Homes & Design Photo Credit: Samantha Lim

How One Designer is Restoring Victoria’s Historic Pacific Transfer Building

Designer Nancy Riesco transformed a heritage building in Victoria’s Old Town district into a stunning apartment block.

The Pacific Transfer Building is exactly what you picture when you think of downtown Victoria: it’s a turn-of-the-century brick building, standing a compact three storeys in height with a café on the ground floor. Originally built for a shipping and receiving business (the café was once a livery), it’s a classic example of the Edwardian architecture found in the city’s oldest neighbourhood. Until very recently, however, the building had fallen into disrepair and disuse (the upper floors sat vacant for five years before the building was sold in 2016), their exposed brick walls and detailed ceiling beams trapped under an unfortunate 1970s office renovation.

But today, those vacant spaces have been carefully converted into nine rental apartments with interiors by Nancy Riesco of Vancouver-based firm Riesco and Lapres. She approached the design intuitively, sourcing classic period details like metal barn-style pendants, matte white hexagon tile and black hardware: “I don’t like buildings that just look old from the outside,” she says.

Western Living recently took a tour of the completed Fort Street Apartments. Read on for a sneak peek inside the inspiring space.


In the 1,400-square-foot third-floor unit, a drop-tile ceiling was removed to reveal beams that run the length of the room. Riesco strung a trio of traditional metal pendant lights from them to illuminate the long kitchen island. Engineered flooring in white oak was installed throughout.


Practical, hard-wearing quartz was selected for the countertops and forms a sill beneath the restored wood-frame windows. Eschewing cabinet uppers to keep the space open and airy, Riesco selected traditional white subway tile and added simple floating shelves.


Skylights were added to the third-floor units, creating shafts of natural light. As in the kitchen, the oak bathroom cabinetry is brushed with a grey wash to emphasize the wood grain detail. Riesco didn’t want to clutter the look with hardware so pulls were integrated into the cabinet fronts; the bathroom wall sconces were sourced online via Triple Seven Home.


One of the third-floor apartments faces Fort Street and offers a glimpse of Victoria’s Inner Harbour. Simple black sconces and roller blinds coordinate with the structural steel channeling that was added during seismic upgrading.


In a master bedroom, variations in the brick wall create ledges for display.


Get the Look:

  1. One-inch hexagon floor tile, available from Daltile, was installed in the lobby and hallways of the building while a larger hexagon tile was used in the modern bathrooms. daltile.com
  1. Province Town and Country wallpaper in graphite will soon grace the lobby of the building. Riesco has chosen it for its traditional linocut feel and for its depictions of old town centres. boldandnoble.com
  1. The Fort Apartments design is grounded with matte finishes and black, schoolhouse-inspired hardware, similar to this Sandcast knobVarious knob and lever options available, emtek.com
  1. Ikea’s Ranarp pendant lamp has a traditional form, an adjustable cloth cord and steel joinery. ikea.ca

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