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'It's all about colour and brightness': Calgary man transforms Victorian-style home into a 'Painted Lady'

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Bill Hopson spent close to two years transforming his northwest Calgary home into what's known as a painted lady.

"When I was thinking about buying it, I looked at it and said this needs to be a painted lady," said Hopson. "They were often summer houses and people just tended to paint them more brightly but the ones in San Francisco are very well known, but they're all over North America."

This is actually the second home Hopson decorated, the first is just down the street from his current house in Hillhurst that he moved into in 2010. The home has sculpted wooden flowers decorating the wrap around deck.

"Then you've got clouds, some sunlight, you got birds and butterflies everywhere," he said. "Then you go to the top of the house and you've got planets and suns and that sort of thing too so it's very organic."

He cut and shaped all the wooden decorations in his shop behind the home. The original house dates back to 1901 when the land it sits on was purchased by Colonel Lawrence Herchmer who retired from the NWMP.

"He was the commissioner of the Northwest Mounted Police from 1885 to 1900 and then he retired and moved to Calgary and built his house," said Hopson. "But it was just a farmhouse, everything that I've done here, all this is recreated by me as a Victorian, Herchmer just built a farmhouse."

Hopson spent 43 years with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra playing the French horn. He's retired but has always worked with wood. For years he built alphorns.

"I actually was an instrument maker, I made 156 alphorns and sold them all over the world," he said. "It's a long wooden instrument, it was traditionally a shepherd's instrument, it's very ancient and it's the national instrument of Switzerland and they just adore it and I'm so lucky to get to be able to teach (how to play it) over there, I have been there every summer since 1995."

Hopson says it's difficult to be accepted by the Swiss as a Canadian alphorn player, but he managed to do that. He retired from making the instruments in 2006, but is still passionate about his painted lady home that he says is close to 90 percent complete.

"But you know, houses are never finished," he said. "Especially a project like this, there's always something else to do."

Hopson says for Halloween his home will be lit in pink and blue to look more like a Barbie home for all the youngsters on the block.

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