Clock turns back at Milner Gardens Camellia Tea Room

April 4, 2012 - 6:45am

Dedicated volunteers, staff and consultants at Milner Gardens and Woodland have been busy putting the finishing touches on a mid-winter project to shed the 1960s feel of the popular Camellia Tea Room and restore its original 1930s ambience.

The much-used wall-to-wall carpet in the main serving area has been taken out and the original edge-grain Douglas fir flooring has been sanded and refinished. Add-on bookshelves have been removed along with worn furnishings.

New drapery, hurricane light fixtures and furniture are in place as the scenic and tranquil Vancouver Island University attraction gears up for the popular spring and summer seasons.

Interior designers Sharon Wood and Maggie Smith have worked with members of the Milner Gardens and Woodland Society board to implement the makeover in the tight timeline over the winter with a budget of $15,000.

“It was a big challenge but they’ve done a fabulous job,” says Milner Society Chair Lee Teal.

Teal is also grateful to society members who donated to the project as well as tea room volunteers who raised close to $3,000 through a craft and bake sale.

The aim of the renovation is to restore the feel of the rooms that they had more than 80 years ago.

“We’re trying to go back to the era when the house was built. We’ll be layering it with the feel of a British colonial tea room reminiscent of the days when the British travelled to places like Ceylon and Sri Lanka,” says Smith.

“The original house was designed on the theme of a Ceylonese plantation house,” says Wood.

Alex Fraser of Qualicum Construction created that design on a commission from General Noel Money, the first owner of the oceanside property on the south edge of Qualicum Beach. After Ray Milner purchased the home in 1937, picturesque gardens were developed alongside the woodland of the 28-hectare estate by Milner’s first wife Rina, who died in 1952, and second wife Veronica, who died in 1998. Ray Milner died in 1975.

The home is now part of Vancouver Island University and aside from teaching and research, the property has been open to the public since 2001.The Camellia Tea Room and adjacent small tea room have become an increasingly popular part of visits to the gardens and woodland.

“We’re pretty excited about what’s happening,” says Smith. “We wanted to give the room its own personality. I focused on taking the initial layout of the tea room and paring it back to its bare bones.”

Dark mahogany in the furnishings and an antique buffet add to the atmosphere.

Geoff Ball, Director of Milner Gardens and Woodland, says dozens of volunteers have worked on the project, including society board members, tea room ladies and a construction crew.

“They’ve been getting dusty and dirty swinging hammers, sanding, painting and pulling old material out,” says Ball. “The rooms have a much richer character, I’m sure visitors will appreciate the change.”

Ball is also grateful to Windsor Plywood for supporting the project.

While the tea rooms have the feel of a bygone era, there are modern amenities such as improved wheelchair accessibility and free wireless internet service, says Ball.

Hours and admission:

Thursday to Sunday & Easter Monday, March 29 to April 22

• entrance gate open 10 am-4:30 pm

• Tea Room open 1 pm-4 pm

• Adult $7.59 PLUS HST = $8.50

• Student $4.02 PLUS HST = $4.50

• Children 12 and under free when accompanied by an adult

Daily April 26 to Sept. 3

• entrance gate open 10 am-4:30 pm

• Tea Room open 1 pm-4 pm

• Adult $10.00 PLUS HST = $11.20

• Student $6.03 PLUS HST = $6.75

• Children 12 and under free when accompanied by an adult

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