Re­tired cou­ple heads for Tree­tops

Leave U.S. to live within Canada

Calgary Herald New Condos - - Recreation & Investment Properties - THELMA FAYLE TED GRANT

EMVisit our web­site un­der the head­ing, ‘Rec Prop­er­ties,’ for more sto­ries and photo gal­leries. rin O’Neill Berg and Mel Berg had no de­sire to leave their beloved home in Illi­nois — un­til they came to Vic­to­ria, B.C., to visit their daugh­ter.

Erin knew she would move to Van­cou­ver Is­land from the mo­ment she set eyes on what is now the cou­ple’s re­tire­ment home in Dean Park.

The view of the Olympic Moun­tains and the sur­round­ing tree­tops won their hearts, and from the mo­ment they moved in four years ago, home has been called Tree­tops.

Erin, from On­tario, and Mel, from Saskatchewan, met and mar­ried in Toronto al­most 41 years ago and have had home bases in Toronto and Illi­nois. Not fully re­tired since his ca­reer as a Deloitte part­ner, Mel is a prac­tice re­view of­fi­cer for the In­sti­tute for Char­tered Ac­coun­tants of B.C.

He is also a con­sul­tant to the cen­tre for fi­nan­cial re­port­ing re­form in Vi­enna for the World Bank.

“Af­ter re­tir­ing as a spe­cial-ed­u­ca­tion teacher, I was a real es­tate bro­ker in Toronto and liked to fix up houses,” says Erin. Erin is never with­out a pro­ject, the last one be­ing a re­sult of her de­ci­sion to earn a BA in lan­guage and lit­er­a­ture from the Univer­sity of Toronto.

“This 20-year-old house is my re­tire­ment pro­ject,” she says.

Progress has slowed a lit­tle in the last two years as Erin dealt with hip re­place­ment surgery.

Wide door­ways give an open feel and good views to the abun­dance of art on ev­ery wall.

Yaacov Agam, one of the artists in Erin and Mel’s col­lec­tion, has large pub­lic pieces all over the world. “He is a mas­ter of ki­netic art with a very un­usual life story,” says Erin.

“Our home is full of sto­ries,” she says, as she points to her dis­played wed­ding dress in the piano room where she loves to read. A piece of mu­sic from the 14th cen­tury is framed near the piano. And an 1890 land doc­u­ment is framed sim­ply be­cause “it is old and beau­ti­ful.”

Fur­ni­ture from the cou­ple’s house in Illi­nois and their apart­ment in Toronto has filled Tree­tops.

Erin has an un­usual hand col­lec­tion — ce­ramic, wood, glass, and cloth. “I love hands be­cause they sym­bol­ize the way we con­nect to each other,” she says. Near the hand col­lec­tion sits a pic­ture of Erin with Nor­man Jewi­son, cel­e­brat­ing a fundrais­ing suc­cess; and be­side it, Erin’s framed, first pen­sion cheque. “I like get­ting money for get­ting old,” she says.

A print of bright orange flow­ers, bought from a street artist in San Fran­cisco and set in an orange frame that Erin de­signed, dom­i­nates a sim­ple wash­room.

Curved corners in the plas­ter walls are a tan­dem fea­ture to the many in­ter­est­ing lines and curves in the cosy fur­ni­ture and counter tops. The open-con­cept kitchen is white, bright and gleam­ing.

The mas­ter bed­room has du­vets rolled up the way Erin has seen them in Nor­way. She calls them “body bags” and ex­plains that they work well for Mel’s long 6’5” frame. Mir­ror-im­age his-and-hers ensuite bath­rooms are side by side.

Mel’s mother died re­cently, but her room is still freshly made with a pretty hand­made bed­spread from Chile. Erin’s first doll and “old best friend” — now 70 years old — sits on the bed.

The li­brary, the ex­er­cise room, the Swedish sauna (made by Jack, the “King of Handy­men”) and the wine cel­lar are the rooms with­out a view. The wine cel­lar is painted Charleston-green — a com­bi­na­tion of black and for­est green — and in one cor­ner is a tub of wine corks at­tached to fond mem­o­ries.

“We love wine,” Mel says. “When­ever we en­joy a par­tic­u­larly spe­cial bot­tle, we de­liver the empty to a lit­tle part of the gar­den we call our wine-bot­tle grave­yard.”

A stack of 18 wooden cigar boxes is used as a Christ­mas tree when Erin places some beads and lights on it.

Mel and Erin love to en­ter­tain, and out­door heaters make for a cosy cov­ered pa­tio ter­race where par­ties usu­ally be­gin. The art hang­ing by the ter­race is called Sax Fish Av­enue — named to spoof the New York store.

“This is my own se­cret gar­den,” Erin says as she moves be­yond the ter­race to the side of the house. With its stone and tim­ber, the se­cret gar­den looks like a piece of Ire­land. Erin rel­e­gated her old cross-coun­try skis to the gar­den as an or­na­ment rather than throw them out. Her play­ful sense of art in­cludes re­cy­cled joy.

Mel loves the house but ac­knowl­edges that Erin is the de­sign tal­ent. He is the tech guy who loves golf and curl­ing.

They share a love of pho­tog­ra­phy and travel and hope to do some boat­ing now that Mel has taken the power squadron course.

“I don’t like tra­di­tional win­dow dress­ing very much, so I had this stained glass de­signed in place of cur­tains,” says Erin. “It con­tains the story of our fam­ily — with three white di­a­mond shapes in the cen­tre, sym­bol­iz­ing our equal fam­ily units: mother, fa­ther and daugh­ter.

“The yel­low for canola fields of Saskatchewan, the blue for the ocean that we love, green for Ire­land, and red for our love.”

“We will never move,” says Erin, “I love the view, the house, the pri­vacy and even the rain,” says Erin. “And I al­ways love com­ing home,” Mel says.

Pho­tos, Themla Fayle, Vic­to­ria Times-colonist

Above, a cov­ered ter­race on the lower pa­tio level. Right, steps lead to a se­cret gar­den.

The Jacuzzi room with a seat and book­case be­side the tub.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.