A Mexican style decor makes this home a delightful daily escape
By Carolyn Heiman. Photos by John Yanyshyn
Even on the greyest of Victoria, B.C. days, Mike and Monica Miller’s home envelops visitors with a warm and sunny embrace. In renovating their 1950s rancher they bucked modern trend pressures and steered their look to a Spanish colonial aesthetic, pleasing to both of them as Monica spent her childhood in Mexico city and Mike, although Victoria born and raised, can point to fabric swatches and magazine clippings he held onto over the years that bear witness to his attraction to the style.
Like many renovation projects, germination started with changing the kitchen colour. In their case it was robin’s egg blue, followed by painting over the ‘Barbie flesh’ pink/peach colour throughout the rest of the house. But, before one could say “Ole,” the project spread throughout the entire main floor. Mike decided that if they were going to do the renovation, they might as well do it right. “Six months after finishing, we didn’t want to have any regrets,” he says.
As a result, no detail has been overlooked right down to copper light switch faceplates and knotty alder cabinetry in the kitchen that was dealt ball-pen hammer treatment to create a distressed look before staining it a carefully-chosen golden brown.
Monica spent hours researching ideas and products. But, they turned to their interior designer, Ines Hanl, who owns The Sky is the Limit Design, for affirmation about how and what to incorporate in the overall design scheme.
Hanl didn’t always agree with the couple’s choices. “If she did object to something, she always had great reasons,” Monica says.
“I give people a lot of different options and I give them very precise pros and cons about the effects and functionality. But, ultimately I leave it to the client to pick,” says Hanl.
For example, when enthusiasm for bold multi-coloured tiles spilled over to the stove’s backslash, Hanl counselled for a more temperate approach to maintain the “intense layering of texture, pattern and colour” in a manner that “still looks quiet.” It’s the application of this philosophy that has created a space with a comfortable dichotomy. It is both colourfully brazen yet serene.
While there is no predictable matching in colour or features, there are common motifs like the curves on wrought iron lamps. Window grates and tiles all are reminiscent of but not identical to each other.
When the Miller’s fell in love with a quartz countertop that had a hint of blue to match their appliances, Hanl cautioned that its modern feel would clash with the granite dining table and suggested that the Vetrazo countertop would be best. Mike says that Hanl was essential in tying all the nuances together. “We had absolute trust in her,” Monica says.
The owner/designer collaboration produced a home with a bold fruit punch colour palette which drifts off Mexican/Southwest influences without being slavishly pure to heavy country rustica. Hanl always had an eye to ensuring that the design would be “brought up to the North American sensibility and aesthetic.”
Hanl performed architectural magic by incorporating rich brown ceiling beams and corbels into the overall look. The beams and corbels are actually Styrofoam – a product she became acquainted with during a commercial store display project. They are stained a rich brown and are so effective that they momentarily duped a structural engineer on site to problem solve an arched Plexiglas roof over the barbecue area. The beams also produced astonished looks from people passing by when they witnessed trades people practically baton twirling the beams over their heads as they carried loads into the home without assistance.
The use of arches, barrel roofs, tile rugs, transitions from hardwood to tiled kitchen areas, and shifting colour palettes are all effective, allowing openness yet creating a sense of defined space as one moves through the living room, kitchen and dining room.
Time was invested at the outset to ensure that visual effects contributed to overall success. Whether it was stain colours or the texture of the wall plaster, every element was pre-planned. For example, when seeking the right look for the plastered walls, various trowel widths were tested before settling on the one that would deliver the desired look. “This project gave the tradesmen an opportunity to explore their creatively and do something different,” Mike says.
And, the same can be said for its owners.
Before starting the renovation the Millers interviewed three designers and found their match in Ines Hanl who, in addition to her four years of German education as an interior architect, has the added panache of having worked as a theatre costume designer. When learning the Millers wanted to transform the plain rancher into a hacienda, Hanl exclaimed, “Finally I get to play with colour.” It was also the kind of colour she was well acquainted with as a result of having lived in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula for a short time where she says, “I would wander the streets and constantly press my face against the iron bars to get a glimpse of the courtyards beyond.”