Toronto-based designer Montana Labelle treats her own home like a laboratory—it’s a place where potential clients can observe how far her signature neutrals can go with the right level of trust in her guiding hand. Her new abode in the city’s South Hill neighborhood, however, reveals an evolution in her practice. For Labelle, neutral is now a loose term, one that could mean terra-cotta or sage, if handled with the sensitive restraint the designer has made her name by.
“One of the things that we pride ourselves on doing really well is creating spaces that are modern but very livable and comfortable,” says Labelle of her eponymous firm’s design philosophy. “We get that by mixing interesting textures, then pairing them with more neutral walls and classic shapes. It tones it down.”
Labelle and her husband, Russell Gozlan, president of a boutique construction management firm, have lived on tree-lined Lynwood Avenue in Ontario’s capital with their 120-pound golden doodle, Grover, for the past seven years. The couple’s first project together as builder and interior designer was their former house on the street. In spring 2021, a week after selling it, an early 1900s Dutch Colonial gem came onto the market just a few doors down. Labelle and Gozlan put in an offer, purchased the house that May, and began renovating in August.
Like many older homes, its interior was arranged as a series of enclosed rooms. The kitchen was small, and the primary bedroom lacked its own bathroom. Labelle’s design called for a gut renovation, an addition, and a more open-concept floor plan—delineated by arched doorways and built-in nooks for privacy—turning the five-bedroom, three-bathroom house into a 4,500-square-foot, four-bedroom, six-bathroom. Then she turned her eye to the decor.
To achieve a lived-in look in her interiors, Labelle sources furniture and vintage art at antique fairs like Round Top in Texas and Brimfield Antique Flea Market in Massachusetts, often picking up statement pieces before she has space or client in mind. Her own home is no different, where the standout design is inspired by the 1970s shines against the soft background of Benjamin Moore’s Natural Cream–painted Venetian plaster walls by local Studio Apostolos.
In the combined kitchen and dining room, for example, the vintage side chairs that surround the custom marble dining table had previously been held in storage, waiting for the right house to debut them. Taiwan Lantern pendants, built-in bookcases painted in Benjamin Moore’s Fallen Timber, a geometric high-relief ceramic tile backsplash and shelf by local artist Catherine Carroll of Black Rock Tile Studio, and a treasure trove of collected vessels add to the eclectic, cozy feel .
Cozier still is the primary bedroom, which is painted in a warm terra-cotta color. Convincing Gozlan of the hue, which covers the walls and ceiling, was a feat, Labelle admits, but its cocoon-like effect is a suitable match to the couple’s new primary wing, which prioritizes relaxation. “We knew we needed to get the mistakes from our previous house right here,” says the designer. “In the old place, my closet and the bathroom were too small. So in this house we needed huge closets and a bathroom where I feel like I’m at a spa.” The sprawling primary bathroom suite certainly sets the stage for some pampering, with its custom, two-sided vanity by Etherington Designs, a wet room–style shower, and a bespoke Portoro marble tub. A checkerboard of black-and-white marble tiles from Labelle’s own product line lies underfoot.
Upscale yet comfortable style like this drives Labelle’s practice, and her home’s lounge room is one of the best examples. The intimate seating area is centered by a vintage Afra & Tobia Scarpa sofa; a shaggy, gridded Moroccan rug by Mellah; and vintage side tables. The walls’ knotty-pine millwork is hung with a collection of vintage art the designer has sourced over the years.
While clients are invited over for inspirational tours, Labelle notes that her small family is not usually the entertaining type. “I’m more of a recluse,” she admits, “and my house is my sanctuary.” However, Grover’s often muddy paws mean that, in this turn-of-the-century retreat, durability is key. No design object is too precious to trump life’s daily messes, and that’s exactly how they like it.