered, call in the experts. It’s hazardous to your health and must be removed properly. (Note: it can affect your resale.)

• Define living and entertainment areas away from furnace and laundry rooms. Situate bathrooms in between.

• To create an inviting space, pay as much attention to details as you would upstairs. Built-in, custom cabinetry, fireplaces, lush seating and most importantly lighting will help create the perfect refuge.

• For the whole family to enjoy the space together, create an area for the kids crafts or games adjacent to the TV viewing area a we did for these clients.

• Perhaps you have an athlete or two in your home and lots of trophies or collections to display. Consider designing a shelving unit that is hung on the wall as a decorative feature. When all the trophies and “teddy bear” collections are gone, it is a wonderful place for family pictures or displaying those sentimental nik naks.

• If the space allows, add a powder room/bathroom and a storage area. Only after the basement is completed do people realize they have not allowed enough space for storage. Give the powder room/bathroom the same attention to style and design as you would for those upstairs.


Decorating with Pets

Jul 25, 2010 11:37 AM
Manuela Gobbato

You love your furry little and not so little pets, but you don’t like what they do to your favorite chair. Here are some idea on how to decorate your space to make it pet friendly.


  • As with children safety comes as first priority. Items that can be chewed on should be moved higher or placed behind closed doors.

  • Similarly with electronics; bundle and hide cords.

  • Switch the long table cloth on your dining table to a shorter table runner. This will prevent Fluffy from pulling at the table cloth and your centerpiece.


Try to avoid glass coffee tables and glass doors on the lower half of furniture, as these will end up covered in nose prints.


Now that Pooch is safe, are your floors? The simplest option is to remove all area rugs leaving the bare floor (ceramic tile or hardwood) this is both sleek and modern. The advantages to this are that accidents are easier to see and clean up. The main disadvantage is a larger dog can scratch the finish on your hardwood.

  • An option is a laminate hardwood, which has a more durable finish…We just go with the flow and appreciate the natural wearing hardwood in our office and in Manuela’s home. Thanks Sheamus.

  • A patterned area rug will hide any stains. Persian or Turkish rugs work best. As is a good wool rug. Polypropylene rugs may be less expensive but they don’t hold up as well. Go for it though, if you don’t mind changing your look more often.

  • A good alternate is the natural, woven seagrass. This look is modern but unlike a sisal option, seagrass doesn’t hold odors and resists water a few seconds longer.


Fluffy jumps on your favorite chair, gets fur all over it then starts to chew on the seat! Your first thought is slipcovers then you remember your grandmother’s sofa. Not to worry, the floppy slipcovers of the 50s are in the past.

  • There are slipcovers available now that give a tailored look. Try using a cotton blend or linen, these fabrics are easy to wash. Also go for medium colours or pattern to help hide stains, stay away from a light slipcover.

  • The other option is to upholster in a synthetic fabric that is easy to clean and is harder for Fluffy to destroy- like faux suede/ultra suede. Ultrasuede is soft, supple and sensuous to the touch; yet it's also resistant to stains and discoloration and can be run over with a lint brush.

  • Leather and vinyl are easy to wipe down with a damp cloth but pet’s claws tear into these textiles much easier than other fabrics.

  • Polyester fabrics or fabric content combinations, e.g. cotton/polyester or polyester/viscose with a rub count of over 20,000 are durable and pet friendly especially if they are classified as “water and stain repellant”.

  • Fabrics such as chenilles, corduroy or velvets of any kind should be avoided. Regardless of the fabric content be sure to use fabrics that do not have weaves or threads than can be pulled by claws.

As with carpets, 100% wool or wool combination fabrics are great choices but more expensive.


If you allow your pet on your bed, duvet covers should be made of a washable fabric. Fabric content can be cotton, linen or polyester blends but even a washable fabric can act as a magnet for pet hair so try and test the fabric before final purchase. A fabric that is both washable and does not absorb a stain is best. Custom made duvets give you a much larger selection of fabrics to choose from.

Consider a throw for the bed in a coordinating fabric or color which is much easier to wash or dry clean. Stay away from your off-the-shelf throws that are warm and fuzzy but not pet friendly.



Jul 21, 2010 12:58 PM
Manuela Gobbato

  •  Decide on the type of space you would like to create based on your needs – dining area, kitchen space, spa or pool area, reading area and a play area are just a few uses you might consider.
  • Do you want the architectural style, furnishings and finishes of your outdoor space to reflect the style of your house or be distinct from it?
  • If your space lacks a canopy of trees for shade, a cosy space can be created under an overhang, pergola, or gazebo. Consider your furniture before building to ensure it will fit.
  • Check with local authorities about regulations regarding setbacks, permits & size restrictions.
  • If you are creating a wooden fence, consider running the boards horizontally to create a more contemporary feel. This will also fool the eye into thinking there is more space.
  • If you plan to spend much time there in the evening, think about screening the area in or using mosquito netting. Be sure though to leave it open when you are not in the area as raccoons and cats can do damage as they try to get inside.
  • Buy the best you can afford to ensure longevity, comfort and durability. It is best to use furniture and fabrics that have been designed for outdoor use, even in covered areas, as they are designed to withstand the outside elements. Resin, cast iron or aluminium furniture have the best durability; rattan, wicker and teak are other options.
  • To create a comfortable outdoor living space, follow the same design & layout principles as for an interior space.
  • If you have large windows or sliding doors which look out on your outdoor space, consider unifying the space, and making the transition as seamless as possible. If you have dark wood inside, use dark wood outside as well.
  • When choosing fabrics for your furniture, consider your choices where they are meant to go. Colours will look lighter outside.
  •  Use an outdoor carpet (made of polypropylene or seagrass) to define conversation areas and various lighting options (candlelight, torches & solar-powered garden lighting) for comfort and mood.

For more information, contact us


June 2010


Jun 29, 2010 3:45 PM
Manuela Gobbato

1. Take the time to look at decorating magazines and visit showrooms or model homes to learn about trends, styles and materials you would like.

2. Good planning is crucial in avoiding costly and time-wasting mistakes. All aspects of the bathroom design & renovation should be planned before any work begins.

3. When planning your project, consider the cost of fixtures, tiles, glass shower/tub surrounds, plumbing, electrical, lighting, doors & windows, accessories, paint, flooring, and for our cold climate: radiant floor heating.

4. With a bathroom renovation, space is often an issue so you'll likely need to consider some trade-offs. Think about what is a must for you: double vanity, large shower with a bench, steamer shower, soaker tub/whirlpool, makeup area etc.

5. When designing children's bathrooms, strive for a look that your kids wont quickly outgrow. Choose neutral finishes & fixtures and use accessories to create age appropriate looks.

6. For the master ensuite, spa-like bathrooms are all the rage. To create that "get-away-from-it-all" experience, surround yourself with "breezy decor" and beach inspired hues. Choose a monochromatic and soothing neutral color palette of beige's, seafoam or crystal-cool blues.

7. Create smooth transitions from one finish to another: from flooring to tub surround, walls, ceiling and cabinetry.

8. Glass tiles and glass countertops provide the perfect ethereal effect. If budget is a concern, don't overlook the huge impact created by using just a border of glass tiles or a scattering among ceramic, marble or porcelain tiles.

9. For all bathrooms, layer the lighting using pot lights, scones(which provide more flattering light at face height), or a small crystal chandelier over the tub for that shimmering effect. Dimmers and separate switches are a must.

10. An Finally, the finishing touches, glass jars, candles, a collection of bath beads, flowers and thick luxurious towels to complete.

As with any renovation project, the best advice is be flexible; be patient... it will all come together in the end.



May 2010

Cardinal Funeral Home

May 3, 2010 2:56 PM
Manuela Gobbato

In 2009, we worked with Cardinal Funeral Homes in Toronto to update their Annette Street facility.  

This facility has a long history in the area and especially in the Ukranian community, used by many generations of families.

In addition to update the decor, we sought to create an environment that was soothing, comforting and appealing to it's next generation of clientele. 

The refurbishment consisted of replacing ceilings, carpeting, wall finishes, drapery, furniture and fixtures in two visitation rooms, an office, the hallway, washroom and foyer. In addition, improvements in the way rooms could be modified now allows Cardinal to achieve maximum flexibility in meeting their client's needs.

The design and implementation took only a few months without disruption to the operations of the funeral home and has met with favourable reception from staff and clients alike.

        FOYER  -  before & after

Though we updated the wallpaper, paint and carpeting through out, we took inspiration from a few elements we were asked to keep. In the foyer a couple of new charcoal grey chairs with abstract gold markings became the inspiration for the paint colour used both in this space and most of the refurbished areas. To enable the funeral home to quickly freshen up with an easy coat of paint, we opted for minimal use of wallpaper. A soft yellow palette created inviting, bright and comforting interiors.

                VISITATION ROOMS  - before & after


In the visitation rooms, we removed heavy drapery and where they were needed to block windows, we used fabrics lighter in visual and actual weight. Paint and fresh textured wallpaper was used in other areas.

New ceilings with sound system replaced the previous panelled ceilings; energy efficient light fixtures improve the facility both visually and environmentally.


So as not to disrupt the day-to-day operations of the funeral home, much of the work was done after hours.  (A few contractors approached to bid on the project admitted to being a bit uncomfortable - shall we say afraid ? - to work in a funeral home in the wee hours.)   ZP Construction, however, did an amazing job, working day & night with no fears.

We designers weren't so crazy getting out of bed in the middle of the night to resolve issue on the job site, but it's what we must do and luckily there weren't many such nights.

All in all, it was actually a fun project to work on.   The people at Cardinal were easy going, had good sense of humour, and continue to have such nice things to say about working with us.  We enjoyed working with them and have subsequently continued to do so on smaller projects at both this and their Bathurst Street location.

"When our Annette Street location needed an update, we interviewed several designers but were most impressed with Manuela’s and Anna’s proposal and presentation. They clearly understood our needs and requirements. Not only did they implement all the ideas, but the project came in on budget and on time. Manuela and Anna were quick to respond and deal with every issue. Their project management skills were excellent resulting in a minimum of disruption in our day-to-day operations. Our Annette Street location is bright, warm and inviting and we continue to receive compliments on the new décor. We continue to work with Manuela and Anna as the need arises. As always, they deliver what we need within budget and on time."

Paul Smith
General Manager
Cardinal Funeral Homes


March 2010

10 Tips for a Successful Kitchen Reno

Mar 28, 2010 9:40 AM
Manuela Gobbato

1. Take the time to assess how your family functions in your current kitchen. Writing down your needs & special requirements, as well as the positive & negative points of your present kitchen will be a great starting point for your designer.

2. Don’t under-estimate the importance of good planning in avoiding costly mistakes. All aspects of the kitchen design & reno should be planned before any work begins.

3. If you’re planning your kitchen yourself, look at decorating magazines, visit showrooms, tradeshows or model homes to learn about trends, styles and materials you would like. Take into consideration your lifestyle and the style of your home.

4. Allow sufficient lead-time. Consider that manufacturers require 4-8 weeks to fabricate cabinets and that final measurement before manufacturing takes place only after demolition of your current kitchen.

5. When planning your project, consider the cost of new appliances, plumbing, electrical, lighting, materials, doors & windows, flooring, backsplash, paint and decoration.

6. Generally, between 6%-10% of your home’s declared value represents a reasonable cost for the purchase and installation of your kitchen cabinets and countertop.

7. Set up a temporary meal preparation area to use while waiting for your new kitchen. Even if you’re planning to do a lot of BBQing, you’ll still need food prep. and wash-up areas, as well as some storage for dishes & utensils.

8. When choosing flooring, match the tone of the kitchen flooring to that of an adjoining dining room or family room for a smooth transition. Conversely, a 12”x24” limestone flooring laid in a brick or subway pattern in the kitchen will provide dramatic impact next to a dark hardwood floor.

9. Countertops link major appliances together. With stainless steel or black appliances, choose medium to dark-toned countertops; with white appliances, very light countertops work best. And a tip for our cold climate: consider under-counter heating for granite or marble breakfast bars.

10. Be flexible; be patient. And remember: a great kitchen is not only a great return on investment for your home, but it’s the heart of most households.









For more information and to view our portfolio, visit us at


October 2009


Oct 22, 2009 9:33 AM
Manuela Gobbato


Whether you’re undertaking a renovation or a decorating project, it’s always wise to take the time to reflect on your current and future needs, and to consider the viability of the project.

Taking the time to plan pays off in the end by helping you avoid costly mistakes (or regrets) later on.

How we work with our clients:

We ask questions and really listen to our clients to assess your needs and wishes.
We lead clients to consider aspects you might not have thought of.
We provide options that fit with your lifestyle and reflect your needs, budgets and personalities.

We provide the type of guidance that each client requires:
whether it is giving advice and direction to those of you who wish to do the work yourselves or managing the project and coordinating the work of the trades and consulting professionals.

As our client, you will get:

-A great return on your investment because we help you save money:by avoiding costly mistakes and afterthoughts and by drawing on our sources to obtain items at the best prices.
-Our expertise in critical thinking and creative problem solving of design dilemmas.
-Saving time because we do the planning and legwork for you.
-Minimal surprises and we take care of issues if they arise.
-A renovation process that is as stress-free as possible.

For more information, please visit us at




416-521-9206     1-877-607-8918

Copyright of all the designs displayed on this site is owned by Gobbato Mourtos Inc. You may not sell, publish, license or otherwise distribute any of these designs without the written permission of Gobbato Mourtos Inc.


For more tips and ideas visit us at