A Saanich historical home revives its owners’ dreams with a modern take on historic luxury.
By Danielle Pope
This historic renovation is adorned with the antiques collected by Murray and Valerie Nunns over their lifetimes. The oversized painting of a shipwreck in the great room was created by an unknown Australian artist, around 1910, while the antler chandelier came with the house, made by a previous owner from locally shed antlers. The English leather armchairs, made in 1880, accent the regal nature of this room, and were recently purchased by the Nunns from an auction in England. With the enlarged brick wall fireplace, this room has become a favourite on rainy Victoria nights. PHOTO: JOSHUA LAWRENCE.
Murray and Valerie Nunns had nearly given up their hope of finding a home on Vancouver Island when their realtor asked them to check out one last property as they prepared to go home to Vancouver.
The two had been searching for months and, as another fruitless trip from the mainland proved disappointing, they pulled up the driveway to Saanich’s famed old Norfolk Lodge with interest piqued. The house was in a state of what Murray Nunns calls “demolition by neglect,” but the bones were solid and the property was spectacular.
As perpetual collectors and heritage renovators, the two were no strangers to taking on a project. They had already restored three historic homes over the last 25 years, from Calgary to Vancouver. This one, however, would require a whole new level of work.
“When you’ve been down this road before, you know a house like this is going to be a marathon, not a sprint, and you ask: ‘Are you ready to climb the hill one more time?’” says Murray.
Trepidation aside, months later the Nunns threw their bid into the auction ring and won the home “as is, where is.” Their goal was simple: return the old beauty to her original glory.
“You have to get to know a place and let it speak to you before you can approach a job like this,” says Murray. “We spent months cleaning it out before construction began, but there was something about this place that was different for us — it felt like home.”
The 7,000-square-foot lodge, with belvedere views over the valley and forest, sits on over seven acres of land. Though the lodge once featured seven bedrooms and three and a half baths, it had since been transformed into a functional family home with four bedrooms and seven bathrooms.
The great room, sun room and robust kitchen, designed in Tudor style, are complemented by a 40-foot outdoor pool, expansive rose garden, century-old trees, a stone bridge, 700-foot brick driveway and seven garages. There’s also a 12-foot-tall replica of the house on the property — a perfect playhouse for the grandkids.
The British Influence
The home wasn’t always so cohesive. With an estimated five owners and multiple renters over the last 109 years, the house fell victim to some unusual renovations, despite its classic style.
Back in 1908, it was first conceived by John and Emma Oldfield, two settlers from Norfolk, England, who wanted to build a home that showcased good, modern and affluent British taste. Living in lavish mansion style, then on 350 acres, the couple and their grown children occupied the home for many years.
In 1911 and 1914, the house underwent two substantial renovations by renowned B.C. architect Samuel Maclure. These modifications shifted the home into the formal Arts and Crafts style, popular then in Britain and the States. The style, which the Nunns aimed to revive, is reflected in the fine architectural detailing and grand proportions.
“Working on a project of this magnitude is really exciting, because our aim was to maintain the period accuracy of the house, but bring it into modern standards,” says Jackson Leidenfrost, project manager with Aryze Developments.
“There’s a lot of history in buildings like this, and each one tells a story — bringing these homes back to life preserves the heritage of Victoria.”
A New Life
Although the Nunns and the Aryze team anticipated the complexity of restoring the home, no one suspected the scope of damage they would be dealing with. A serious rat infestation had left the internal wiring and plumbing in dangerous disrepair, and though the foundations were solid, bringing the house up to code would prove an effort.
Still, the end result has been as satisfying for Leidenfrost as it is for the Nunns, who have adorned the home with historic treasures they’ve collected through the decades. From its revitalized stone-clad basement and rose-themed stained-glass motifs to its modern heated tile flooring, the home today feels like it’s truly ready for another century.
“This is the kind of home you could never be finished with, because there are always ways to bring it further into period,” says Murray.
“At some point, though, you sit down by the wood-burning fire with a glass of wine and just marvel, no matter where it’s at. That’s part of the magic of a home like this.”
Look Inside the Nunns’ Historical Saanich Home
The dining room is a showcase for Tiffany and Handel lamps, all from New York, circa 1900 to 1915. The Tiffany products enhance the stained glass motif found throughout the house and, combined with an array of classic candlesticks, offer an elegant twist to an early century look. The bronze sculpture on the window table takes special prominence in this room, as its Art Nouveau look parallels the Arts and Crafts period pieces found throughout the house, circa 1890 to 1915. PHOTO: JOSHUA LAWRENCE.
The home’s library is a showcase of art and literature. The bump-out bay windows (there is another in the dining room) are original, as is the white oak and fir flooring. The raw stone fireplace is another original item, stripped down to offer a rough contrast with the fine artwork highlighted in this room. During the Arts and Crafts period, high-quality and one-of-a-kind work was displayed prominently. The homeowners embrace this practice using unique items such as the mantled surfboard — handcrafted by an indigenous Hawaiian artist. PHOTO: JOSHUA LAWRENCE.
Sunrooms were popular additions to houses of the Arts and Crafts period, and the Nunns wanted this room to be an internal reflection of the beauty of the grounds. With two walls made entirely of windows, this bright area captures views of the gardens, bridge and surrounding forests and fields, making it the perfect location for morning coffee or evening wine. The flooring is a heated porcelain tile from Island Floor Centre, made to look like textured wood in keeping with the rest of the home. PHOTO: JOSHUA LAWRENCE.
The master ensuite was the most invasive renovation in the home, as the room had to be recreated out of a bedroom, kitchen and bath configuration. The cabinets are kept within the style of those in the kitchen, while the heated porcelain tile flooring mimics that in the sunroom. The stylized tub was originally found in another bathroom in the house and was paired with the modern glass-wall shower. PHOTO: JOSHUA LAWRENCE.
The pot lighting and coiffured ceilings in the master bedroom are new additions, but the refurbished white oak flooring and cream shades tie this room in with the rest of the home. This bedroom has its own entrance onto the grounds, allowing in generous amounts of light and views of the gardens. Additional Tiffany lamps and an antique desk and chair set keep this room within period. PHOTO: JOSHUA LAWRENCE.
The kitchen came together as a complete revision, with clean, stainless steel appliances contrasting bright cream shades and quartz countertops. The six stained-glass panels within the cupboards mimic the pattern found throughout the house, and the rose motif was essential in reflecting the English-antique theme. The glass was created by Edward Schaefer, a renowned Victoria glassworker who also completed restoration work for the Fairmont Empress. PHOTO: JOSHUA LAWRENCE.
The basement is one of the most unique spaces in this home, with a raw stone wall, exposed pipes and heated concrete flooring. Halogen lighting provides a loft look to this area, with the lower brickwork from the upstairs fireplaces giving this room a trendy feel. The space acts as part exercise studio, entertainment area and workspace, but the heated flooring keeps this level warm and accessible. PHOTO: JOSHUA LAWRENCE.
The Home’s Source Information
Developer: Aryze Development and Construction
Construction manager: Jackson Leidenfrost
Plumber: Vertex Plumbing
Electrician: Pardell Electric
Doors and hardware: All original
Drywall: PR Wilson Interiors
Tile: Island Floor Centre
Interior painting: Indelible Paint Works
Exterior painting: The Painting Department
Kitchen/bathroom millwork: Niche Kitchens, designed by clients
Custom millwork: Niche Kitchens, designed by clients
Finishing carpentry: Harrison Custom Carpentry
Floor refinishing: Lawson Floors
Glass: Mercer & Schaefer Glasstudio (custom stained glass at side entry and kitchen and restoration of original glass); B&E Glass (showers)
Countertops: Stone Age Marble
Engineers: RJC Engineering
This article is from the November/December 2017 issue of YAM.