Walking through the front doors of this King West hotel, I felt instantly transported out of the city. Having taken over the Thompson Hotel, this brand new luxury lifestyle hotel is a staycation dream. 1 Hotel Toronto brings together elements of nature, comfort, and luxury zen vibes, right in the heart of the city!
This urban oasis seeks to celebrate not only Toronto’s natural environment, but local artisans as well. To top it off, 1 Hotel Toronto is dedicated to sustainability through eco-friendly materials, a farm-to-table garden onsite, and a commitment to the quest for zero waste.
We got a chance to meet the makers behind Canada’s first mission-driven hotel to learn all about the community behind 1 Hotel Toronto. The space was designed by the Rockwell Group and project managed by The Athen’s Group. Together they brought on Robert Jarvis, owner of, Just Be Woodsy, a local woodworker who uses the wood from fallen trees around Toronto to create his pieces. Then came Sharon Carlson and International Landscaping Inc. who brought over 3,000 live plants onto the property. Next, 1 Hotel Toronto needed an amazing chef to help create their multiple restaurant concepts. Chef Derek Powers Jr. was ready for the challenge. Last, but certainly not least, Lauren Wilson, owner of floral design company Timberlost, joined the group to create a stunning piece of art to complement the rustic luxury of 1 Hotel Toronto.
1 Hotel Toronto: An Urban Oasis
The Rockwell Group have been the designers behind some of the world’s most iconic spaces. This luxury architecture and design firm is responsible for 1 Hotel Toronto’s earthy decor and alongside The Athen’s Group, the eco-friendly, sustainable aspects of the hotel. Inspired by nature, the hotel aims to encourage guests to feel a sense of connection with nature, and hopefully a desire to preserve it.
the design pays tribute to toronto’s local environment and natural beauty through the use of an earth tone colour palette, raw materials, and textures”.The rockwell group
They knew in order to achieve this vision, they had to bring on local brands that upheld the same values of sustainability, in fact, they brought together 15-local partners, brands and artisans. Through this, 1 Hotel Toronto has become a community for Toronto artists and brands who have come together to bring the hotel to life.
The Importance of Sustainable Materials
When Robert Jarvis, owner of Toronto woodworking shop Just Be Woodsy, won the exclusive City of Toronto contract to collecting and reclaiming fallen trees around the city, he had no idea what he was going to do with all the material. When he heard about the development of the 1 Hotel Toronto, and their dedication to sustainability, he decided to take a shot in the dark and sent an email. At the time, the design team was only looking for a stump for their showroom. Jarvis recalls meeting with a designer in his studio – located just 2-blocks from the hotel site – and after seeing the huge volume of wood in the shop, they saw the potential to create something really special for 1 Hotel Toronto.
when they came by [the just be woodsy shop] they saw all the beauty surrounded them, it was kind of a given to dig deeper into it and make use of [the material]robert jarvis, owner of just be woodsy
For Jarvis, when he started thinking about sustainability and his relationship with nature, he looked to the low-hanging fruit to get himself involved. He would see the telling orange dots on trees that needed to come down, and wanted to create something beautiful from the wood.
Just Be Woodsy made over 1,000 items for 1 Hotel Toronto. In every piece, Jarvis has marked the type of tree and location in Toronto where it came from. One of the wonderful challenges about working with reclaimed wood, are the imperfections. It’s much more challenging to make conventional pieces out of irregular pieces of wood. Jarvis and Just Be Woodsy not only made furniture and decor for the hotel, they also created pieces for the restaurants.
But their greatest feat is the on-site vegetable & herb garden and bee sanctuary. Jarvis and his team were able to create unique planters and boxes as well as the structure for the sanctuary. According to Jarvis, the honey locust wood used to create the bee sanctuary was taken from a tree on King St. just a few blocks away.
one thing i love about this hotel is the people… they really build the experience beyond the material. it is, i think, the first step fundamentally towards a sustainable world to connect with people, and feel empowered.robert jarvis, owner of just be woodsy
Right from the start, 1 Hotel Toronto and all its partners were focused on creating a space that was not only luxurious and sustainable, but a community of empowerment.
A Living Hotel
The next crucial element to the hotel is the abundance of plant-life on the property. That’s where Sharon Carlson and International Landscaping Inc. come into the picture. Together with the Rockwell Group design team and 1 Hotel Toronto team, Carlson and her team helped select and design the over 3,000 plants and various landscape design elements on the property.
The first step was selecting the native Ontario plants that would thrive in the natural environment of 1 Hotel Toronto. They also managed the design of the vegetable and herb garden. Carlson spoke to the process of working with not only Just Be Woodsy on the structures necessary for the plants in the space, but with Chef Derek and the culinary team to choose what to grow.
“something exciting to see was that this brand was excited and interested in creating this raw landscape. and not just on a surface level, this was the mission for the project.”sharon carlson, international landscape Inc.
Carlson’s show-stopping feature is the live-plant wall in the lobby of 1 Hotel Toronto. The installation is the only live plant feature in the hotel that isn’t watered by hand. That’s because behind the beautiful wood panels is a state-of-the-art irrigation system that senses when the plants need watering, and when they’ve had enough. Not only does this system keep the wall looking lush all year round, the sensors actually help to save water in the process.
Carlson remembered a trip to the Muskokas where the team was selecting rocks and boulders in the area. Each rock was selected with an intention in mind, whether that was as a design element or as a piece of outdoor furniture.
As the project continued to evolve, the hotel was able to create their own little eco-system though all the plants, garden, bee sanctuary and composting program. Many of the native Ontario plants in the 1 Hotel Toronto actually help improve the air quality in the building. As the summer season comes to an end, Carlson is excited to continue tending to the garden and watching the live elements of the 1 Hotel Toronto continue to grow.
The Ultimate Model for Farm to Table Dining
With their clear commitment to sustainability, the concept of farm to table dining was a given from the start. When Chef Derek Powers Jr. was approached to join the 1 Hotel Toronto team, he was excited at the opportunity to expand his knowledge on sustainable food. Working closely with Carlson to select the vegetables and herbs for the garden, was just one piece of that.
1 Hotel Toronto has 5 dining concepts… that’s right, I said 5. Each has it’s own unique atmosphere and culinary experience, while all celebrating Ontario-grown ingredients and sustainable practices.
1 Kitchen Toronto
1 Hotel Toronto’s signature restaurant, 1 Kitchen is located on the ground floor of the hotel, and creates an experience as close to dining in nature as you can get smack dab in the middle of King St. West. This produce-led menu is accompanied by cold-pressed juices and Canadian cocktails and local craft beer. The space has a conservatory feel with the glass-walls, vaulted wood ceilings and greenery. Not only is the space beautiful, but the restaurant works to create zero waste through the use of composting organics and recycling, or upcycling, as much as possible. Keep an eye out for their new seasonal menu, launching November 9th.
Chef Derek recommends you try their beautiful charcuterie boards and hearty entrees for dinner.
1 Hotel Toronto’s banquet space, Garden Pavilion is located in their lush herb and vegetable garden. Accommodating up to 40 guests, the Garden Pavilion is the perfect spot for an intimate gathering.
Flora Lounge is the gorgeous lobby bar in the 1 Hotel Toronto. The warm, welcoming and natural space is an inviting space for guests to enjoy light bites and unique cocktails. All of the ingredients used in the Flora Lounge are sourced within 100 km of 1 Hotel Toronto. In addition to the rustic touches and live plants in the Flora Lounge, the bar features a stunning plant mural designed by Timberlost owner, Lauren Wilson.
Chef Derek Powers Jr. recommends Flora Lounge’s whipped ricotta as a must-try item on the menu.
Harriet’s Toronto is 1 Hotel Toronto’s luxurious, rooftop sushi bar. The restaurant is backdropped by picturesque, 360 degree Toronto views of the city and skyline. The Japanese concept of Harriet’s is Chef Derek’s specialty, and he has enjoyed taking on the challenge of sustainable practices in his culinary processes. Harriet’s is the place to be in the evening, with delicious cocktails and a luxurious nightlife vibe.
At Harriet’s, Chef Derek Powers Jr. says you have to try one of their locally inspired, specialty rolls to go along with your delicious cocktail.
Opening soon, Casa Madera is 1 Hotel Toronto’s destination for coastal cuisine inspired by Mexico and the Mediterranean. You can expect to have a multi-sensory culinary experience at Casa Madera with it’s specially curated cocktail program, seafood-driven menu, and nightly entertainment.
Too Good To Go
1 Hotel Toronto works with the app Too Good To Go to provide Torontonians with fresh produce bags from their garden at a fraction of the cost. You can order the bags on the app and book your pickup time at the hotel. Outside of the produce bags, 1 Hotel Toronto also runs their own farmers market in an effort to prevent any waste from their garden.
The Beauty in Nature
As the hotel really started to come together, it was the art work and creative touches that really tied everything together. One piece, a show stopping wall behind the bar in the Flora Lounge, is just an example of their commitment to celebrating nature. Lauren Wilson was brought on to create the mural inspired by an Ontario lakeside. Using moss, and rocks and dried plants, Wilson was able to use some of her favourite materials to bring the piece to life and add unique natural textures.
“flowers are my medium, and nature is my muse.”lauren wilson, owner of timberlost
Using dried materials Wilson created an everlasting piece of art for the Flora Lounge. She sources her materials through local vendors or the old fashioned way, foraging. Wilson hopes to inspire others to bring nature into their homes and environment with her work. That’s one of her favourite aspects of 1 Hotel Toronto, when she walks through the doors it really does transport you out of the city and into a relaxing environment.
1 Hotel Amenities
1 Hotel Toronto wouldn’t be a luxury hotel without a few amazing amenities. The property features a rooftop pool; state-of-the-art fitness facility called The Field House; Goodthings, the hotel’s lobby vitrine; in-room water filtration systems, chalkboards and upcycled products in each room; as well as a variety of educational moments around sustainability sprinkled throughout. They are the only hotel in Toronto to own their own on-site composting system which can process up to 100 lbs of organic waste per day.
If you’re looking for your next staycation in The 6ix, I can’t think of a better place to relax than the urban oasis at 1 Hotel Toronto.
Producer, and Creative/Art and Editorial Direction: STEVEN BRANCO; Photography: NICK MERZETTI; Production Manager and Words by: MERRILL FLYNN; Hair + Makeup (HMU): MICHELLE LAUREN; HMU Assistant: CAYLE ALMEIDA; Production + Lighting Assistant: ALEX POUTIAINEN; Production Assistance and BTS Photography: BRIAN DE RIVERA SIMON; A special thank you to the 1 HOTEL TORONTO, and the HALO & CO. team for their hospitality and support.
Originally published: November 1, 2021