Modern touches honour the past in heritage home

The following story was originally published on Tenth to the Fraser

Kathryn Matts grew up in a heritage home on Queen’s Avenue. So when she and husband Brian decided in 2009 to move their family back to New Westminster from Burnaby, she knew she wanted to surround herself with walls that breathed history.

Finding the George and Delina Reid House on 10th Street was love at first sight, said Matts.
The Craftsman house was built in 1911 and still features the original shingles and clapboard siding on its exterior. Inside, the hardwood floors, wooden ceiling beams, dark fir panels, leaded glass doors and 17 stained glass windows are all original, as are some of the art deco lamps.

“It’s pretty amazing when you think of everything that survived,” said Matts.

The house was occupied by CPR warehouseman Joseph H. Method from 1925-26, and then by rancher Alex McPhail and his family until 1963.

Subsequent owners made some changes, like building an illegal suite in the basement; but the bones, the home’s character, endured.

Matts knew they’d have to respect that legacy as they modernized their new home to accommodate  her family and their contemporary lifestyle. Electrical and plumbing systems were updated, a music room was converted to a laundry room and powder room. But the biggest change was to the kitchen, which was moved to the opposite side of the house, enlarged and opened up to a family room.

A fireplace was sacrificed, but other details were painstakingly honoured.

“Some things had to go,” said Matts. “We wanted to keep elements that were really important.”

Each piece of dark wood moulding was removed, numbered, restored and then put back into place, like a puzzle. A pair of stained glass windows from the old music room were given new frames and a new home in the family room. The oak floor was matched to the finish of the original floors elsewhere in the house. New pocket doors between the kitchen and dining room were patterned and finished after the originals, still in place between the dining room and front parlour. An original archway in the front entrance was recreated at the hallway’s other end, leading into the family room.

“It’s the best of both worlds,” said Matts. “I want people to see they can have the kitchen of their dreams with an open concept feeling, but still hold onto the heritage value. Living in a heritage home isn’t all creaky floors and drafts.”

The Heritage Homes Tour has been a New Westminster tradition for 37 years. This year’s tour will be held Sunday, May 29, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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