Tour an “Ironically Traditional” Toronto Home That Uses 35 Different Paint Colors

Before Grandmillennial became a popular design aesthetic, podcast host and food blogger Rivki Rabinowitz described her style as “grandma who likes to party.” She adds: “My design taste is the same as it is with the food I create and the fashion I wear. That is, patterns, flavors, and textures mixed and layered, all with an ironically traditional foundation.”

Inspired by the playful-meets-sophisticated work of AD100 interior designer Beata Heuman, and the use of color, oddities, and antiques seen throughout the portfolio fellow AD100 firm Pierce & Ward, Rabinowitz hired Toronto-based Ashley Montgomery Design for her ground-up project in Ontario. Considering the fact that Montgomery describes her work as “old world” in a “reimagined way,” the two hit it off right from the start.

“Rivki has a very unique style, and we wanted her home to emulate that,” Montgomery explains of her guiding ethos for the roughly 5,000-square-foot property, which houses Rabinowitz, her husband, and their three young daughters. That translated to “thick wools, velvets, woods with whorls and divots, and furniture that makes you feel embraced,” Rabinowitz adds. She cites cold Toronto winters as a contributing factor in the decor choices. “I wanted the house to feel like the structural personification of a hug.” Cinnamon, ochre, raspberry, chocolate brown, smoky blue, and burnished brass tones all work together to add to the warmth and cohesion. 

Part of the impetus for such a bold color palette came from a place of regret: The content creator laments “playing it safe” in terms of the interior design of her previous home. In that kitchen, for example, Rabinowitz relied primarily on neutral hues with the idea that they would be timeless. But, she says, instead it “felt sterile.”

This house, by contrast, boasts 35 different paint colors. “There’s a lot of color, but it doesn’t feel like a circus, and I honestly don’t know how we pulled that off,” laughs Montgomery. “It would have been so easy to overdo it, so we had to show a lot of restraint. It was a departure for me and pushed me out of my comfort zone.”

Ashley Montgomery and Rivki Rabinowitz.

Nowhere is that more evident than in the foyer, where a yellow and maroon-colored checkered floor gave Montgomery a “heart attack,” she says. But Rabinowitz had a vision, and somehow, Montgomery adds, “It works.”

Other must-haves for the client were plaster molding in the kitchen and great room, an arched hood in the kitchen, and three sinks in the kitchen suite. One, for dairy; another, for meat; and another for “everything else” the Jewish family, who keeps Kosher, might need. In the pantry, Montgomery installed a sink so that all five household members could wash their hands before meals. She also added a full second fridge and freezer, and a second dishwasher, to make their observance easier.

Thoughtful details abound elsewhere, too. The pantry, a workhorse area of the home, is “full of character,” says Montgomery, who initially thought the jade green marble countertops were “crazy,” but now calls them one of her favorite elements in the home. She also loves the primary bathroom, which, she notes, feels rich and elegant thanks to a magical combination of yellow wallpaper, burgundy cabinetry, and sky-blue tile. In the powder bath, Montgomery paired Farrow & Ball India Yellow paint (seen on the trim and doors) with a Farrow & Ball Red Earth ceiling and blue quartzite stone for the countertop and backsplash.

“These are the kind of details that make my heart pound,” says Rabinowitz. “They’re deeply dimensional and nuanced. From playdates with friends and Shabbat with family, this is a home meant to be lived in.”