Home & Garden

The Vetterline Victorian in SLO is tested and toddler proof

Two Victorian toddler chairs in the foreground were purchased for the Walters’ twins.
Two Victorian toddler chairs in the foreground were purchased for the Walters’ twins.

Bill and Michelle Walter’s twin toddlers sit in 1880s velvet chairs and play in a banquette laid out with vintage Limoges china.

Living among treasures is routine when your home is a circa-1900 Victorian. The Walters purchased their stately San Luis Obispo Queen Anne Victorian in 1994. It is known as the Vetterline home for its original owners, Frank and Laura Vetterline. Frank was a local hardware merchant and a San Luis Obispo County supervisor around the turn of the 20th Century.

The Walters had a yen for old homes, but little time to deal with renovations; Bill is a lawyer and Michelle teaches ballet at Cal Poly. They were pleased to find that the home was in remarkably good shape. Only five other families had lived in the home and the previous owners had performed extensive renovations, including plumbing and electrical work.

Most of the home’s original features were intact, including its ornate moldings, hardware, all 14 stained glass windows, and even the old talking tubes that allowed the original owners to communicate between the master bedroom and kitchen.

The Walters were so taken with the home as they found it, they kept the drapes, wallpaper and carpeting, as well as the lively Victorian color scheme inside that combines mauve, pink and peach. Their only upgrades were renovating the basement, repairing the foundation and re-landscaping.

Bill and Michelle have long been avid antiques collectors, so purchasing their home gave them cause to add to their already-extensive collection of mostly Victorian-era furnishings.

They found their pieces both locally and on their travels.

From the Santa Margarita Auction Barn, they procured an 1880s settee for the front parlor, a circa-1900 carved walnut dining table, a French 1880s buffet, and even an 1860s organ. They found their beloved French grandfather clock at an antique store in Carmel. Their dining room chandelier was picked up on a trip to Buenos Aries. Other items, like their antique toddler chairs, were found on online antiques sites.

“We’re getting to the point where there’s no room for more,” said Bill.

In true Victorian style, the couple likes to keep their collectibles and memorabilia out in plain sight. This also means that most items are within reach of their children.

But you won’t find baby corrals in the Walter home. Although the family has a basement den where they keep their television and most of the kids’ toys, none of the house is off-limits to the busy 2-year-olds who play in the parlor among curio shelves balanced with crystal and porcelain figurines. Even the couple’s golden retriever seems to know his place.

“We just teach the kids to be careful and we leave a few things up where they can’t get to them,” said Michelle.

“There’s a 110-year history of kids in this house,” added Bill. “If they could do it for so long, so can we.”

Rebecca Juretic is a freelance writer who lives in San Luis Obispo.