House Beautiful: A crafty transformation in Shawnigan

It seems as if everything in this house — well, everything that has even a whiff of artistry about it — was made by the homeowner.

That includes oil paintings, sketches, table runners, potpourri, drink coasters, decorated wine glasses, “building blocks” on the mantle, framed sayings, spindle candlesticks with tart tin tops, wreaths, mottos painted on wooden panels, calligraphy — and all the flower arrangements, too.

Bev Robertson is a creative and crafting dynamo, and her Shawnigan house is a vivid visual feast.

It’s no surprise that she once had a craft shop and taught classes in folk arts in Duncan, and more recently worked as a kitchen designer for Rona Home Centre there.

A big shock came seven years ago, when she suddenly had to change her focus.

“We bought this house and two weeks later, I was laid off and paid out by Rona,” said Bev, whose home will be on the Cowichan Artisans’ studio tour Nov. 2 and 3.

“My first reaction was to think that this was the worst thing that could have happened and I was in a big panic.”

But then she began to see the end of that career as the beginning of a new one, a fresh opportunity.

“I decided to take a couple of months off to paint and that turned into seven years.

“I’ve always loved painting, but I hadn’t done much in recent years, because when I had the craft shop, I was helping others be creative or just doing folk-art painting.”

After she left Rona, she and her husband, Glenn, also started giving the 2003 home a facelift. “It was very builder-grade when we bought it, very generic, so I started touching it up with a modern country look.”

Working as a full-time professional artist, she also began covering the walls — and every other surface she could find — with bright, light cheerful works.

“I started in acrylics and ended up in oils, which are harder to work with, but there are so many benefits,” said Bev, who exhibits her work in The Gallery at Mattick’s Farm.

“They blend so nicely.”

The background colour of the Robertsons’ home is “greige” — a neutral shade that blends beige and grey and works well as a neutral offset for painting.

In the main hallway, the colour is cement, and the other areas’ tonal qualities vary slightly in intensity from room to room.

“I love these neutral colours, as I can do reds, yellows, blues with it. I do different-colour cushions in the living room with every season, and paintings are always rotating in and out, too.”

Since moving into the home, Bev and Glenn have made many changes. One of the first things they did was give the living room a facelift, adding faux beams to the ceiling. They totally reimagined the fireplace, stripping off old tiles while installing a new mantle, crown moulding and a new surround.

They also added shiplap on feature walls on either side of the fireplace — and did all the work themselves. “I can run a chop saw and a nail gun,” Bev said, an enthusiastic gleam in her eye.

“And I have a very handy husband, so we never have to hire anyone.”

Glenn also built the covered barbecue area and pergola in the garden. “Without him, I wouldn’t be able to do all this,” she said, glancing around the house. The two married in 2007.

On one side of the fireplace is a unique sideboard designed and built by Glenn, who owns and operates a company called Restoration Jacks that repairs camper jacks.

“I saw one like it in a furniture store, where it was priced at $1,100,” Bev said. “I kept going and looking at it for a couple of years and finally told my husband I was going to buy it. That’s when he said he could make it for under $100.”

And he did, using reclaimed wood from a demo yard and fabricating all the parts for the rolling doors from salvaged materials.

The kitchen previously had an unattractive laminated countertop with a busy mosaic pattern, and a dark backsplash comprising one-inch-square mini tiles in various shades of brown.

To refresh the look and brighten the room, the Robertsons added a new riser to the top edge of the cabinets and crown moulding above that. “It didn’t have much style to it before, but I knew I could make those dull cabinets look much fancier with riser and crown,” Bev said.

They clad the peninsula with the same shiplap they used on several feature walls, running it vertically instead of horizontally. They used a criss-cross barn-door look on the side and installed pipe along the bottom as a foot rest.

Gloomy backsplash tiles were replaced with crisp white reflective subway tiles.

The bathroom also needed a new look, so they removed the tub and replaced it with a spacious shower. Glenn built some rustic shelves, and while they kept the builder-grade vanity, she repainted it grey and added a vessel sink and farm-style pump faucet.

As a final touch, Bev created a one-of-a-kind mirror over the vanity, stripping the paint from a mullioned window that they salvaged from an old house.

“I replaced the old glass with bevelled mirrors and it ended up being probably the most expensive thing we did.”

The two are no strangers to renovations.

Their last house, in Maple Bay, was 2,600 square feet and three storeys. “It hadn’t been touched since the ’80s and we did a full reno on every room,” Bev said. “It took us five years.”

In the end, it was too much house for them, so they downsized to their current home of 1,600 square feet.

They created a welcoming seating area outside on the half-acre site, which includes a small orchard and backs onto Shawnigan Lake School property.

They painted their new deck a jolly shade of red and added an open pergola above, with a seating area and indoor-outdoor furniture and upholstery. Even in the rain, it looks welcoming and cheerful from inside the home.

“Autumn is for snuggles and hot cocoa” reads a sign in this cosy corner, covered by the roof. Bev calls it her cuddle centre — it’s where she stores mulled cider and cocoa for family and friends when they pop over.

It’s also a popular spot with their two children and five grandchildren, who range in age from one to 10.

The Robertsons love to travel to places like Mexico and Cuba, where she indulges her fondness for bright colours. At home, she likes to visit roadside flower stands, buying fresh blooms and arranging them in mason jars around the house. She also frequents Butchart Gardens and waterfront viewpoints, to take photos from which she paints all year.

“I always loved to paint, but the talent sat dormant for years and years. My mother gave me my first box of paints when I was very small, and the first time I realized I was an artist was at age six or seven, when I won first prize at a Cobble Hill fair for a small sketch of swans.”

The prolific decorator said she and her husband spend hours engaged in their respective pursuits, often until late in the evening.


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