A Sunday Drive: A drive through the seaside town of Victor Harbour, SA

This house has been waiting for me,” Tania Norman says as she recalls a conversation she recently had with a tradesperson. Tania first fell in awe of her new home when she and her husband, Kieth, went for a drive 20 years ago.

A drive through the seaside town of Victor Harbor: “We drove past this house and stopped, and I remember thinking, ‘Oh, my God. Isn’t this gorgeous? They’re so lucky to live in this house.’” Interestingly, it was also a drive that brought them to their last home in nearby Encounter Bay back in 2017. The couple’s plans to move to Perth from Adelaide were immediately quashed when they happened upon the idyllic locale. “We were on our way to live in Perth for a couple of years and came down here for the weekend,” Tania says. “While driving around, we came across an open inspection in Encounter Bay, and we just fell in love with the view and ended up staying.” Avid readers of Australian Country may remember that story in a previous edition of the magazine.

We learned of the new move as we caught up with the Normans again. Having grown up in Victoria, Tania met Kieth while holidaying around Australia with a friend when she was 19. Perth-born Kieth was working in the mines in Western Australia’s Mount Newman and the holiday romance soon became a life-long partnership. The couple moved to Adelaide shortly after marrying and have since raised two girls, Kaia, now aged 33, and Jasmine, 31. They also now have a 17-month-old granddaughter, Charlotte. The move to Victor Harbor, roughly four kilometres south or a seven-minute drive from Encounter Bay, was not a planned one, either. “I’ve always just noticed this house whenever we came down here,” Tania says.

A drive through the seaside town of Victor Harbor

“Two years ago, it was up for sale, and I nearly didn’t go to the open inspection because we weren’t really looking to buy. Of course, I went and talked my husband into buying it. I love living in a holiday destination.” Famed for its varied scenery of rugged clifftops, stunning coastline and heritage buildings, Victor Harbor is a popular tourist spot offering a range of walking trails, nearby Granite Island, which can be reached via horse-drawn tram, and its proximity to Kangaroo Island, just a ferry ride away. It is the largest city on South Australia’s Fleurieu Peninsula, and Tania and Kieth’s home is a mere 10-minute walk from the main street and the beach. For the past two years, Tania and Kieth stayed at Encounter Bay and rented out the Victor Harbor home, dubbed Summerville, on Airbnb. They eventually sold Encounter Bay and moved into Summerville just four weeks ago, at the time of writing.

Tania explains that a couple had inherited the 1960s home many moons ago and completely transformed it into the unique architectural structure It is today. “This house is just so special,” she gushes. “It’s known in the area as passersby stop to look at it. They call it the fairytale house.” As far as Tania knows, “This was originally just an ordinary 1960s house,” she says. “The boys added a second storey and totally transformed it. They did the windows, added that big cathedral ceiling, hand-stenciled all the floors, did all the built-ins and the wainscoting in the conservatory area.” The home has since had three owners, and although Tania has renovated five houses and one boat in her lifetime, she won’t be doing much to Summerville.

A drive through the seaside town of Victor Harbor

“We don’t want to change anything because the boys did such a beautiful job,” she says. “But we want to give it some love and restore it to its original state, as it’s been let go and deserves more than that.” Since acquiring the home, the Normans have worked on restoring the home’s exterior. “There was a lot of wood rot on the trim, so we’ve worked on restoring that,” Tania explains. They have also painted the interior walls, which Tania says “were every colour of the rainbow”. “The lounge room was burgundy, one of the bedrooms was brown, everywhere else was either mustard or teal.” A fan of the Hamptons style of design, Tania has injected a mix of traditional Hamptons and French provincial into the home’s interiors.

“I get a lot of French provincial-style furniture on Facebook Marketplace as you save a third of the price because a lot of people are very faddy with their style, so it comes in and out all the time,” she says. “I believe a home should be a mixture of what you love personally, not what’s currently on trend. So you can have a bit of Hamptons, a bit of French provincial, a bit of country or grandmillennial.” The couple have also made minor changes in the kitchen and added a new stove and pantry “but we are not changing any of the original cupboards as I like them just as they are”, Tania insists. They have also transformed the upstairs bedroom into a sitting room, so the home now has two large bedrooms downstairs, three living areas and one bathroom, which they’ll renovate next, along with the laundry.

A drive through the seaside town of Victor Harbor

As Tania explains, all the houses in the area are built on a sandhill so the home is elevated, which affords them with fantastic views. From the upstairs deck, Tania’s favourite part of the home, you can see over the township and into the sea. Outside, the Normans have worked extensively on the garden, which was very overgrown, including creating an English-style garden in the front and transforming the backyard into aviaries for Kieth’s 100 finches. “He didn’t want to leave Encounter Bay,” Tania recalls. “Encounter Bay had amazing views and he loves his birds. We had a massive aviary at Encounter Bay from one side of the backyard to the other. He built three aviaries here before we moved in. They are filled with plants, so it looks like their natural habitat, and they’ve got a huge space to fly around in.”

The backyard is now dedicated to Kieth’s aviaries, which are about 20 metres long in total, while the Normans have planted the front garden with species such as English box topiaries, foxgloves, poppies, lavender and roses. While Tania and Kieth don’t plan on another move, they will eventually purchase a second home to let on Airbnb. But, for now, they’re intent on slowing down. Tania has swapped working at a nursing home, which she did for four years, for helping care for baby Charlotte, while Kieth is semi-retired and drives trucks part-time. “We’re busy being grandparents now,” Tania says. “We’ve started to slow down now because we’ve just got the one house and garden to look after.” As for that earlier conversation with a tradesperson, he was puzzled as to why Summerville had changed ownership so frequently. Tania’s pretty certain she knows why.

Photography by Ross Williams

Styling by Bronte Camilleri

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