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Updated Lowcountry Farmhouse

2014 New Trad designer Cortney Bishop uproots traditional design to create interiors meant for modern living

Written by Mara Boo

Designer Cortney Bishop’s interiors for The Flats at Mixson—located on the former site of Charleston’s Mixson Seed Company—evince her theory that a carefully cultivated hybrid of now and then yields the most welcoming homes. “I’m influenced by contemporary art, vintage textiles, and anything handmade,” Bishop says. Add to that list her fashion designer great-grandmother and traditionalist interior designer mom. “They inspire me to pull from different genres to create a collective mix of old and new,” she says. 

A colorful pendant light from Urban Electric adds colorful flair to the otherwise quiet palette.

Indeed, Bishop’s rooms honor familiar notions of Lowcountry design, while uprooting tradition just enough to appeal to modern sensibilities. Wide-plank floors appear to be weathered wood but are actually humidity-resistant laminate. Shiplap boards climb walls, yet are set nearly half an inch apart to define their edges graphically. “Boards are a coastal classic,” Bishop notes, “but leaving gaps between them takes something from the 1800s and pushes it forward.”  

Even her palette—a muted mélange of reds, greens, and browns cemented with black—was inspired by a vintage Mixson Seed postcard she unearthed at the library. “We had a local artist paint a mural of it in the salon,” she explains. “He played up the retro vibe and made it really bold and modern.” 

A hand-painted mural announces the vintage-gone-bold aesthetic celebrated throughout. Leather upholstery and metal frames distinguish the Hickory Chair chairs at the handcrafted walnut dining table. Painted green floors nod to Southern porch style.

The same may be said of Bishop’s cheerfully disparate assortment of furnishings, many of which appear to be vintage and collected over time, but are actually new. “I’m a big believer in buying what you love, no matter where it comes from,” she says. All share clean lines, slender legs, and honest materials such as walnut, leather, sisal, and burlap. “I’m heavily influenced by artisans and their craftwork,” Bishop says. “There’s nothing quite like the relaxed feel you get from pieces made with love and care, especially when you play them off more modern things. It’s all about the mix,” she says. “It helps us hold on to history.”

Earthy green shiplap walls, a tobacco-stick lighting fixture, and framed photographs exude a masculine sensibility. Leather chairs are from Anthropologie. 

Vintage badminton rackets become art against the shiplap walls.

A graphic rug from West Elm enlivens the neutral space and enhances the midcentury appeal. The desk is from New Breed Furniture Network. Updated Windsor chairs are from Kartell.

Bishop winks at tradition in the all-white kitchen, where time-honored painted cabinetry is refreshed by speckled, solid-surface countertops and a backsplash of oversized subway tiles. The sofa and rug are from West Elm; the painted coffee table is by New Breed Furniture Network.

A richly veined walnut headboard from the Canadian workshop Huppe supplies textural contrast against a vintage-style crocheted throw from Amity Home. Retro-inspired painted side tables are from Chelsea Textiles. 

A tripod desk lamp sits atop a media stand from Blu Dot.

Infused with Bishop’s trademark modern-yet-warm style, this otherwise all-white space is punctuated by a pink and orange vintage blanket and midcentury artwork. The dresser is from West Elm. 

Details matter in this spare yet visually exciting bedroom. A triangular motif supplies contemporary architectural interest on pillows and draperies from Zak+Fox; a walnut dresser anchors the space. Nubby throw pillows lend winsome coziness.

Cortney Bishop’s tips for mastering the mix of old and new:

  • Set a clean stage. Crisp white walls provide a cohesive backdrop that welcomes almost any style.
  • If you love it, buy it. Unify your finds with fabric and color so they work together beautifully.
  • Modernize with graphics. Accent rooms with powerfully patterned pillows and rugs to give them an architectural edge.
  • Hang it up. A blend of colorful photography and vintage artwork expresses a sense of place even on walls.

Photography: Andrew Cebulka

Traditional Home