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The Arts and Crafts Movement in Victoria, B.C.


Walter C. Nichol Summer Residence - "Miraloma"

In 1925, the Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia, the Honourable Walter C. Nichol commissioned Samuel Maclure to build him a summer home at 11 Harbour Road - a wooded, rocky property in Sidney. Nichol and his wife were "noted patrons of the arts" and were very personally aware of the former successes of Maclure's designs (Mills, pg. 538).

Miraloma - Walter C. Nichol Summer Residence, by Samuel Maclure, 1925

"Miraloma" - Walter C. Nichol Summer Residence
by Samuel Maclure, 1925

Nichol served as president of both the B.C. Art League and the Arts and Crafts Society of Victoria. This interest in the arts and, in particular with the Arts and Crafts Movement, "culminated in 1925 when [Nichol] commissioned Maclure to design a new summer residence on the Saanich Peninsula, 18 miles north of Victoria" (Mills, pg. 538).

Considered Maclure's "most powerful rustic-style design of his career", the residence, which was named "Miraloma", was one of Maclure's last really large commissions yet one that really expressed his originality in design (Segger, 1986, pg. 204). Although by this time Maclure had drifted away from formal Arts and Crafts designs, the designing of Miraloma revitalized this former passion.

Miraloma was sited on several acres of beautifully landscaped gardens overlooking the sea. Only local materials were used in the construction of the house to create the essence of the house becoming a part of the land and surrounding woods. The house was an "extraordinarily powerful statement in wood" with the exterior composed of rugged slabs of Douglas fir with the bark unremoved (Eaton, pg. 24).

Exterior of Miraloma
Exterior of Miraloma

Nichol had specifically asked Maclure to use BC woods in the construction of the house so that the house would express a local character. An atmosphere of harmony with nature was achieved in Miraloma with a controlled approach so that visitors gradually left urbanization behind as they approached the residence (Bingham, pg. 119).

At Miraloma, there were balconies and verandahs at both levels of the house which featured seaview and garden vistas. A unique feature of the home was the supporting posts of the balconies which were undressed firposts with Y-shaped braces. In all ways, the house resembled a tree which stretched both upward and outward.

The roof of the Nichol summer home was finished in dark red asphalt shingles which were matched by the interior tiles. In keeping with natural appearance, the exterior sash and carpentry details were painted vermilion green which also served as a nice contrast to the red-brown bark walls. Miraloma also sported large stone chimneys which gave an appearance of solidity of the structure to the earth.

The interior design of Miraloma was a balance between rustic and cultural refinement. In the livingroom, a wall of undressed fir framed a huge fireplace which was done in cyclopean masonry. A variety of woods were used in the interior: fir, cottonwood, spruce and beech, which were stained to produce some "exceptional effects" (Bingham, pg. 120).

Interior of Miraloma
Interior of Miraloma

In keeping with the regional character of Miraloma, the interior of the home featured elements designed and constructed by local artists and craftspeople. The staircase displayed carved animals and the house was furnished with handmade First Nations' rugs while the dining table was decorated with painted First Nations' motifs.

In the design of Miraloma, Maclure truly achieved the goal of harmonizing the house with nature. "In the final design, the house and garden are indivisible" (Segger, 1986, pg. 204). Miraloma is unquestionably a testament of the creativity, brilliance and understanding of the environment that Maclure exemplified throughout his 40 year career.

Miraloma remains in its original location to this day and it is currently serving as a restaurant.

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