Artists find ‘happiness under the oaks’

Amos home is one of six on this year’s Art Gallery of Greater Victoria Home Tour, Sunday, Sept. 11

Robert and Sarah Amos’s Oak Bay home is among six on this year’s Art Gallery of Greater Victoria home tour.

Sarah and Robert Amos channel the Oak Bay motto, Sub Quercu Felicitas – Happiness Under the Oaks – in their Brighton Avenue home.

For seven years, the self-employed, home-based artists looked at real estate before finding their ideal spot near the Oak Bay village.

Located along the Brighton Walkway – Oak Bay’s Centennial Trail – the property “is in a magnificent Garry oak urban forest, a shared woodland just two blocks from Oak Bay Avenue,” Robert notes.

Attracted by the natural setting, the two work to retain and encourage the ecosystem, a delight not only to the many birds and insects that enjoy the habitat, but also the many passersby on the trail.

“The property was the whole inspiration for moving here,” he says.

The home is one of six on this year’s Art Gallery of Greater Victoria Home Tour, this Sunday, Sept. 11.

After finding their ideal property, the couple turned to the next task: building a home that was both spacious and flexible, with studios and gallery space, as well as room to live.

The original 900-square-foot 1950 house was demolished and in its place, the new 3,000-square-foot, two-storey home took shape upon the original footprint, with an extension on the west side. This created the least amount of disturbance to the trees and none of the Garry oaks was cut.

Building on the existing foundation also allowed them to create a level-entry home with no need to blast away the native rock. Almost nothing else was changed on the site and no building variances were needed.

Realizing that the south end of the garden is part of an almost-intact piece of Garry oak meadow, the Amoses have approached gardening according to a new paradigm – the native plant garden, Robert says.

They removed invasive ivy and blackberries and toward the Brighton walkway, the previously bare north-west corner of the lot has been planted with arbutus, Garry oak, ocean spray and other native plants. “The garden is a work in progress, and always will be. The focus is on removing invasive plants and planting more native species to enlarge the Garry oak meadow area.”

Enjoying these spaces from both inside the home and out is simple thanks to expansive windows and patio access off most of the main rooms, Robert notes. “Every detail of this home draws one out to the garden,” he says.

Designed by Sarah and built by Lee Taylor, the home boasts a “cottagey” feel, with richly toned engineered hardwood floors, wood for the finishing and a casual atmosphere.

His-and-her studio spaces flank the main living area, complemented by a gallery area and ample built-in storage required by the two working artists. Nine-foot ceilings, transom windows, a generous entry and wide doorways create a sense of openness. Overlooking a flexible dining room/work space, the open kitchen features full-height Shaker-style maple cabinets by D.B. Cabinets. Upstairs are three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a sewing area.

The exterior is low maintenance by design, with coloured stucco and stained cedar trim. The low-pitch roof allows for easy access for cleaning the built-in gutters. In-floor hot water heating. High insulation values and modern windows have brought energy savings and a quiet space to live and work.

The AGGV House Tour is this Sunday, Sept. 11, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The self-guided tour features six spectacular homes in and around Greater Victoria, with local artists working on location. Tickets are $35 and available at www.aggv.ca or any Brown’s the Florist, Dig This, Eclectic Gallery in Oak Bay, GardenWorks, The Gallery at Mattick’s Farm and Munro Books.