by Almas SadiqueJul 12, 2023
Montana Labelle stepped into the world of interior design after an initial fascination with fashion. It was her mother who nudged her toward the fabrication of homes and the crafting of bespoke experiences, which she now does through her eponymous brand Montana Labelle Design & Lifestyle, based in Toronto. Each one of her interior projects is a prolonged curatorial effort that dips into the past and mixes with the contemporary to create a timeless aesthetic.
Labelle and her builder husband first bought and renovated their own home, a joint venture that turned out to be a precursor to the interior design company they now head. When they saw the 1900s Dutch Colonial mansion at 11 Lynwood Avenue, they were immediately drawn to it. In this residential design project, Labelle, a self-proclaimed lover of all things vintage, aimed to break boundaries and craft a genuinely distinctive interior through a blend of old and new. As a result, a sweeping familiarity wafts through the home—the unspeakable emotion of returning to a space that was once familiar but is now new again.
Experimental finishes to revive warmth
For this project, they ventured into uncharted territories by playing with textures, colours, and materials to create a home that exudes a lived-in yet never-seen-before vibe.
Her pursuit of distinctive design elements led to a collaboration with a talented local ceramicist based in Canada. The idea was to create a truly unparalleled flavour, completely unique to this project. Each tile in the ceramic tile backsplash was handcrafted, employing a meticulous hand-painting technique. This approach was chosen to infuse value through artisanal essence and authentic spirit. The decision to work with a local artisan was instrumental in the realisation of this element. "We value collaborations like this that embrace unique craftsmanship and the creation of a space that reflects both innovation and tradition," she summarises.
The affinity for plaster craftsmanship motivated them to extend this textured treatment across different surfaces, from intricate millwork to walls, ceilings, and even doors. In an unprecedented move, she adorned the main floor with a resilient stone tile—a black limestone, set in place with a robust two-inch grout. This choice not only resonates with her personal aesthetic but has also proven remarkably durable to accommodate their lifestyle. The layering of textural variation all around is unexpected but immensely palatable, especially as it's wrapped in soothing earth tones.
Unusual pieces for a dose of character
The designer’s own personal spaces are the starting points of her experimentation with client work. Often, the entirety of the design scheme revolves around pivotal vintage pieces, that she has sourced and preserved before the project was even conceived. Labelle is unapologetically fascinated with real estate listings of older homes. She is also deeply captivated by the unique narratives woven into vintage discoveries within fashion, home decor, and art. "I enjoy rejuvenating outdated elements and giving them new life with cues from the past, such as the 1970s and 80s. Where some may see outdated aesthetics, the intricate tile arrangements or distinct colour palettes of the 1970s and 80s are inspirational to me. Revitalising a time-worn architectural layout and design captivates me, as it presents an opportunity to fuse history with modernity," she says.
For the Lynwood Avenue home, Labelle scoured 1stDibs and Etsy for vintage finds alongside picking up intriguing pieces during her travels. She boldly purchased as many special items as she could, despite not fully knowing how they would harmonise in the eventual design scheme. One remarkable discovery worth highlighting is the three-dimensional art piece that hangs in the front hall—a gem she stumbled on from 1stDibs. "I was taken aback by its impressive size when it arrived. It has an incredible presence and remains one of my most cherished items," Labelle exclaims.
Signature marble infusions with a lean towards luxury
Labelle's unique approach involves skillfully intermingling marbles and other patterns to create unexpected yet powerful results. "By employing marble in diverse forms, we strive to make it accessible for everyday use," Labelle notes.
The Lynwood Avenue residence's identity hinges on the careful curation and use of diverse marble varieties. Each material choice embodies a purposeful drive to infuse each space with an accessible opulence. The fireplace, for instance, features the alluring Italian Portoro Gold marble, one of her favourites, that she especially wanted to include in an unconventional way. Collaborating with a vendor, she transformed it into a ribbed design, using individual wall-fixed pieces. This not only facilitated shipping but also kept costs low.
The primary bathroom too, incorporates marble through a visually striking, large-scale checkerboard pattern that gracefully ties in with the dark bathtub in another distinct strain of marble.
Montana Labelle’s informed perspective fuses vintage personality into contemporary settings. Her special touch pierces through modern spaces with an inviting eclecticism, the kind that turns a house into a home.