The Gladstone Hotel, Toronto, April 2006

With its aspirational and creative styling, hotel design is becoming increasingly influential for domestic interiors, yet the imaginative Gladstone Hotel in Toronto offers a unique take on the designer hotel phenomenon.

Hotel exterior

Hotel exterior

 New Nouveau room by Lolli Ursomarzo and Daniel Riitano

New Nouveau room by Lolli Ursomarzo and Daniel Riitano

The humble but highly creative and humorous Gladstone Hotel is a 51-room gem which opened in the hip Queen Street West neighbourhood of Toronto in December 2005 after a year-long retro-fit.

It’s an off-the-wall foil to the fantastically grand hotel design propagated by the likes of the Hotel Puerta America in Madrid, each floor of which was created by a different architect or designer, including Marc Newson, Sir Norman Foster and Zaha Hadid.

With the tagline “Unique Hotel” (as opposed to “Boutique Hotel”), the former red-brick boarding house with Victorian elevator has been lovingly restored and all rooms are individually designed by artists – there’s even a gallery on the first floor and an artist-in-residence programme.

The attention to detail in each room of the Gladstone is truly impressive, from custom-designed wallpaper and fabrics to unique furniture and novel ways of “disguising” typical hotel facilities, such as the television and DVD player.

Art gallery

Art gallery



Hotel history

Built in 1889, the Gladstone is the oldest continuously operating hotel in Toronto. Now owned and renovated by the Zeidler family, whose Zeidler Partnerships is the project’s architect, there’s an inherent sense of community and consideration in the renovation.

The previous occupants of the hotel, which had become a boarding house, were individually rehoused, and the family is known for its “anti-condo” stance, rallying against the increasing number of generic condos being built in this growing city.

Billio Room, designed by artist-in-residence Bruno Billio

Design philosophy

Christina Zeidler, who was originally building a career as a video artist, is now the Gladstone Development Manager. Her connections in the art world have no doubt helped to create a space that relies on community and creativity, by making use of the hotel’s grand publics spaces.

Her design philosophy is eightfold: Experimental, melding cultural entrepreneurship and urban development; Innovation in Development, to create a model of stewardship in development; Neighbourhood, being rooted in the Parkdale community with an eclectic clientele; Experience, giving visitors instant access to the diverse Toronto art scene; Facilitating, with a mandate to facilitate other people’s ideas; Emerging, focusing on new ideas that demand new forms of expression, new ways of thinking and new ways of looking at creativity; Access, to establish and maintain accessibility to art, community and culture; and Green, striving to make the hotel an environmentally conscious “citizen”.

Best Room designed by Christine Zeidler

Best Room designed by Christine Zeidler

 Puzzle Room designed by artist Melissa Levin

Puzzle Room designed by artist Melissa Levin

Room designs

Aside from the laid-back, no-uniform bellboy, who wears a “Fire Me” T-shirt, WGSN’s favourite part of the Gladstone is the Teen Queen room, complete with Teen Beat posters on the walls and a sleepover-friendly pink crochet bedspread.

“Cookie cutter hotel rooms just wouldn’t fit with the diversity of events, people, and experiences that the hotel has become known for,” reads the hotel’s manifesto-style literature.

Teen Queen, designed by artist Cecilia Berkovic, exploring aspects of romance, consumer culture, leisure and identity.

“We wanted the rooms to be as individual as our patrons. Artists were selected from a formal, juried submissions process and room designs were chosen based on their originality and intent, with the comfort of guests in mind. We chose room proposals that would invite guests to experience the hotel space through some one else’s eyes, yet also invite their own interpretations and fantasies.

“The artist-designed rooms are not themed rooms; however they are eclectic and range in aesthetic, with respect for both design and craft.”

  • Canadiana Room

Designed by reupholstering business The Big Stuff and interior designer Jenny Francis, this tongue-in-cheek room celebrates the “awesomeness of Canadiana” and pays homage to the long tradition of travel inspired by the history of the hotel itself.

Canadiana Room

  • Racine Room

Designed by artists Susan Collett, Penelope Stewart and Nicholas Stirling, this is a romantic Victorian room, with the television hidden in a stack of old suitcases and a set of laminated old postcards to flick through while in the bathroom.

Racine Room

  • Biker Room

Designed by Toronto-based artist, curator and writer Andrew Harwood, this room was inspired by the “glamour” of 70s biker culture. Harwood’s artwork explores symbols and themes of masculinity, often with a “tongue-in-cheek” approach.

Biker Room

  • Red Room

Designed by textile specialists Ruckus (Kate Austin and Kristin Ledgett), this is a sumptuous celebration of colour, pattern and texture.

Red Room

  • Faux Naturelle

“Lesbian separatist commune meets Storybook Gardens” in artist Allyson Mitchell’s room, which feels like a woodland retreat. Mitchell is a co-founder of the fat activist/performance group Pretty Porky and Pissed Off and teaches feminist activism and pop culture at York University.

Faux Naturelle Room

  • Blue Line Room

Designed by Barr Gilmore & Michel Arcand (Ghost Design), this is an “ultra sexy room design that is the ultimate synthesis of contemporary graphic and furniture design”.

Blue Line Room

  • Offset Room

A conceptual “room within a room” designed by architects Heather Dubbeldam and Tania Ursomarzo.

Offset Room

  • The Felt Room

Designed by artist Kathryn Walter, the walls of this room are covered in industrial, sensual, textured felt that is both cosy and modern.

Felt Room


Gladstone Hotel
1214 Queen Street West
Toronto, Ontario,
Canada, M6J 1J6
Tel: +1 416 531 4635
Fax: +1 416 539 0953

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