ABOVE: Befitting a house in Victoria, interior design has an English Arts & Crafts sensibility. Wallpaper is the 1913 Morris & Co. design ‘Arbutus’.
All photos by Jo-Ann Richards
Serial restorers thought they were done—until they were smitten by a 1912 house that desperately needed their help.
Years ago, Karen and Brian Maycock agreed that they both had a desire to restore old houses. They did just that, focusing on the Arts & Crafts period. By 2003 they were settled into a handsome home on the waterfront in Victoria, British Columbia. “It took us about ten years to restore that 1903 house,” Karen says. “We thought we were through taking on any more renovations.” Then, out of curiosity, the Maycocks went on a house tour in Victoria.
“Brian and I completely fell for a house built in 1912 by architect Samuel Maclure,” Karen says. The couple felt sad that the house had been badly altered over the years. “So we decided to rescue it. We wanted to bring it back and then some.” They planned to do most of the work themselves.
“You’ve got to have dreams, and once we got started there was no turning back,” Brian says. The restoration was no mean feat: the “four-square”-design mansion, with four rooms on each of two stories, boasts 6,000 square feet.
“We could still feel the character,” Brian says. The couple put most of their belongings in storage and camped out in the dining room for months as they began their from-scratch rescue mission, armed with the architect’s original plans. Karen explains that, over the years they spent restoring multiple houses, they had built up a trusted list of suppliers, artisans, and skilled workers. “Brian and I, and family members, plodded on every night after work—and just about every weekend—for three years,” says Karen.
By 2006 it was mission accomplished. They’d fixed up the front porch and the back patio, all the rooms inside, the kitchen and staircase, the basement, the wiring and plumbing. The house was secure with a new roof and three rebuilt chimneys.
Now the woodwork (included 30 refurbished doors) gleamed against period colors and wallpaper patterns.
All of the woodwork and trim—window casings, plaster cornice, mantel—had been faux-finished in a wood-grain effect to look like old wood. Windows were painted shut. The Maycocks stripped elements to restore the room to the architect’s vision. The dining room was in better shape, but also needed stripping. As the walls were sanded, the original paint color was revealed. The couple had it color-matched and, Karen reports, “amazingly enough, the color today is called ‘Butchart Green’”—a reference to Victoria’s famed Butchart Gardens, which architect Maclure helped design.
The den or family room got no attention until the second year of work; no one wanted the huge stripping job it demanded. Two contractors backed out, in fact. Finally, Brian himself took on the task. Armed with a respirator, canned stripper, lots of steel wool, and a dental pick, he spent four months at the tedious job. “Now it looks just like it would have back in 1912,” he says proudly.
The original kitchen had three small rooms—larder, pantry, and cooking room—with a wood stove, a chimney, and a water tank. The space had become one large room in a remodeling done just before the Maycocks bought the house. Karen explains that they had a new pantry cabinet made in old-growth fir, to exactly match the badly damaged original.
Upstairs are two bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms, a sitting room, and a laundry room. This level was gutted down to the studs and rebuilt to original specifications. Custom knives were made to replicate moldings.
It was truly a labor of love. The Maycocks have won two preservation awards for their efforts, and now they can relax on the porch, sipping wine at dusk, knowing that architect Samuel Maclure would be proud of them.
Betty Campbell has written for Canadian Homes & Cottages magazine, and she wrote a guidebook on Victoria and Vancouver.