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Design Ideas from Our Charleston Showhouse

Fresh twists on traditional looks rule the day at our 2018 Southern Style Now Designer Showhouse in historic Charleston, presented in concert with Robert Leleux. 

Written by Sally Finder Weepie and Clara Haneberg with Tara Larson
  • Katie Charlotte Fiedler

    Join us for an unforgettable amble through this reimagined 1840s Greek Revival home filled with spaces revitalized for modern living. We promise endless inspiration from more than a dozen talented designers—served with a great big helping of inimitable Southern charm.

    Front Porch Easy evenings sipping sweet tea in the cool air are made even more enjoyable—and stylish—by Charlotte Lucas, who shaped a porch that's the envy of the neighborhood. A painted floor enlivened with a Greek-key pattern sets the stage for inviting seating areas. “I didn’t want to simply line the porch with rockers,” the Charlotte designer says. “There needed to be seating versatile to any occasion.” To that end, she created a dining nook anchored by a comfy Woodard love seat. Schumacher’s “Yangtze River” fabric lends a satisfying pop of contemporary color in a traditional package while lanterns from Bevolo Gas & Electric Lights mesh with classic columns.

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    Garden History and modernity, graciousness and ease mingle in the verdant garden, designed by Charlestonian Glen Gardner. “The house itself is a very traditional Charleston single house with a fresh new rear window wall looking out to the garden,” he says. “I wanted to allow the garden to speak to the house, which meant creating classic lines and timeless spaces with a fresh interpretation.” He crafted a structured yet informal layout featuring a series of garden rooms. Surfaces shift from Crossville pavers to compacted gravel, yet each space is connected by a border of handmade brick and an organic green-and-white palette. A backdrop of lush yews is punctuated by pops of pink sasanqua camellia and yellow cassia. Primarily white-painted furniture pieces include a 1930s Leinfelder iron table that sits at the heart of the dining area. Lanterns from Bevolo Gas & Electric Lights let the party continue long after sunset.

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    Entry & Stair Tower “I love the idea of big impact in a tiny space,” designer Lindsey Coral Harper says. That’s what the Georgia native achieved using a custom wallcovering from Gracie Studio. “The amazing poppy color and giant 3-foot-tall peonies work with a collection of art to create an unforgettable moment when you walk in. You’re drawn up the staircase because you want to see the next gallery wall of original artwork.” In all, she hung 100 pieces of art and a smattering of gilded sunburst mirrors along the three flights of stairs. Gray tones on some walls, the stair runner, and window treatments balance the energetic colors while a hanging fixture from Circa Lighting echoes the golden glow of frames, mirrors, and accessories.

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    Carriage House Den Inspired by garden views and Southerners’ love of color, Charlotte designer Traci Zeller crafted a pretty-as-a-party-dress palette for the carriage house den. Shades of brown, from camel to chocolate, meld with grassy green, fuchsia, and pale pink—including a ceiling swathed in Benjamin Moore’s “Strawberry Yogurt.” Textures—nubby chenille, natural linen, and soft velvet—make the mix even headier. An array of furnishings from CR Laine ensures the den is a perfect place for casual gatherings—or relaxation. “Because I can’t think of anything dreamier than taking a nap in the sun and the air-conditioning, the niche had to have a daybed,” Zeller says. When curling up with a good book is on the agenda, a floor lamp from Circa Lighting stands at the ready.

  • Katie Charlotte Fiedler

    Parlor “I wanted the parlor to feel like Charleston, but in an unexpected way,” Lexington, Kentucky, designer Matthew Carter says. “I loved the idea of really beautiful antique furniture mixed with more casual fabrics, like the small print on the linen curtains, then setting everything on fire with a really acidic and intense wall color: Benjamin Moore’s ‘Chartreuse.’ ” A thoughtful assemblage of furniture pieces in bright, fresh upholstery encourages hours of convivial conversation by the fire.

  • Katie Charlotte Fiedler

    Dining Room “I looked to Southern style past for inspiration,” Raleigh designer MA Allen says, “and took cues from icons such as Colefax and Fowler, Billy Baldwin, William Haines, and Frances Elkins in designing the dining room.” A hand-painted wallpaper from Gracie Studio provides a historical feel that meshes with architectural details—including ornate crown molding and a handsome fireplace—and recalls the palm-spiked Charleston landscape. Its neutral sepia tones also provide the perfect backdrop for explosive color in modern art, notably A Gathering of Monarchs, a mixed-media piece by Louis St. Lewis and Nate Sheaffer. Fabric on host chairs from Chaddock visually links the new pieces with vintage Maison Jansen side chairs. A three-tier brass chandelier with quartz accents by Kelly Wearstler for Circa Lighting cascades above the Chaddock dining table. “The formal Southern table is set for entertaining,” Allen says, “but the unexpected layering of mixed china patterns and hues lends a playful and relaxed feel.” China and silver are from Replacements, Ltd.

  • Katie Charlotte Fiedler

    Kitchen & Butler’s Pantry Charleston-based designers Michael Mitchell and Tyler Hill of Mitchell Hill wanted the kitchen to feel modern and sophisticated while referencing the home’s origins—and the designers’ love of period glamour. “We watched every episode of Downton Abbey and became inspired by the characters, where they live, their lifestyle, and their fashion,” Mitchell says. “This kitchen is the marriage of an 1840s paneled library and the 1940s machine age.”

    Paneled walls and classic cabinetry coated
    in Benjamin Moore’s “Tavern Gray” serve as a timeless foil to an art-glass-meets-industrial ceiling that nods to midcentury artisanship.
    A dark brushed-steel framework holds mirrored and aged-brass triangles that send light dancing throughout the room. “The mix of glass and metals has always been a personal signature of ours,” Hill says. “There’s something special about how the two elements play together.”

    A masculine palette of olive and sand balances the powerful color seen in the home’s other rooms. Soapstone countertops with olive veining expand on the hues of blackened metal while stainless-steel appliances repeat the shimmer of mirrored surfaces. A six-burner Thermador range establishes a pro-grade chef’s station under a custom mirrored ventilation hood. A DXV pot-filler faucet in polished chrome set on a wall of sandy-hue Yin + Yang collection backsplash tile from Crossville provides convenience for the cook.

    See more of the kitchen on the next slide.

  • Katie Charlotte Fiedler

    A striking photograph by Aldara Ortega hangs over the primary sink, making dishwashing duty almost as pleasant as a visit to the art gallery. Lighting controls by Lutron ensure it’s easy to adjust the mood. An island with bar stool seating encourages guests to gather around and help with the cooking. Emtek hardware in satin brass and a vintage French clock continue the metal medley started by the custom ceiling.

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    Subtle sparkle continues in the adjacent butler’s pantry, outfitted with glass shelves set against a recessed mirror. A Thermador wine refrigerator keeps favorite vintages at hand.

  • Katie Charlotte Fiedler

    Master Bedroom “I was born in the South, and I’ll never forget my first trip to Charleston,” designer Mary Douglas Drysdale says. “It’s been one of my favorite cities ever since. Charleston has always represented the best in style and elegant detail.” For the master bedroom, the Washington, D.C., designer sought to speak to the past while looking to the future of Southern style. “I thought that a deeply colored room with hints of green would be unexpected yet very comfortable,” she says. To set a cozy, restful mood, she coated walls in Benjamin Moore’s earthy “Ashwood Moss.” To juxtapose the moody walls, Drysdale called on plenty of airy whites. White paint covers a new mantel that she designed to take the place of an original fireplace that had been removed. A custom bed from Theodore Alexander with a soaring headboard tufted in Kravet fabric injects an additional light, bright note, as does a dreamy cloud chandelier. A Stark carpet, alpaca throws, and handmade linen sheets layer in tactile elements and a feeling of artisanship, something very Charlestonian, Drysdale says.

  • Katie Charlotte Fiedler

    Master Bath Suite Ili Hidalgo-Nilsson of Terracotta Design Build Co. in Decatur, Georgia, made the master bath the ultimate retreat, incorporating indulgent bathing and showering experiences—and a handy beverage station. A DXV soaking tub sits in a paneled niche that feels like a secret sanctuary.

    See more of the bath suite on the next slide.

  • Katie Charlotte Fiedler

    The shower, meanwhile, features a sophisticated combination of surfaces from Crossville: “Snow Flower” tile from the Yin + Yang collection on the ceiling and in mosaic tile on the floor, “State of Grace” porcelain slabs on the walls and bench. Shower fixtures are from DXV.

    See more of this space on the next slide.

  • Katie Charlotte Fiedler

    The vanity area features handsome stained-wood cabinetry with a pair of undermount sinks and widespread faucets set in “Film Noir” unpolished porcelain from Crossville. “Envisioned” wallcovering from Kravet placed behind twin mirrors gives the look of marble. Sconces interject the warm glow of brass.

    See more of this space on the next slide.

  • Katie Charlotte Fiedler

    A beverage station—built into rich wood cabinetry that matches the vanity—boasts a Thermador coffee machine and refrigerator drawer. The setup eliminates the need to trot down three flights of stairs to get morning coffee. “The luxury of those little details is important,” Hidalgo-Nilsson says.

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    Ladies’ Drawing Room Atlanta designer Mallory Mathison Glenn envisioned this room as a retreat for repose, reading, and revelry—dignified revelry, of course. To create the perfect envelope, she called on Benjamin Moore’s “Claret.” “It’s a pleasing coral that gives a warm glow to the pretty faces of ladies playing cards, taking afternoon tea, or penning correspondence,” Glenn says. For a collected feel, she incorporated a variety of contemporary artworks along with French and English antiques, chinoiserie, and blanc de Chine. Old pieces comfortably commingle with new Wesley Hall club chairs dressed in a lively animal print and a desk chair clad in blue leather. “Coral, celadon, aqua, and peacock with punches of citron create a layered, elegant palette,” Glenn says. “The tone is vibrancy partnered with delicacy.”

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    Carriage House Guest Suite Call it serendipity: As Olivia Brock brainstormed the design for the carriage house guest suite, a copy of The Gardens of Bunny Mellon just happened to arrive at her office. “I couldn’t help but be inspired by Mrs. Mellon’s gardens, as well as the interiors of her home,” says the preservation-minded creative who founded Torrance Mitchell Designs. “I wanted this room to be beautiful but feel lived in.” First, she assessed the existing architecture of the space, which included exposed rafters, painted brick, and new drywall. “I not only wanted to unify the space but also to call attention to the history of the building as a former kitchen house by giving it a no-frills feeling,” the Charleston designer says. She had paint stripped off the beams to expose the original wood finish and covered the drywall with traditional beaded board. Painting window trim green draws the eye outside, where garden views tantalize over neatly trimmed café curtains.
    A low-profile bed from Ballard Designs, upholstered in Lee Jofa fabric, comfortably snuggles into the low-ceilinged room. 

    See the bath on the next slide.

  • Katie Charlotte Fiedler

    The adjoining bath is both clean-lined and luxurious, featuring an expanse of Crossville tile, a console sink from DXV, and a sumptuous array of brass fixtures and hardware.

  • Katie Charlotte Fiedler

    Leopard’s Den Cozy was the goal for this dormer bedroom designed by Angie Hranowsky—cozy with sexy sass, that is. For softness, the Charleston designer enveloped the room in upholstery. “Using a single fabric disguises the angles and pitches created by the gable roof and makes the room more intimate,” Hranowsky says. Because the Rose Cumming fabric is pink leopard print, it also “turns up the volume a bit,” Hranowsky says. She called on a mix of prints and colorways for upholstery, drapery, and pillow fabrics to achieve a collected look. It suits her mélange of furniture pieces, all antique and vintage finds that she refreshed with new fabric. Benjamin Moore’s “Black Raspberry” paint on the window frame, bookcase, trim, and doors connects to the hues of a chair cushion and a Christopher Spitzmiller lamp. “I chose the purple paint color for its unexpectedness and to keep with the warm pink and red tones,” Hranowsky says. “The deep purple, garnet red, and rich greens also make the palette feel adult—I didn’t want the room, with its primarily pink fabric, to feel like a little girl’s space.” An abaca rug adds texture to the room without competing with the patterned fabrics.

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    Artist’s Studio & Bath Cameron Schwabenton of Cameron Stewart design in Charleston saw this tucked-away spot on the third floor as the perfect artist’s nest. “This little space called out to be inspiring, colorful, and clever yet visually serene enough for ideas to flow,” she says. While envisioning the design, Schwabenton stepped into the mind of her grandmother, an artist who worked for Walt Disney. “Some of the colors were inspired by her favorite shades of blush,” Schwabenton says. She bathed walls and ceiling in Benjamin Moore’s “Orleans Violet.” “Depending on the time of day, the color shifts from pink to lavender,” she says. Deep blue-green on velvet draperies anchors the room and draws the eye up. Civil War-era epaulets used as tiebacks act as historical art while their cascades make exquisite trim. Ivory-hue midcentury chairs introduce a sculptural, modern shape perched on classic legs with brass mounts. Greek-key trim on the ottoman skirt nods to the home’s Greek Revival architecture.

    See the bath on the next slide.

  • Katie Charlotte Fiedler

    In the bath, black and white make a simple graphic statement. A sink skirt layers in softness; brass accents supply a touch of glitz. To make the most of limited real estate, Schwabenton continued the vanity mirror up the angled wall above the sink. It cheerfully reflects light throughout the tiny room.