This mid-century Oak Bay reno brings a mother and daughter functional living, freedom to play and the chance to connect to what matters most
By Danielle Pope | Photos by Mary McNeill-Knowles
When Mia Starcevic was looking for a home, she needed a new start for herself and her daughter. They’d been living in a bungalow overlooking a cliff and the site posed risks for a young child. This would also be a home owned by Starcevic herself, and it needed to be an exploration of her personality — a symbol of what she wanted for herself now.
“When I found this place it felt like it had been loved,” she says. “It had all those things I never thought I’d get around to — irrigation, a heat pump; investments I appreciated. But it also felt like a 90 year old lived here. There were wall-to-wall brown carpets, fake wood-panel walls, a 1950s kitchen and it didn’t feel like me.”
Part of the Oak Bay home’s appeal was its expansive backyard, with gardens and fruit trees — including some Starcevic and her now six-year-old daughter, Sophie, planted when they moved in.
“Most of the landscaping was done by my family,” says Starcevic. “The people who’d lived here had done a lot, too, so every year we have like 100 cloves of garlic and onions and fruit. Sophie has her own fruit trees back there; Italian prunes, Pippin apples and a raspberry patch.”
A few years into living there, Starcevic knew it was time to make the space her own. In 2020, she enlisted the support of Bidgood, who understood her dream to make this a home with as much personality as it had safety.
“I was raised on this. My mother was a renovation queen — she would get so excited, and I constantly lived my life under a blue tarp growing up,” says Starcevic. “That’s why I chose a designer. I have so many passionate ideas, but I couldn’t do it all by myself.”
Bidgood’s Jessica Allerton became lead designer on the home. She says the space needed to be fun and feminine. It couldn’t take itself too seriously, and it needed colour, durability and an easygoing, rugged motif that would work hard for this mom-and-daughter pair.
The first point of transformation: the kitchen.
“Mia and Sophie love gardening and cooking, so we needed to open the kitchen into the backyard and blur the boundary between the two spaces,” says Allerton. “In mid-century homes, the kitchen used to be quite small as it wasn’t seen as a place to entertain. We really changed that.”
The team added a seven-foot bump-out extension, squaring off the kitchen to a standard size and creating enough space for a new mudroom entry as well as room for a full island, professional-grade range and more storage. The central island’s butcher-block countertop is designed so this workable surface could be refinished over the years to grow a beautiful patina.
A new deck was built immediately off the kitchen, with full French doors opening onto the space to create a seamless blend for indoor/outdoor gatherings.
The carpeted floors saw a full replacement with red-oak-style engineered hardwood throughout. New windows in the kitchen brought in more light, and the team restructured the order of rooms for flow — adding storage and a laundry closet where the living room was, redistributing the primary bedroom to capture a view, and creating its new closet and ensuite. An interior paint and exterior re-stucco and paint brought in colour and calm.
“We wanted to make sure the spaces felt bright and airy, but we didn’t want it to feel coastal,” says Allerton. “Mia wanted space to dedicate to family heirlooms and memorabilia, so we created lower cabinets that wrap the walls — and are easily wipe-able — to emphasize that tribute to family and mid-century design.”
Then there is the tile — the conversation piece of this reno.
“Mia’s family originates from Croatia, and her dad was a builder back in the day,” says Allerton. “There were some special touches, like the tile, which was in reference to her heritage, and playfully riffed on a classic motif.”
Starcevic says the tile was, by far, her most opulent purchase — but it also feels the most like her.
“These [kitchen] tiles are from Spain, and the bathroom’s are from Italy and people have strong reactions to them. They remind someone of their grandmother, or a place they’ve travelled. That’s where I spent my money,” says Starcevic. “They’re really a story in themselves. I wanted something that paid tribute to my Croatian-Mediterranean heritage without seeming bland or too crazy.”
Starcevic has trouble picking a favourite feature of her home now. It could be the new view from her bedroom, or the easy way she can move through the kitchen. Mostly, though, she says it’s her daughter and the space they’ve created together.
“[Sophie’s] very happy in the backyard and running around,” says Starcevic. “The home isn’t fussy, even though it’s beautiful. I can literally have a herd of kids over — and they do roam like a herd between houses. They can come through here and make a huge mess and it’s so easy to clean nothing really gets dinged. It’s also nice to be able to send the kids out to the garden when they say, ‘I’m hungry!’ OK, here’s a bowl.”
Builders: Strong Built
Millwork: Trestle Millwork
Excavators: Paradigm Construction
Framer: Wescor Contracting
Plumbing and mechanical: Oceanview Mechanical
Electrician: Titan Electric
Light fixtures: Triple Seven Home (sconces above kitchen window), Anthropologie (light fixture above kitchen island)
Doors and hardware: Top Knobs (kitchen hardware)
Windows: Slegg Building Materials
Roofing: RC Roofing
Tile: Equipe Cerámicas (kitchen), Walker Zanger (fireplace)
Kitchen appliances: GE Café range, Sub-Zero refrigerator
Plumbing fixtures: Brizo faucet, Blanco sink
Flooring: Hourigans Flooring
Landscape design: Homeowner