Wraparound views and wraparound decks, complete
with hundreds of cheerful geraniums, give this graceful float home, above,
an airy feel. So do the high ceilings and cottagey finishing touches.
Below, the three-tier, yellow and white float home offers a dock for
the owners' boat and no lawns to cut.
What: Art Gallery House
Tour Where: Six homes in Victoria Featuring: Work by local artists
Robert and Sarah
Amos, Erin Chard, Barb Elson,
Rosemary James-Cross, Dale Ketcheson, Jennifer
Lawson and Kathleen Lane When: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday Tickets: $25 at the gallery Information: 384-4101
Times Colonist - September 23,
BY GRANIA LITWIN
Times Colonist Staff
Photos by John McKay/Times Colonist
Six homeowners open their doors
to the public Sunday in a fundraiser for the Art Gallery of Greater
Bill and Lee Austin's sun-soaked, water lapped float home
in Westbay Marina is so gorgeous it's hard to imagine they would
ever want to spend a minute anywhere else.
But the Austins have a second home: a rustic little fishing
cabin off the northern end of Vancouver Island, and it's a floater
too. No surprise really, considering these two are dyed-in-the-brine
"I'm addicted to water," admits Bill, who adds they've
had a succession of vessels both large and small, power and sail,
including a 76-footer built by the Rockerfellers, which they
lived on for 15 years.
The float home, along with five other showpiece houses, will
be open to the public as part of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria's
2004 Home Tour. It's the 50th year of the event organized by
the gallery's volunteer committee to raise money for programs
and art acquisition.
When the Austins retired here from California in 1992, they
foolishly thought they could survive on land and bought a house
in Rockland. But the sea beckoned and they took the plunge, bringing
this home here from Ladner. "The 100-mile trip took 30 hours," said
the former professor at the universities of Santa Clara
and Santa Cruz, whose wife worked in the health field.
One glance at the Austins' pale-yellow float home confirms
it is solidly built. Resting on an inverted "cup" of concrete
filled with flotation material, it boasts massive beams and solid
floors throughout. It was designed and built in 1980 by architect
Mark Ankenmen for Dan Wittenberg, principal of International
Marine Flotation Systems. It features about 1,650 square feet
inside and generous decks all round, on two levels. Both levels
are wrapped in a cheerful ring of red geraniums - 315 plants
to be exact - and the main level boasts an attractive pillar
effect too, that's reminiscent of villas along the canals of
The main deck is finished in exposed aggregate, lacquered to
a satiny finish and covered with masses of carpets. The wooden
siding flows inside and out, giving it a warm, relaxed cottage
On the main deck are the laundry and a roomy master suite, with
huge tub, walk-in shower, and hot tub outside. Here also is Lee's
den, which used to be a work room with bench and vice, but is
now home to a computer, navy blue upholstery and a stuffed swan.
On this level, the home is decorated with numerous French doors
and mirrors to reflect light and waterscapes, and add to the
Up a compact stairway is the main living area with its spectacular
views. Here are a galley-style kitchen, pantry, guest room, bathroom
and a roomy living room with soaring ceiling ringed in terra-cotta
planters. Another stairway leads to Bill's study on the third
level, which has a captain's berth and more breathtaking views,
but sadly it will be off limits during the tour. Too many people
have slipped on the tightly curved stairway, he says.
The floors here are pine, the walls are decorated with pictures
of the Austins' former boats and nautical charts, but the
eye is forever drawn to the million-dollar view. And one
wonders, does the house ever rock in the waves?
No, says Lee. "If there is a large swell we get a funny
sideways lurch sometimes, but we are very protected."
And whenever they get a hankering for a boat ride, they just
step off into a harbour ferry, or cast off in their own 24-foot
power boat which is moored to the main deck, and go for a buzz
on the water.
The other homes on the tour are:
A grand Oak Bay heritage home that was the product of a
rare collaboration between two of Victoria's most esteemed
architects, Francis Rattenbury and Sam McClure;
A petite 1913 urban home renovated with Art Deco style furniture
A new home that displays Greek Revival style from the garage
to garden and library;
An English country style home on the Uplands waterfront,
with an outstanding garden;
A Tuscan-inspired home with pool, garden, stunning studio-guest
house, and ocean views.
The master bed, left, used to dangle from chains and swing six feet from
side to side, but Lee Austin had it anchored to the floor.
The Austins love to entertain and cook
in their galley kitchen, right.