Stunning home: Couple renovating listed home in Victoria

“We’re crazy old people, so we’re like kids in a candy store in Victoria” – this is how Mike Browne describes himself and his 47-year-old partner Jim Britten.

“We’re crazy old people, so we’re like kids in a candy store in Victoria” – this is how Mike Browne describes himself and his 47-year-old partner Jim Britten.

The couple have renovated a dozen listed homes over the years, including O Canada House, where the lyrics for Canada’s national anthem were written in Vancouver. They won the City of Vancouver Heritage Award in 1997 for restoring the Victorian-style home that they saved from a wrecking ball and turned it into a bed and breakfast that is still in operation today.

While living in Vancouver, the two loved historic homes so much that they spent their entire vacation in Victoria admiring the city’s many older homes.

“The Victoria architecture is different from the houses in Vancouver. You’re more ornate and gorgeous here, ”says Browne. Then, on a public holiday, the couple hooked up with a realtor “just for fun” and visited one of their favorites – the Beasley House by Canadian architect Samual Maclure, who worked in BC from 1890 to 1920.

“The granddaughter was in the living room and all dressed up. She looked a bit like Gloria Swanson,” says Browne, adding that before they knew it they were bidding seeing that “the bones of the house were good.” . “

“We made a low offer, didn’t expect anything, but because she liked us it was accepted. The move was worth it for us. We fell in love with this house and wanted to move and we wanted to run the B&B from here . “

But in the six months between purchase and move, someone offered them a deal they couldn’t refuse for their Vancouver home and business, which enabled them to move permanently to Victoria in 2000.

Once in the capital, the couple’s love of renovating historic homes continued to blossom. After three years in the now rejuvenated Beasley house, they renovated three more older homes before deciding it was time to downsize as they got older. That was six years ago when they were in their sixties. You are now in your early 70s.

They were looking for a modern condo and, as Browne explains, “was ready to part with our brown furniture and looked for mid-century furniture.”

Then a 4,000-square-foot historic house in the Fairfield neighborhood came out and was cheaper than the modern James Bay apartment with great harbor views they’d found. Despite her initial desire to downsize, her passion for historic homes and recent renovations proved too tempting to resist.

While many of their friends offered their condolences instead of congratulations on buying a house, the couple was not deterred.

“One sentence we’ve heard a thousand times is, ‘The house must be a lot of work,’” says Browne.

“Another was ‘You should paint the woodwork white.’ “

But as true culture buffs, they refused to fall for today’s trend of brightening up older homes by painting all interiors completely white, despite being told it could add 40 percent to the home’s real estate value, Browne says.

They also refused to knock down walls to create an open interior concept, noting that the room sizes were already generous. When they first bought the house it was being used as a residential home and had to be converted back to a single family home, with a two bedroom mortgage servant in the basement.

“The main reason we were drawn to this house is that it had a warm feel. The floor plan was four squares and most of its original woodwork was still intact. Although it had ugly wallpaper, fan lights, and multiple curtains, we could get behind it look at the leaded glass windows and other character traits, “says Browne.

Now retired, the couple did much of the grunt work themselves, including restoring the original porch. At some point in its history, a previous owner closed the porch, carved into the original wooden pillars that rested on stone plinths, and put ’70s-style glazing on either side of the front door.

In addition to this entrance door, a second door was built in front of the original entrance door, which luckily has remained untouched.

The stone fence in the front yard was also hidden behind an unsightly chain link fence and the landscaping was overgrown. The original gate had been removed but was found hidden behind a huge rhododendron.

When they first toured the house, it took the couple a lot of vision to get past the unwelcome entrance, but upon entering the house they were greeted by an elegant entryway. The entrance still has its original floor-to-ceiling Douglas fir paneling, which suggests the old-world charm of the house …

“The house was surprisingly in good shape,” says Britten.

“There are very few houses where the wood has not been painted.”

The wood above was also left untouched, but all four large bedrooms required cosmetic work such as removing wallpaper and heavy curtains to regain the basic beauty of the home.

When we tour the third floor of the house, which also contains another spacious bedroom, which is adjacent to an outer roof terrace, Britten jokes: “It’s a lot of house for two people. Sometimes we can’t find each other.”

As they are heritage lovers, it is no surprise that their home is carefully curated with much of their collectibles and classic furniture from the early 19th century.

One of her favorite pieces is her dining table from 1904, which they bought for their first home together and which can comfortably seat 12. The high-back chairs are around 45 years old and still have their original mohair upholstery.

A distinctive hand-painted mirror in the dining room dates from 1905 and can be seen in a photo from that period that is also on display in her home. There’s a family souvenir around the corner in the living room – Browne’s grandmother’s needlepoint chair, which has a matching needlepoint in the round side table. A beautiful Tiffany lamp and a striking bronze Art Nouveau ashtray in the shape of a woman sit on the table. Her artwork throughout the house includes many turn-of-the-century watercolors, including one depicting the lions along the North Shore Mountains and another by Steveston.

While the comfortable interior of the house, which is ideal for entertainment, dates back to a bygone era, the house has also received a new addition. It was built by a previous owner and offers space for a modern kitchen and a light-flooded second living room for watching TV, reading and playing cards.

But Browne says the front porch that runs the length of the house is why the couple love historic homes so much. It radiates warmth and brings people together. “We’re on this porch all the time. If you’re lucky enough to have a porch it helps you interact with your neighborhood, ”he says.

[email protected]

Comments are closed.