‘Feels like home’: Meet the decorator behind Christmas at Craigdarroch

CHEK

It’s one of the most famous houses in Victoria, and right now, it’s decked out in all its festive splendour thanks to Sherry Kerr.

“I’ve always had a passion for the castle,” she says.

For more than a decade, the interior decorator has been walking the halls of Craigdarroch Castle and getting the sprawling, 25,000-square-foot landmark ready for the Christmas season. Her décor is a nod to the building’s late-1800s heritage.

“I’ve been decorating the castle for 16 years now,” Kerr, who also works at Jordans Interiors in Langford, told CHEK News during a tour.

“I had the opportunity to decorate the castle at Christmas, and I was very excited about that.”

At Craigdarroch, it’s the little things that catch people’s attention.

“I love it because it feels like a home,” says Bruce Davies, the castle’s curator. “Esthetically, it is magnificent. The stained glass windows, the woodwork, the floors.

“Everything together creates this elegant, opulent picture…”

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Davies has been working here since 1975. He started as a guide, and oftentimes, visitors would find him sitting at the front desk. “And I did some dusting,” he laughs. “Basically, I learned on the job. It’s been a lifetime vocation, I guess.”

So years later, when Christmas At The Castle was to become a reality, he called Kerr.

“Sherry came in, and it’s been magical right from day one,” recalls Davies. “It’s been the best working with Sherry because she’s so creative. She’s patient. She enjoys the place.”

‘The whole creative process’

Today, you find Kerr’s work both inside and out.

The Romanesque-style castle, built between 1887 and 1890 by late Canadian businessman and politician Robert Dunsmuir, overlooks the City of Victoria. It’s located on Joan Crescent and is considered a National Historic Site operated by a non-profit historical society.

“It’s quite a calm and soothing place,” says Davies.

Wreaths line the rear balconies, while a giant Christmas tree is the centrepiece in the living room. The expansive dining table is equipped for a holiday feast with 1890s china, and the main staircase is wrapped in garland from top to bottom.

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“It’s the whole creative process,” says Kerr, noting it takes her about a month to set everything up for Dec. 1, when the castle opens for the holidays.

“I feel very honoured and privileged to be a part of this beautiful house, and having the opportunity to decorate it at Christmas is just an amazing experience for me,” she said. “Like I’ve said before, it’s my absolute bliss doing this work.”

You could say Kerr is adding some Christmas cheer to the castle’s history — something Davies knows well and, day after day, shares with the castle’s countless visitors.

In fact, about 150,000 people come to hear the stories each year, he says.

“It’s these visitors who pay the bills here. They look after the roof, the restoration. Nothing we do here could be done without the work of volunteers, staff and these visitors,” says Davies.

“People from all over the world, from the cruise ships and that, when they come in, they’re blown away by the castle itself and all the decorations,” says Kerr.

As Davies marvels at the decorator’s work, too, saying Kerr “really understands the fragility of the building fabric.” He hopes she’ll be back again next year to do it all over again.

“Shelly’s the best part of Christmas here for me,” he adds.

The castle is fully decorated until January.

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