Interiorssneak peeks

A True Cabinet of Curiosities in Canada

by Amy Azzarito

Marco Khalil and Caroline West have created a veritable Kunstkammer in their apartment in Victoria, British Columbia. Marco is a nautical captain and Caroline is a magazine art director, and together they have a passion for collecting. So when it came time to find an apartment, having enough space to display their collections was of paramount importance. They chose the Rockland neighborhood of Victoria, where Marco has lived since he was ten years old. It also happens to be a neighborhood filled with heritage mansions and grand estates. The couple found a rental apartment in one of those heritage mansions that still had most of its vintage charm intact. And, fittingly, their house actually functions like a museum. They have a nearby storage space for the bulk of their collection and then rotate out their displays whenever they feel like changing things up. It’s their living museum.-Amy

Photography: Caroline West

Image above: A wool, 48-star American flag graces the living room wall. This backdrop hosts a revolving collection of vintage linen and wool flags that I display for periods of time. The leather club chair is by Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams collection and was a very inexpensive Craigslist find as it was faded from a deep butterscotch color to this light caramel – thanks to many years in a San Francisco, then Costa Rican sunroom. The metal globe is by Denoyer-Geppert ‘Cartocraft’ series (Chicago 1940s). Its surface is ‘slated’ like a chalkboard for plotting navigational problems. The only thing I remember about 4th grade was a globe like this in our classroom which I coveted relentlessly, and was probably the early start of my globe fascination. After years of searching, this globe was found on display in the remote British Columbia town of Hedley.

Image above: The moose, caribou and deer skulls line the living room wall, giving the space a gentleman’s club feel. They have a subtle grey weathered patina as they spent many years decorating an old oak tree and were salvaged by the arborist when the tree was removed. Below the skulls is a panoramic photo of a Canadian military regimen, dated 1917, and is part of a collection of about 40 regimental photos that I’ve collected over the years. The sofa came along with the club chair – a Craigslist bargain. I spontaneously assembled the coffee table from scraps found in the basement one rainy afternoon. It’s made of a repurposed five-drawer library card catalogue section that I paired to a fir top and legs with casters. The tripod lamp is my own design made with a Kodak boxwood camera tripod (dated 1892) and a wire safety cage from a 1920s mechanics light. The canvas cushions were handmade by Caroline using vintage boat signal flags as appliqué. The vintage schoolhouse clock on the oak Yawman and Erbe card file drawer both date to the 1920s. The four-drawer, olive green metal cabinet was the top half of a file cabinet that I cut down to preserve the shallow drawers. It has a beautiful patina and solid brass hardware. The jute area rug is reversible with a wide or narrow wale pattern and was purchased at Urban Barn.


See more of this Canadian home after the jump!

Image above: A collection of silver loving cups and trophies from the 1920s are set atop a vintage wood tackle box with foundry patterns. Below, antique British Boy’s adventure stories from the time of the First War are wrought with guidance in fortitude, moral structure and becoming the quintessential Englishman. Everything is displayed within a Globe-Wernicke quarter-sawn Oak Barrister Bookcase from the 1920s.

Image above: This is a small telephone niche of the living room. The small quarter-sawn oak secretaire was a local vintage shop find and fits the niche perfectly. Arrayed within is an ever-changing vignette. Now vintage oil portraits mingle with a science book series that have wonderfully embossed covers. The 1907 Corona typewriter is a cherished Craigslist find and a favourite out of the about forty or so portable typewriters I own. The lamp is another of my own designs, using a wood foundry pattern as a base. Atop the books is a human skull as Memento Mori in this tableau is part of a Victorian-era medical collection I purchased privately.

Image above: The wall hanging is a fragment of a tram destination blind from Adelaide, Australia (1930s). A real ‘barn find,’ these were found in a hayloft in the Australian countryside and purchased for a trifle. We’ve repurposed other sections as window blinds in our vintage school bus/mobile cabin. A handmade wood model of the USS Baltimore in 1:92 scale is over 7’ long and was found dustily neglected on a shelf in a painters studio on Vancouver Island. Its final 100-mile voyage home was up on my car’s roof rack. The cabinet is a zinc-topped, quarter-sawn oak printers worktable with shallow tray shelves within the cabinet doors. It, and the barrister bookcase section above were Craigslist finds. Within the bookcase section is Tacoma, a taxidermied hedgehog mounted on a leather-bound legal book titled ‘Washington Territory Reports – 1886.’ It was purchased in Tacoma, Washington from a boy who was selling a fantastically odd collection of antique smalls to raise money for a bus ticket to NYC! The foundry patterns in wood: the large cog, labeled ‘Slew Bevel Gear’,  is from the foundry that produced the gates to Buckingham Palace, London.

Image above: A kinetic didactic model of a horizontal heat engine by G. Cussons, Manchester dates to 1896. Disposal surplus from Sydney University, this heavy iron and wood model came home in my checked baggage. The oak card file drawers with original bronze hardware were an inexpensive Craigslist find that needed a complete restoration.

Image above: This is our compact galley kitchen with original cabinetry and a transom glass window. It’s illuminated by natural light from the bedroom window. What this galley lacks in space it more than made up for in a storage wall and a large pantry cupboard opposing the wall niche.

Image above: The backdrop is an Ogden tobacco advertisement tin sign from 1910. A ‘Westclox’ schoolhouse electric clock found at a salvage shop and refurbished by me. The espresso machine: La Pavoni ‘Europiccola’ (1983) purchased in Sydney, Australia on the spot when I saw a man loading it into his car trunk during a house move.

Image above: A floor-to-ceiling niche populated with a ‘Westclox’ bedside alarm clock collection (1890-1935 vintage). The backdrop photos are military images from the first to second World War.  The solid brass railroad station mechanical clock ticks to a sonorous beat.

Image above: A rusticated iron bed frame, found in an abandoned island cabin, received seven coatings of satin clear finish to fix its patina and prevent damage to bed linens. The tin plaque reads: ‘US Property Boundary,’ the back of this sign is ‘Government Property.’  The large bed cushion was made by Caroline for my birthday and sports a British Royal pennant flag dating to c.1890 as an appliqué.

Image above: A 1920s oak typists desk that we found sitting forlornly in the weather – and refinished – anchors the corner of the bedroom. The roller window blinds were made from a portion of an Adelaide, Australia tram destination blind from the 1930s. A real ‘barn find,’ these were discovered in a hayloft in the Australian countryside and purchased for a trifle. We’ve repurposed other sections as window blinds in our vintage school bus/mobile cabin. The world globe (1922) came from Paris, France and is housed in a delicate glass mercantile display cabinet (1890s) that I salvaged from a local hardware shop. The artwork (above the globe) is ‘Pineapple Girl’ by Claire Fletcher, London 1992. The artwork (portrait) marked: ‘charcoal drawing of Helen Jocelyn Gilman 1929’ by noted Canadian artist Lorna Lomer Macaulay was a Craigslist find.

Image above: “Edison,’ a 1950s Steiff mo-hair elephant-on-wheels was an unexpected auction find. The map of Europe by Cram (Chicago, dated 1924) shows former political boundaries which were reshaped after the Second World War.  I framed it with fir wood trip and an old storefront window pane. The articulated brass lamp is by ‘Faries Co.’ (Decatur, Illinois 1907). A well travelled folio trunk with labels detailing its adventure is a perfect blanket box at the foot of the bed. A quilted counterpane bedcover was a mutual Valentine’s Day present to ourselves and purchased in Sydney, Australia at a shop called Country Road. The artwork above the nightstand is of Caroline’s souvenir salt shaker, a toy bear and a bison – all immortalized in oil by Australian painter Lucy Culliton.

Image above: A bedside table repurposed from an antique wood crate marked: ‘Friedman-Shelby’ – Atlantic Special – Men’s $3.50 and $5.00 shoes. The metal weather vane is part of an old farm electrical generation windmill and is marked: ‘Wincharger, 32 Volt’ in an emotive electric font (1930s). The articulated brass lamp is by ‘Faries Co.’ (Decatur, Illinois 1907). The stackable metal card file drawers are from the 1940s and have a beautiful, olive green finish with bronze hardware.

Image above: The upright steel cabinet, in a livery of khaki hammer-tone finish with cream pinstripes and chrome hardware, was one of a pair of sound system amplifiers from our local ‘Royal Theater.’ An original plaque on door reads Duosonic, London England. (1920s). It was saved from disposal by the old sound engineer back in the sixties, and I spotted it in his garage while on a buying visit. A tin toy aircraft marked: Pan American Airways (1930s) is perched on the cabinet and below is a WW2 US Navy pilots travel bag which was found in a vintage shop in Washington state. Caroline accompanied her friend, Australian painter Lucy Culliton, to Arizona in 2004 and these oil paintings are studies of ‘Saguaro Cactus National Monument’ and ‘Caroline at breakfast.’

Image above: A vintage schoolhouse map of Tasmania (1963) was purchased in an Australian oldwares shop as a memento of our visit to Hobart, Tasmania.  The metal cabinet is a home canning/preserving oven with a New Orleans water meter manhole cover (a Mardi Gras souvenir) on its top. The Japanese glass fishing float was found on a remote Pacific beach on Vancouver Island while I was stationed there as a lighthouse keeper.

Image above: The bathroom was decorated in the theme of ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’ and holds scientific instruments, medical cabinetry and anatomy specimens. The above window shelf displays quack medicinal bottles with curious statements embossed upon their aqua glass (all pre-1910). Propped below the shelf is a neon glass sign tube: ‘vacancy.’

Image above: The medicine cabinet holds a surprise within: vintage chemistry glassware mingles with Arsenic tablets, a flask of Mercury and a section of human brain preserved from a Victorian-era medical collection.


Image above: A closeup of the original pedestal sink and hardware with one of the 24 bevelled glass mirrors that line this room.

Image above: The glove mold is surrounded by a collection of vintage mirrors, most were purchased abroad and tucked into my carry-on luggage, all are now displayed atop a 1920s steel medical cabinet. The bathroom has the original subway tile with green inlay and the paint is a custom colour mix of Behr enamel by Home Depot. It is colour they formulated by scanning a fragment of a Robin’s egg shell I found in the garden.



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  • I love your home, gorgeous collections. It is awesome to read about your obvious fascination of the hunt and see the loving display of the finds.
    The apartment bones are pretty impressive too .
    I live on the Island too, best place on Earth!!!

  • eight inch rule rocks….its my daily stress reliever…I wish and hope to visit them one day in person, just to be awestruck.

  • What a lovely, personal home that reflects both the light from outside and the creativity within. Great sneak peek.

  • This is the right kind of nerdy to display in an apartment, love it!

    Bathroom cabinet peeking guests will get a good shock from the preserved brain. That is good stuff.

    As a young person that keeps buying cool stuff I stumble by when my economy allows, I suppose it might eventually turn into a collection like this.

    How did the collecting start?

  • I have to laugh that they have a map of Tasmania in their bathroom… here in Australia “map of Tasmania” is a bit euphamism ;)

    Beautiful collections though! Love it!

  • I just got home late last night from Victoria, BC! It is our favorite Canadian coastal city and we try to visit at least once a year. It was treat seeing this post today because my heart is still back there.

    Nice to see the inside of one of the amazing old homes and apartments in the area. We often go walking in the historical districts (especially James Bay) and wish we could take a peak inside. This apartment definitely reads like a charming museum – so lovely! Thank you for sharing it with us :)

  • @ Alexander: thank you. My collecting started at a very young age and most definitely was shaped by my personal ‘economy’; I think my love of old and industrial comes from the fact I started collecting found object and later when finances allowed I gave myself a “$40 or less” rule for my acquisitions.
    Finding cool things doesn’t take a lot of money.. but it takes a lot of time.. search endlessly and relentlessly and don’t doubt your instinct if you think a piece has potential. Also, don’t pick a piece because you need it, but because you love it.. when it gets home, you’ll make the space for it.

    @NLEA, yes.. hopefully D*S will host a school bus/mobile cabin sneak peek (fingers crossed)

    @CHARLOTTE, yes.. we know (wink)

    @everyone else.. appreciate your comments, thank you

  • Worth it for the bathroom alone! A second vote for the bus. More, we must see more! Love this. Oh, and wall colors in the rest of the house? Are they White Dove?

  • I love Eight Inch Rule! They are for sure one of my favorite pages on Facebook that I look forward to seeing their posts! I think the bathroom was my favorite! Love, Love!!

  • Fantastic!
    Marco and Caroline have been our main source of inspiration for the Cartolina retail store. They have impeccable taste and endless energy for sourcing great stuff. So happy to have met them online this year.

  • What an incredible apartment! It really does have that wunderkammer atmosphere, though it’s much more ordered and tasteful :) I love the tableau on the writing-desk, and the oak card-file drawers are just so gorgeous – such a great upcycle. I want some like those for my house. Thanks for sharing!

  • As a museum, it is beautifully arranged and displayed. As a home, it would drive me up the wall. Everything is to look at. Nothing is usable.

  • @SAFFIE: Yes, the bathroom is a favourite.. Southern light filled views of the sea and mountains. The wall colour is just a generic warm off white, not the White Dove you’ve suggested.

    @TRISH: thank you.. happy to see some of our Facebook page fans coming in for a look.

    @FIONA RICHARDS: what a great compliment coming from Cartolina! we too are fans of your designs.

    @TASMIN: I admire the true ‘higgly-piggley’ randomness of Wunderkammer displays but I couldn’t live with that on a day to day basis.

    @MADLYN: yes, perfect weather (but let’s keep it our secret)

  • Hehe … I too love the map of Tassie in the bathroom. It’s an Aussie thing.
    Loved the tram roll as I’m from Adelaide, so sad there’s no old trams left.
    Lovely quirky home

  • The very first photo put a big smile on my face! :-) The old bus roll is from my home town Adelaide, in South Australia. You have a lovely curated home. Thank you for sharing it with us all.

  • Ohhh my…. I have enjoyed your collections and appreciate the stories behind everything. I recognize the Harvard law Books On the floor, I have a whole set, that used to be my Dad’s. I too have been a purveyor of old things for most of my life and can relate to you and Caroline’s joy in collecting.
    In many ways, It’s as much about the hunt and the memories you create and bring back while traveling.
    I am so delighted to have found this post, I am traveling to the Pacific Northwest at the end of June, and Victoria is one of the places we will visit. You have given me a glimpse of that part of the world through a vintage lovers eyes and I am hoping to discover some treasures of my own.
    I think the bathroom medicine Cabinet is awesome and the wall color too. Do any of your guests admit to snooping, because they just have to talk about what they have seen in there? I hope to see a future post of your Bus someday. Thanks for sharing your world with us.

  • They all are awesome but I can’t just imagine how long would it take to clean this collection if the family lived in a dusty city like İstanbul.

  • So cool, but my favorite bit is definitely the brain in the medicine cabinet! Talk about a conversation piece.

  • Such a cool space! I live in Vancouver and am thrilled to see a home from beautiful BC on here. West Coast represent! The bathroom is my favourite!

  • Such a great home, and a real inspiration for displaying all my finds on my travels.

  • Nice to see a little of my home town [Adelaide, South Australia] in Canada.

  • hi marco,
    is your cussons model for sale?
    i would like to put it next to the one i already have…

  • Marco, Have you had lots of interest in the Cussons?? Having three myself I am hoping to contact owners of same in a sharing of info regarding . Bruce