The historic Mount Royal neighbourhood in Calgary has long been known for its stunning character homes set on generous lots and surrounded by lovely, mature trees. Built in 1937, the home of Alan and Deborah is no exception. The couple’s love of heritage houses and great design is readily apparent through the care taken to preserve and enhance the home’s original charm, while also making it their own by filling it with unique and wonderful mementos of their time spent travelling and working abroad.
The couple are curators to a fantastic collection of Byron Harmon prints, a photographer well known for his pioneering images of the Canadian Rockies- a suitable subject matter for these avid skiers. But perhaps my favorite part of this inspiring home is the fact that the backyard garden is treated as a true extension of the space. During the summer, with two sets of French doors thrown wide and family cats, Bernie and Daisy, wandering between, indoor and outdoor blend in the most magical way; a rarity in a city that has been known to transition from patio weather to blinding snow storm, sometimes in the space of an afternoon! Do I sound like I’m gushing? Good, because after visiting this home, I spent the rest of the afternoon inspired by the way Al and Deb have surrounded themselves with the truly meaningful artifacts of a life well lived.
A large stainless steel farm sink is framed by Shaker style cabinets, glass tiles and an antique brown granite counter top. On the top shelf is a carved bowl from South Africa and below is a selection of recipe books. An extensive and varied collection of cookbooks can also be found tucked away in the large side board.
This Chinese sideboard was purchased from a family friend at Al Fraches Flowers, who brought back several fantastic pieces from his travels in Asia. On top of the sideboard sits an assortment of olive oils, peppers, and salts Al and Deb have collected on trips to Italy, France and Central America. The couple have been placing corks in the Chinese wooden tub for over 10 years as a reminder of the various wines they have sampled and friends whose company they have enjoyed. I love the fact that the tub has been emptied numerous times due to over flow! Dean Dolph designed and constructed the stained glass windows to provide privacy as an alternative to traditional window coverings.
In the winter, the couple’s eleven foot long granite kitchen island with bar stools and a foot rest is where guest gather to chat and keep an eye on dinner preparations. But when summer days stretch into warm, languid evenings, the French doors in both the kitchen and dining room are thrown open so guests can move between the house and the garden, a wonderland of twinkling lights and lush green foliage.
This framed linen tea towel is from the Chelsea Flower Garden in London and is printed with a 1940’s image of the women who worked in the garden taking their tea break. The antique pine equestrian tack box was found in Canmore, Alberta and is a perfectly stylish solution for keeping shoes and boots tucked out of view at the back door.
Al designed and constructed the pine dining table with his friend, Wishart Robson. It is handmade with reinforced legs and had 8 pine chairs that have since been replaced with more modern, horse hair chairs. The linen runner on the table was purchased in Burano, Italy and the glass bowl and candle sticks were made to the couple’s specifications at a glass blowing factory in Murano. The bowl has the couple’s names embedded in the glass. The antique side board was found in Canmore, Alberta and is home to orchids and ferns, which thrive in the light that filters in through the backdrop of stained glass windows from an old church.
Original to the home, this wood burning fireplace is topped by one of the couple’s many Byron Harmon reproduction photographs from the Harmon Gallery in Banff, Alberta. Harmon, a pioneering photographer of the Canadian Rockies, took many historic turn of the century images whose prints are now considered to be limited edition as a great number of them can no longer be reproduced for fear of damaging the originals.
Perpendicular to the fireplace, a built in bench runs the length of the wall underneath the living room front window. Again, stained glass windows are used as both a privacy screen that allows for maximum light as well as a rich and detailed design element.
Known as the travel room, this space is filled with the unique and the curious, much of it collected by Al while working internationally in places such as Asia, Africa and Latin America. The arrow pouch on the wall to the left of the map is from the Bushmen of Botswana and the wooden masks are from Ecuador and Guatemala. The glass case on the right contains artifacts gathered from at least 20 countries and the masks on top are from South Africa and Panama. Soap stone carvings from Ghana sit on the table in front of the wall hanging of a 17th century map from Chintz and Company. On the left of the photograph is an old Mennonite armoire which the couple converted into a bar that contains their scotch and bourbon collections.
Al found this claw foot tub dumped next to the garage of a co-worker who was moving. He had it loaded up and placed in his own garage, where it was refinished and installed in the master bathroom, replacing a dated existing tub. Deb and Al added the stained glass windows and in the winter the couple move some of their outdoor plants into the space, giving it a tropical look.
This delicate line drawing was made by Barbara Mercier in 1972. Barbara was doing artwork to promote the Pierre Burton television series To Build a Nation, and Al was a student and extra working with the horses at Calgary’s Heritage Park Historical Village, where the CBC series was filming. He was working in the harness room of Carriage House one day when Barbara came in and sketched the drawing, titling it “Alan Scheibner, Horseman, Heritage Park”.
The tiered deck is home to the Belvedere Collection of patio furniture from Restoration Hardware. The cast iron table and large clay pots are from Chintz and Company. The pots contain a variety of annuals and perennials, many of which were purchased at Vale’s Greenhouse, a charming garden center located in the town of Black Diamond, Alberta. Pops of red contrast brilliantly against the lush green backdrop of the foliage.
A small herb garden for cooking sits in a tree protected area, just outside the kitchen doors. The herbs are planted in a variety of vintage pots. To the right of it, garden torches are lit on warm summer evenings to add a glowing ambiance to the couple’s frequent dinner parties and are carried throughout the garden creating a lovely feeling of rhythm and unity.
The garden is divided into areas for socializing as well as quiet contemplation. Above, a sofa sits tucked behind the Koi pond next to two ancient stone warriors.
This 800 lb Buddha from Ubud, Bali, Indonesia has found a cool, quiet spot to meditate in the couple’s garden. It was selected on location at the carving site in Ubud and was then transported to Calgary via sea container. Calm and peaceful are probably not the words that Al and Deb would use to describe the challenge of moving and placing this stone carving. The big question is, will it ever be moved again?
The thing I most love about Al and Deb’s home is that it has been put together over time, piece by piece, thoughtfully and meaningfully. Their home is the antidote to the homogeneous and neutral; it is layered, character filled and, most importantly, a true reflection of it’s owners.
Interested in having your home featured on the blog? Drop me a line!