Art is so important to Carla Perry that she’s built much of her life – and her house – around it.
The quaint 1940s bungalow is one of P. Leonard James’ more modest creations. Built at a time when materials were scarce, the house is the smallest on its street and blends into the neighbourhood. Inside, however, is another story.
The Monterey Avenue home is one of five that guests can visit as part of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria’s house tour on Sept. 24. Visitors will view the mix of new and renovated homes, along with the owners’ personal art collections. Guests can also interact with visiting artists who will be working in the residences during the tour.
While Perry’s home maintains a modest cottage look on the outside, the interior is surprising.
“Here we do what my daughter calls, ‘the big reveal,’” she says, sliding open the inner doors of the front, cozy living room that open up onto a large, bright space with 12-foot ceilings at the back of the 2,356-square-foot home.
Perry compares the contrast of the ’40s bungalow exterior and front sitting room to the tents in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: small on the outside, mansions on the inside. “It’s different than what you’d expect from the street.”
Sets of three clerestory windows run along the top of the 12-foot walls, high above large windows that frame what Perry says is one of their signature paintings: Vancouver artist Andy Dixon’s Group of Seven (2015). The acrylic and oil pastel painting is over seven feet long and five feet high, and is a dramatic centerpiece. It hangs on the wall like it was made for it, because it was. This wall was built specifically to house the prized piece, lit with built-in gallery-style, diffused lighting.
Perry admits the combined TV, dining and kitchen area is somewhat grand, including the 12-foot kitchen island crafted from a single piece of Norwegian Labradorite. However, most of the renovations reflect an intentionally plain, simple design.
“It had to be light and bright and happy and flowing, and functional and not fussy,” she says. “Everything is super easy. Even a tiny detail, like [the baseboards] are angled so they’re easier to dust.”
During the renovations, designed and built by Todd Martin of Knot In A Box, the couple stripped down their furniture in favour of neutral, light-coloured built-in cupboards in the kitchen, hallways, and in her separate bedroom at the back of the house.
The rest of the home follows suit; neutral earth tones and whites cover walls and ceilings. The wooden floors and other furniture are in various shades of brown, some white, all with indigo and navy blue undertones.
But the simplicity is intentional, not just for cleaning, ease of access and flow, but to provide contrast.
“I didn’t want to compete with (the art) – I mean, look at the Morriseau,” she says, gesturing toward the bright, colourful painting by aboriginal Canadian artist Norval Morrisseau.
“We didn’t want a really big ‘look at me’ house: I’d rather they come in and look at the art.”
Pat Preston, of the Gallery Associates of the AGGV committee, says each home is chosen to reflect what guests would like to see, both in terms of the art and the architecture of the homes they’re housed in.
“Obviously they’d like to see art, but they’d also like to see how this evolved: the fact that it looks like a ’40s bungalow when you look at it, but it isn’t,” she says.
When Preston first walked in she “did the wow,” she said.
“It was not only the space and the way and how it had been designed, but also what I saw on the walls.”
While having strangers coming into your home can be intimidating, Perry and her husband want to support the gallery.
“The question we asked is, ‘would the universe be a better place for having done that?’ And we said ‘yes.’ It’s a fundraiser for the gallery which we support, [but also] it’s a way to help people see how you can incorporate art into your lives, and the joy it brings us.”
All money raised from the event supports programs and operational expenses at the gallery.
Tickets cost $35 and can be bought in person at the AGGV or online at aggv.ca/events.