Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Putting on Some Savoir Faire in Toronto

As most of you know I have just returned from a weekend of savoir faire in Montreal. A while a go I did a post on the 9th Floor restaurant atop of Eaton’s Department store in Montreal, that shrine of art deco which has been mothballed for the last decade or so. I kept on walking past the building, looking up to see if there was some way I could get to see it. Alas, it is out of bounds so I just had to walk on by.

However, despair not! Toronto has it’s own equivalent which luckily to say has been restored and is a fully working function space. The Carlu is a historic event space in Toronto. Known for many years as the "Eaton's Seventh Floor", the Carlu is one of Toronto's best examples of Art Moderne architecture. Again Lady Eaton, the family’s matriarch had her way and she retained the noted French architect Jacques Carlu to design the seventh floor of the edifice, which was to contain the 1300-seat Eaton Auditorium, the Round Room restaurant, lounges and a private dining room. All of the facilities were to be connected by a long foyer, designed in the style of the ocean liners of the day. Walking through the space you do not have to imagine hard to think that you were on an ocean liner in the thirties. This is a wonderful space that just reeks of subdued elegance.

Itself an Art Moderne masterpiece, the Eaton's Seventh Floor was at the heart of Toronto's cultural life for many years. The Auditorium played host to the major performers of its day, including Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington and Frank Sinatra.
The Round Room was, as the name suggests, is a circular room, with circular mouldings in the domed ceiling and recessed alcoves in the corners. At the centre of the room stood a Lalique fountain, lit from below. Carlu was responsible for all aspects of the dining room's design, from the lighting fixtures to the Royal Worcester china, the stemware, and the waitresses' black uniforms. Carlu's wife, Natasha, designed the murals on the walls, depicting various scenes of pastoral life as she had done in the Montreal equivalent. For years, the Round Room was one of the most elegant places to dine in Toronto.

As usual, with changing tastes and fashions the space fell into decline, until it was completely restored and reopened in 2003 to much acclaim as "The Carlu" event venue. Even the original Lalique fountain, which had long been believed to have been lost, was restored to its place at the centre of the Round Room. The venue's new name was chosen in order to honour the architect that had originally designed the space.

Each year in Toronto we have an annual Doors Open event and Carlu is usually open for the public to traipse through marveling at this Art Deco masterpiece! And a masterpiece it is!


  1. THL- That is what I said when I visited

  2. A masterpiece of design. Aren't we lucky that it has been conserved and revived? I am in awe of the building every time I walk past it. The stone, the bronze details and appliques, the balance and scale. It rivals great Art Deco architecture in Paris. That certainly cannot be said of anything else in Toronto!


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