I recently stayed at the Toronto Four Seasons after reading, Four Seasons: The Story of a Business Philosophy. I normally don’t read books about business, mainly because I know it is too late for me to start my own dynasty, but someone told me the founder, Isadore Sharp, was an interesting guy so I picked it up.
As a point of Canadian pride, I was delighted to learn that the Four Seasons Hotels originated in Canada and that the first hotel was on Jarvis Street in Toronto. I’d always thought of the brand as a luxury group of hotels created by some already wealthy conglomerate so I was surprised to learn that Sharp was a self-made man. He’s like the Canadian Donald Trump with better hair and judgment and without all the pomp and flash.
Mr. Sharp’s business philosophy focused on the Golden Rule (i.e. treat others as you would like to be treated) and since he opened the first Four Seasons Motor Hotel his goal was to create hotels with a unique atmosphere and exceptional service that was different from anything his competitors were doing.
Reading Mr. Sharp’s book made me want to visit all the Four Seasons but especially its new flagship hotel in Toronto. At first glance, it is very modern in its design but if you look closely at its décor it has a lot of contrasting textures derived from nature. This adds a warmth to what otherwise might come across as cold and impersonal.
What is particularly striking about this hotel is the art. No mass-produced landscapes here. Instead, throughout the hotel are thoughtfully chosen regionally-sourced pieces that you (or at least I) would like to own yourself.
In fact, walking through the common spaces is like being in an art gallery. Works featured in the main areas are by Canadian artists like Attila Richard Lukacs, Daniel Hutchinson and Shane Wilson, whose sculptures, paintings and installations can also be seen in museums and galleries across Canada and around the globe.
Located in the west lobby are paintings by Lukacs. Though best known for his controversial paintings of skinheads, these abstract works have an ethereal quality and a textural look that fuses with the hotel’s design. The best example of this fusion between modern and nature can been seen in my favorite piece, a hanging porcelain and wood dandelion installation by Alissa Coe, located over the reception desk in the main lobby.
The guest rooms include works by emerging young artists like Carly Waito’s luminescent paintings of raw gems or the delicate drawings of flora by Rachel Ann Lindsay. I think this is the only hotel I have ever stayed at where I actually looked up close at the art in my room.
Café Boulud features a collection of works by prominent Canadian glass artists that can be purchased by visitors. What started out as a novel idea by Sharp’s wife in the 1990’s has become a fixture of the Toronto Four Seasons restaurant. As pieces are purchased the collection is always kept fresh.
The art and design in this hotel make it worthwhile for guests to stop and look at the art around them and for locals to drop in for a drink, dinner or brunch. Why not have a little art with that martini?