Zebra Group owner Rus Collins and interior designer Lorin Turner sit in the great room of a 1930s P. Leonard James-designed house on St. David Street in Oak Bay. The company did a near-total renovation of the home

Zebra Group owner Rus Collins and interior designer Lorin Turner sit in the great room of a 1930s P. Leonard James-designed house on St. David Street in Oak Bay. The company did a near-total renovation of the home

Curiosity key component of annual Greater Victoria home tour

Availability of design tips from experts makes tour more like home show

The prevalence of home improvement TV shows has contributed to the metamorphosis of the Young Life Victoria Home Tour.

The popular annual fundraiser for the Christian youth organization began in 1991 as a showcase of new homes and renovations, but in a rather sterile environment – no homeowners were present and few contractors on hand to chat with.

Today the tour is very interpersonal, with many homeowners happy to stick around to talk to the hundreds of visitors who troop through in the course of two five-hour weekend shifts.

Some have even chosen to make snacks for guests, says Young Life spokesperson Bill Okell, but organizers stop short of suggesting that to participants.

“It’s been quite a transition,” he says.

“Very few homeowners ever hung out in the homes. Now (they realize) they’re a good source of information. In past, it was more of a visual thing. These days it’s more of a ‘let’s get as much information as we can’ thing.”

Feedback from tour participants has shown visitors are not only hungry to discover more options for renovation projects, he says, they enjoy meeting new people. “A lot of these people are like their homes, they’re characters and they’re interesting.”

Rus Collins, a partner in the Zebra Group and manager of the company’s construction arm, is back with the tour after a hiatus. The Zebra crew is showcasing its work on a near total inside-out renovation of a former Tudor-revival style home on St. David Street in Oak Bay.

It can be fruitful for builders or designers to hang out at one of their project homes. While most visitors are genuinely interested in houses, Collins says, many are looking at building or renovating in the future.

“It’s an opportunity to get inside these houses that you might never have a chance to get into,” he says.

This year’s tour, set for April 13 and 14, includes 10 homes, located in Oak Bay, Fairfield and Uplands. They feature a combination of single room renovations, major rebuilds and new homes – even a redesigned houseboat.

Passport tickets for the self-guided tour are $25 each and are available at building supply stores around the region.

For a list of outlets or other information, call the Young Life office at 250-634-3223 or visit younglife.ca/victoriahometour.

All money raised from the tour goes directly to Young Life’s work with the teenagers in Greater Victoria.

editor@vicnews.com