Imperial Tattoo's Industrial Loft

Imperial Tattoo's Industrial Loft

Justice Darragh
Jul 10, 2013

Name: Imperial Tattoo
Location: Queen & Ossington, Toronto, Canada
Size: 1,800 square feet
Years occupied: 5 years

Despite the natural relationship between art and design, tattoo shops aren’t often described as “tastefully designed”, “sophisticated”, or “beautiful” spaces. But when renowned tattooer Ronan Gibney opened up his custom shop in the trendy Ossington & Queen neighborhood 5 years ago, he was interested in trying something different.

Having spent a decade establishing himself as a standout sci-fi & fantasy, portrait, religious, and superhero tattoo artist, Ronan noticed that a lot of the shops doing high quality work failed to put the same effort into their environment. Many of his studio's regular clients are professionals who appreciate the friendly atmosphere, without the attitude and exclusivity that you sometimes find in tattoo shops. It can be intimidating if you’re not from that world, and Imperial caters as much to doctors and lawyers as they do the rock ‘n roll crowd. “I wanted to create a place where everyone would feel comfortable”, Ronan explains, “and also set a standard that would attract a level of artists I could feel proud to work side by side with”.

And it’s true — the heavily inked experts who have devoted their artistic skills to this form of living art maintain a vibe that feels as much professional as it is punk. New clients are first matched up with the tattooer whose style best suits their needs, and the only flash you’ll find hanging on the walls are original designs unique to each artist.  At the same time, nobody at the studio takes themselves too seriously — there’s almost always laughter to be heard above the buzzing of their machines. 

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Clean, open, modern industrial loft.

Inspiration: Providing an inviting alternative to the stereotypical sketchy dark street shops that clutter the downtown core. I wanted to create an upscale custom tattoo studio that would reflect the quality of work my clients have come to expect.  

Favorite Element: The original sandblasted wood beam ceiling.

Biggest Challenge: Finding a high-end commercial space that was open to renting to a tattoo studio. There’s still a stigma attached to tattooing in the real estate world, and some landlords just weren’t willing to take a risk on an unconventional business.

What Clients Say: “This doesn’t look like any tattoo studio I’ve ever seen!”, “Love the privacy of the individual artist’s stations”, “It’s so clean!”

Biggest Embarrassment: The occasional strange sound coming from the electronic media arts center on the floor below.

Proudest DIY: Designing and constructing the space from scratch with a team of extraordinarily talented tradespeople, all working in exchange for my custom tattoo work.

Biggest Indulgence: The custom made modern industrial steel and glass reception desk.

Best Advice:  Set up shop in an up-and-coming neighborhood. Queen & Ossington had a quiet, underground, art gallery district vibe with just a handful of bars when we first opened up, but has rapidly grown into one of the city's busiest hotspots.

Dream Sources: The same team of contractors, metal welders, artists, and electricians that helped set up the space when we moved in.

Resources of Note:

  • Leather couch - vintage, gift
  • Framed Japanese fabric prints over reception desk - gift
  • Framed traditional Japanese painting - by Ando Hiroshige "Drum Bridge at Meguro" 
  • Framed traditional Japanese painting - by Ando Hiroshige "Navaro Rapids"
  • Framed traditional Japanese painting - by Ando Hiroshige "Plum Estate"
  • Framed traditional Japanese painting - by Katsushika Hokusai "Happy Tiger in the Snow"
  • Reception desk - custom by Shane Claridge
  • Desk chair - Ikea
  • Coffee table - Ikea
  • Darth Vader bust - repurposed vintage lamp, gift
  • Black chairs - gift & Ikea
  • Glass cabinet - Ikea
  • Lamp - Ikea
  • Boba Fett mug - gift
  • Hula Girl - Sailor Jerry promo item


  • Drafting Tables - Ikea & Curry's Art Supplies
  • Drafting chairs - Staples Business Depot
  • Shelving unit - Ikea
  • Dancing Cow - gift


  • Drawers - Ikea
  • Shelves - Ikea
  • Tattoo table - custom by Shane Claridge
  • Sailor Jerry sign - promotional item


  • AC/DC clock - gift
  • Stainless steel table - Ikea
  • Drawers - Ikea
  • Shelves - Ikea
  • Converge poster - limited run silk print purchased from 2007 tour
  • Brass eagle - unknown antique market
  • Saloon sign - unknown antique market
  • Framed NYC photo - Spadina street vendor


  • Trout painting - by Graham Robinson
  • Framed artwork - by Mason James, contact Imperial Tattoo for purchase
  • Sailor Jerry Rum posters - promotional items
  • Stainless steel table - Ikea
  • Shelves - Ikea
  • Drawers - Ikea
  • Black lamp - Curry's Art Supplies
  • Silver lamp - Ikea
  • Massage table - Costco
  • Framed artwork - by Luis Santos, contact Imperial Tattoo for purchase
  • Black lamp - Above Ground Art Supplies
  • Drawers - Ikea
  • Shelves - Ikea
  • Chair - Staples Business Depot

  • Doors - Home Depot
  • Sink - Home Depot
  • Toilet - Home Depot
  • Tattoo table - custom by Shane Claridge
  • Mounted Angel poster - gift from client
  • Sailor Jerry Rum poster - promotional item
  • Framed Superman poster - vintage, 1978
  • Framed Virgin Mary art - gift
  • The Virgin of Guadalupe statue - Mexico
  • Star Wars concept art - gift
  • Autographed Guns 'N Roses album - gift signed by Slash
  • Stainless steel table - Ikea
  • Drawers - Ikea
  • Shelves - Ikea
  • Black lamp - Curry's Art suplies

Thanks, Imperial Tattoo!

(Images: Justice Darragh)

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