House Beautiful: Hatmaker and artist amp up colour in Colwood

Banishing beige has become a fine art for Paul Beique and Maria Curcic, who prefer colourful contrasts and the interplay of light and dark to a monochrome neutral palette.

The two artists bought their decade-old home five years ago, after they became a couple. It stands on a high ridge adjacent to Latoria Creek Park in Colwood and they delight in the vivid inner landscape.

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Everything from lampshades and curtains to leather armchairs, walls, European glass and flowerpots reflects their love of colour and their brazen employment of it.

“This house was all beige when we first saw it,” said Curcic, who studied interior design at Mount Royal University in Calgary, as well as the Alberta College of Art and Design. “The walls were grey, beige and lifeless, so the first thing we did was paint them, adding lots of colour.”

The couple chose a pale ocean-blue tone for the great-room walls, royal-blue curtains to cover the living room’s patio doors, bright scarlet for curtains over the kitchen sink, marigold for the guest room and in the master bedroom, a deep raspberry

“Mostly what we see now in interior design is beige and grey, with a few accent pillows, but that doesn’t do it for us,” Curcic explained with a chuckle.

They both feel more comfortable and inspired around colour.

Before they met several years ago, her husband had already collected a red sofa, some red tables and a cool hammered-steel dining table.

“We are not afraid of colour — in fact, we both embrace it,” he said, adding their tastes are different but meld well.

“A high volume of colour really changes your mood. When you wake up in the morning and walk into a colourful room, you feel uplifted.”

When they first saw the home, they both felt it needed better lighting, as well as a colour switch.

They created a new plan that featured many more pot and track fixtures in the great room to highlight their extensive art collection, which includes their own works as well as many pieces by other artists.

More lights were installed in the kitchen and throughout the home, mostly from McLaren Lighting. Amping up the colour and lighting was a reasonably quick and cost-efficient way to make a striking visual improvement.

“The living room had almost no lights when we bought the house and it was pitch dark at night,” said Beique. “But structurally, we didn’t have to do anything and that was good, because we didn’t want a home where we had to invest in ripping out walls and things.

“We had both worked on massive renovations projects earlier in our lives.”

One of the things that most appealed to them about their new open living space is the way it looks onto the garden on three sides. The home, perched 350 feet above sea level, had been built by Ron Egli Construction and Design.

“We love the garden backdrop,” said Beique, who, with Curcic, also redesigned the garden.

It was previously mostly grass but they added flowerbeds and a large vegetable section in the back, where a generous deck offers views toward the Olympic Mountains and eagles nesting in Latoria Creek Park.

“I am all about the garden,” said Curcic, who was born in France but grew up in Calgary on a property that measured 50 by 150 feet. Her mother was a keen gardener, so she inherited a green gene.

Curcic worked for an architecture and design company before launching her own business, while Beique is an engineer whose lineage is French Canadian. He always wanted to be an artist, but his dad said “hell no” to that, so he took an engineering degree at Texas Tech University and completed an MBA at Concordia University.

He worked in the petroleum industry and as an investment analyst in the petroleum field before deciding seven years ago to do what he’d always wanted to do: paint full time.

While Curcic creates abstract art and has been represented by galleries in Calgary, Toronto and LA, Beique leans toward representational art. He is the home’s chef, because his wife has also been a sought-after milliner for more than 30 years.

That’s another reason they needed a large house.

They have a painting studio upstairs, but in the basement, they turned a former legal suite into a full-blown millinery studio for Curcic. It brims with fabric, ribbons, feathers, jewels, wooden head moulds, mannequins, tools and exotic-looking hats ready for shipment.

She used to have her own millinery store in Calgary, but now wholesales to stores across the continent, selling online to clients in North America and Europe, and locally at Heart and Soul Shoes.

She creates bespoke hats for brides and those going to upscale parties and weddings, and has been collaborating with Toronto designer Zoran Dobric on his shows, and a recent show by one of his students in Shanghai. Some of her high-fashion hats will be on view Feb. 3 at Heart and Soul Shoes.

“My mother was a seamstress and I always thought hats were beautiful and a good form of expression,” she said, adding antique glass is another passion for the couple.

“We both love the colour, the shape and the depth of vintage European glass — the way it catches the light and changes its personality.”

With two studios and lots of artistic juice in the mix, these two enjoy every day in their new home.

When they decided to leave Calgary and head west, they looked all around Vancouver and up and down the Sunshine Coast before settling on the south Island and buying this 4,000-square foot home.

“We knew we needed a lot of space and this house was listed at a reduced price, because of the Colwood Crawl,” she said, referring to the daily traffic jam for drivers getting in and out of Victoria from the West Shore.

These two don’t need to commute to work, and the location fit the bill for Curcic, who always wanted to live close to water, a forest and a big city. They often hop over to Vancouver and Seattle when the mood strikes.

“We walked into this house and said this is exactly what we want, with the outside inside because of the large windows, all the trees and nature and big open living area.

“I lived in a tiny 1950s house, so this is like playtime for me,” she said — “with loads of closets, too.”

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