House Beautiful: Old-world charm in Fernwood

Like a fine wine, some homes just get better with age … helped along with a few home-improvement projects over the years.

That’s the case with the 1913 Fernwood home, brimming with character and old-world charm, owned by Michelle and Jeff Tucker.

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They are the the fifth family to live in the 3,300 sq. ft. Edwardian vernacular Arts and Crafts house, buying it in 1999 when their now grown daughters were six and eight years old.

The affable couple wanted a home where their children could grow up in a family-friendly neighbourhood and spacious enough to host large gatherings of friends and family.

“We both grew up in big, older houses in South Oak Bay and wanted a home that we could update and make it more modern without losing that character,” says Michelle.

“We wanted a ‘Martha Stewart house.’ ”

Adds Jeff: “A Christmas house where you come downstairs and the tree has presents exploding everywhere.”

Martha Stewart would be proud. The Tucker home is the ideal gathering spot for Dec. 25 festivities as well as get-togethers year-round.

Michelle, who works in liquor distribution, has created an enviable entertainment space, which includes a floor-to-ceiling bar, with wine fridge, in a kitchen corner. It’s adjacent to the formal dining room and not far from the outdoor deck for summer entertaining, making this kitchen nook a place visitors would naturally want to congregate.

The kitchen is also a favourite place for Jeff, who works in the family business of Oak Bay Pharmasave, and enjoys cooking when he’s at home.

He points out some of his favourites in the kitchen, from a wall mounted convection steam oven, sub zero fridge to a copper pot collecti on from France that hangs over the kitchen island.

The newly renovated gourmet kitchen is just the latest home improvement project the Tuckers have undertaken. Their last kitchen was more rustic and completed in 2005.

“There were a few things wrong with it (the first kitchen they did) but it morphed into a full renovation once we discovered squirrels in the kitchen ceiling had chewed the wires. It’s then we realized it needed to be gutted during the pandemic,” says Jeff.

“We always have something on the go, whether it’s a big or small project,” says Michelle.

The renovated kitchen, with new electric and better ventilation, was done by Protege Developments, the clean-lined cabinetry was from Harbour City Kitchens, the light quartz with gold veining from Exotic Stone, the hardware from Victoria Specialty Hardware and the lighting from Bespoke Design Ltd.

While their kitchen would work equally well in a modern home it’s the details that make it fit the era of the home — like the hardware, brass lighting and wood floors.

The couple also replaced vinyl kitchen windows with wood ones that are more in keeping with the heritage home.

The kitchen’s wood floors were from their last kitchen renovation and are reclaimed fir from St. Michael’s University School.

The couple has definitely stamped their design style throughout the house, but all of their alterations have been thoughtful ones that have not sacrificed the home’s architectural style and rich history.

It’s a history they celebrate as keepers of a treasure trove of photographs and old letters about the house.

These were collected by previous owners who had the house designated with The City of Victoria’s Register of Heritage Properties in 1991.

One of the letters is from Kenneth Caufield, whose parents Howard and Lottie Caufield built the house.

“I was born in the top bedroom (front) the same year 1913. At least my father made sure it was finished in time for the blessed event…The history attached to the place would fill a few books,” he wrote.

Since living in the house for more than two decades the Tuckers also have many stories to share, from the “Double 0” party they hosted in 2016 when many of their relatives were celebrating milestone birthdays, like turning 50, 60 and 80, to the “instant (front) garden” created thanks to Demitasse Garden Centre.

Michelle jokes her husband had no idea how the garden was about to get a refresh and asked him to “have an open mind” when a truckload of plants arrived. Luckily, he loved it and ended up agreeing to taking all the plants planted that day.

Demitasse returned in 2018 to help them complete their backyard garden redesign, replacing a veggie garden with an easy care perennial garden around an existing water fountain feature.

The couple’s favourite garden spot, to sit back and enjoy a glass of wine, is in one corner of the lower garden that looks out toward the new perennial garden.

There’s also a second outdoor seating area on a first floor deck under a privacy fence, where white wisteria makes a welcome backdrop. And there’s a convenient outdoor dining area directly off the kitchen.

The lower garden features a lovely shed, built in 2010, with French doors, and walls of windows that were repurposed from the original kitchen. The “potting shed” is definitely one inspired by Martha Stewart, thanks to the couple’s former kitchen island, with a quartz countertop, that found a new purpose after their kitchen renovation.

The shed, which is a focal point in the garden, was built by craftsman Dave Fullerton from Fullerton Construction. The couple appreciates good workmanship and also have high praise for Luis Cardoso from Cardoso Masonry, who in 2016 replaced the aging front staircase with a basalt staircase that makes it seem original to the 108 year-old home.

Another favourite sitting area is at the front of the home — a closed-in sunroom that looks out to a beautiful red rhododendron, now in full bloom.

“We sit out there all the time,” says Jeff.

It’s a welcoming space and just off the main front hallway, which previously had dark wooden walls, now painted white “after much discussion.”

They also made the space brighter by having Michelle’s father replace some of the original wood door panels with glass. His handiwork is also seen in the dining room, which features a walnut dining table he made years ago that looks brand new, as well as the outdoor dining table.

Another special furniture piece is the chest in the living room. Michelle’s parents immigrated to Canada from the United Kingdom with it in the 1950s and her father redid the cedar lining inside.

It’s family momentos like this, as well as the memories created inside that make this home one the Tuckers plan to enjoy for as long as they can.

“It’s a labour of love. It has such a nice family feeling; why would we ever want to leave?” says Michelle.

kpemberton@shaw.ca

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