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Café Plenty brings a familiar home aesthetic to a bustling cityscape




University Avenue is one of the busiest streets in Toronto, packed with hospitals and law firms, and right around the corner from the Ontario College of Art and Design. In a nondescript office building sits Café Plenty, a bright oasis in the midst of organized chaos.

Dan Menchions, co-founder and design principal at Toronto-based II By IV Design, explains that the owner wanted a backdrop for the array of items on her menu; a space that could highlight the bold color palette of the salads, sandwiches, soups and desserts. But the designers also wanted the café to feel aged as if it had been in the neighborhood for years. Amongst all those combusting engines and hurried feet, a nostalgically familiar feeling inside the space – intensified by domestic kitchen decor and deceivingly worn tables and floors – would set it apart from the street beyond the gleaming glass storefront.

The pleasant white color palette is balanced by materials, from wood to marble to detailed tile. A mosaic marble floor with hints of gray gives the appearance of being worn and trodden on. Stark white, clean walls heighten the sense of separation between the quaint café and the industrial jungle outside.

Classic white beveled subway tiles on the walls glisten behind a New England-inspired service counter lined with brass light fixtures – brass rather than stainless steel to create a warm feel. The glass fixtures, evocative of antique pickling jars, fit seamlessly with the New England counter. Another counter, partitioned from the first by a column reading “PLENTY,” is topped with a delicate white and gray marble.

Other decorative accents present a sense of nostalgia, such as antique fans and copper pots and pans lining the wall near the entrance of the back kitchen. Tables made from reclaimed hickory planks and lacquered-finished stools in galvanized metal fill the main floor, while a communal bar offers potential merchandising space for the owner. The appealing live edge of the hickory is visible throughout the dining space: as a bar to the right of the entrance and again underneath the menu.

Menchions is satisfied with customers’ reactions. “When you walk inside, I think your shoulders drop,” he says. “There’s a sense of nostalgia in the space. A lot of people in Toronto are not accustomed to this kind of interior and find it quite refreshing!”


Project Source List
Café Plenty, Toronto

Design Firm
II By IV Design, Toronto

General Contractor
Anjinnov Management, Toronto

Eurolite, Toronto
Design Within Reach, Hebron, Ky.
Circa Lighting, Savannah, Ga.

Wood Finishes
Brenlo, Toronto

Stone & Tile
Ciot, Montreal
Cercan Tile, Toronto


Benjamin Moore & Co., Montvale, N.J.

Reclaimed Timber
Silver Root, Toronto

Photography: David Whittaker, Toronto



MasterClass: ‘Re-Sparkling’ Retail: Using Store Design to Build Trust, Faith and Brand Loyalty

HOW CAN WE EMPOWER and inspire senior leaders to see design as an investment for future retail growth? This session, led by retail design expert Ian Johnston from Quinine Design, explores how physical stores remain unmatched in the ability to build trust, faith, and loyalty with your customers, ultimately driving shareholder value.

Presented by:
Ian Johnston
Founder and Creative Director, Quinine Design

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