Oak Bay homes are not only heritage designs

The housing in Oak Bay is made up of a variety of styles

A few years ago, I had a conversation with former mayor Chris Causton where I remarked on the historic nature of houses in Oak Bay.

He quickly pointed out that although the perception is that Oak Bay is made up of houses from the early 20th century, the arts and crafts style being the most notable, the housing stock in Oak Bay is in fact made up of a variety of styles representing each of the decades of the 20th century.

The variety of styles include the post war bungalows of the 30s and 40s, the modern design of the 60s, as well as the rather architecturally benign houses of the 70s and 80s. All of these styles have been integrated amongst the original and favoured arts and crafts houses built circa 1912.

It is the tree lined streets and the conscientious landscaping of front yards that provide Oak Bay with its visual continuity.

If you look beyond the front gardens of the properties in Oak Bay however, you will see a diverse range of residential styles documenting the evolution of design over the last 100 years. The west coast design of the contemporary house on Monterey Avenue is consistent with a trend in development that has been going on throughout the history of Oak Bay.

This is a community where families have lived, kids have grown up and moved away. Parents have aged and sold their houses to younger families. The demographics of Oak Bay have changed over the last century and housing styles have changed as well, reflecting a variety of design trends. The variety of house styles in Oak Bay is evidence of the residents’ style sensibilities over time and their desire to embrace current design culture. Change in residential design is simply part of the evolution of culture and society that occurs everywhere – even in Oak Bay.

Personally, I am happy to see the petering out of the recent proliferation of new houses that emulate the characteristics of the arts and crafts design. These houses were trying to be something they are not, an imported style, and a remnant of our colonial past.

The west coast design is a recognized contemporary style that is representative of our region. This style should be appreciated and embraced as reflective of our own identity and take its deserved place in the evolution of residential design on Vancouver Island. And yes, in Oak Bay as well.

Gary Streight

Oak Bay