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Renovated Family Home in Charleston

An epic remodel of a well-loved family estate convinces a Charleston native that you can go home again

Written by Brielle M. Ferreira
  • John Bessler

    Looking back at her South Carolina childhood, Sarah Hamlin Hastings has always been able to find one constant among her fondest memories. The elaborate Sunday dinners, rollicking Easter egg hunts, and festive Christmas parties of her youth all shared a common setting: the gracious center-hall Colonial that her grandmother and grandfather called home.

    “It was our family gathering spot,” Sarah Hamlin says. “We loved spending time together there.” So, although life took her and her husband, Matt, through a tour of the Northeast—where they settled for a time in both New York and Connecticut—it was no surprise when they made the decision to return their brood to Charleston. And no one could have been happier to hear the news than her grandmother.

    “She immediately asked if we’d be interested in taking over her house in the Crescent,” Sarah Hamlin says. It was a proposition the couple accepted eagerly but under one condition: They would need her to be at peace with any changes they’d make. While the house had remained in pristine condition thanks to her grandmother’s careful ministrations over the years, it needed a serious remodeling to function for the active modern family, which includes Jack, 12, Charlie, 11, and twins Thomas and Henry, 8.

    “I told her I wanted to keep the spirit of the house alive and to use it the way she and Papi used it, to always have people over and kids running in the yard,” Sarah Hamlin explains, “and she gave us her blessing.”

    Photography: John Bessler  
    Produced by Jenny Bradley

    Architects: David Baker and Bobby McAlpine, McAlpine Tankersley Architecture, 501 Cloverdale Road, Suite 201, Montgomery, AL 36106; 334/262-8315,
    Interior design: Lisa Hilderbrand with Sarah-Hamlin Hastings, Welhil Interiors, 11 River Rd., Norwalk, CT 06850; 203/722-9642,;  Sarah Hamlin Hastings Interiors, 7 Sayle Rd., Charleston, SC 29407; 917/922-4552,
    Landscape architect: Mike Kaiser, Kaiser Trabue Landscape Architecture, 3415 West End Ave., Suite 101C, Nashville, TN 37203; 615/298-9720,  

  • John Bessler

    Pleasant Conservatory

    Sarah Hamlin’s next step was to reach out to a longtime friend, designer Lisa Hilderbrand, with whom she had previously worked to reimagine her Connecticut residence.

    “Our tastes are really similar,” Sarah Hamlin says, “but Lisa’s more of a classicist, and I like to get a little funky. We push each other and rein each other in, in the best way possible. I couldn’t imagine doing this house without her.” In fact, they were so in tune with each other that at their very first meeting for the new project, they found they had both brought the same magazine article extolling the virtues of the architect Bobby McAlpine.

    “I love the way he thinks about houses, and speaking with him and David Baker, who would be our project architect, totally sealed it for me,” Sarah Hamlin says

    With the team in place, the real work could begin. To make room for Sarah Hamlin and Matt’s large immediate family and even larger social circle, Baker and McAlpine nearly doubled the home’s square footage, building onto the existing structure while respecting its well-loved history. Inside, they brought down walls to open up the floor plan and reassigned and rearranged nearly every room in order to accomplish a better flow throughout.

    “The renovations were substantial, but not overbearing,” Baker says. “We didn’t want to take away from the charm and beauty of the original home. We worked kind of like marriage counselors, helping the older, more traditional elements to coexist happily with the newer, more modern ones.”

    In the conservatory, a Charles Stewart Company sofa and vintage armchairs that Sarah Hamlin brought from Connecticut are thoroughly at home in her new Charleston abode, thanks to fresh upholstery in chenille from GDC Home and a zebra print from Pierre Frey. While extensive, the home’s recent renovation upholds all of the grace and charm of the original structure.

    Paint (“Palais White” #SW2429): Sherwin-Williams,
    Drapery (#50724-486 in Sahara): Duralee,
    Sofa (“Wintergreen Sofa” #C632-80): Charles Stewart Co.,
    Fabric (“Camel Chenille”): GDC Home,
    Multicolored pillows on sofa (“Rossini”/Red, Multi #J497F-01, by Jane Churchill): Cowtan & Tout,
    Zebra armchairs (vintage): owner’s collection.
    Zebra fabric (“Malawi”/Miel #F2707001): Pierre Frey,
    Green tub chair (“Edmund Chair”): Andrew Martin,
    Fabric (“Linen Velvet”/Green #JW-6105, by Jasper): Michael S Smith,
    Circular side table: custom.
    Side table to right of sofa (vintage industrial table): Avant Garden,
    Coffee table (vintage sculpted bronze): R.E. Steele, 631/324-7812.
    Circle sculpture (vintage bronze wind chimes mounted on steel bases): owner’s collection.
    Flooring: Peacock Pavers,  

  • John Bessler

    Lovely Antiques

    This delicate balancing act was then repeated by Hilderbrand and Sarah Hamlin when they began to outfit the interiors. They mixed aged pieces loaded with meaning—like the pair of matching tufted armchairs in the master bedroom (heirlooms from her grandmother that Sarah Hamlin has carried with her from house to house) and the late-19th-century English huntboard (the first antique Sarah Hamlin ever bought during her college years)—with new scores, like the mesmerizing Lindsey Adelman chandelier that presides over the island in the kitchen and the custom-made round table by Brad Nietert in the dining room. Hilderbrand, however, is quick to note that the line between old and new wasn’t the only one they had to straddle.

    “We had to reconcile the house looking beautiful with its ability to do its job, which was to be a home to a family with young children and a dog, and with a love of entertaining,” the designer says. “Everything had to work hard and be practical but also impossibly chic.”

    A 19th-century mahogany sideboard pairs with artwork by Elyssa Rundle through John Pope Antiques.

    Table (antique): owner’s collection.
    Art (by Elyssa Rundle): John Pope Antiques,

  • Before: Kitchen

    The space that is now the kitchen used to be a garage.

  • John Bessler

    After: Kitchen

    The architects built the kitchen around the Lindsey Adelman chandelier, designing an extra-large island with waterfall Calacatta Gold marble countertops to ground the piece. A hood from Wolf lends a bit of a masculine edge.

    Ceiling paint (“Swiss Coffee” #OC-45); cabinet paint (“Revere Pewter” #HC-172): Benjamin Moore,
    Cabinetry: custom.
    Countertops: Calacatta Gold marble.
    Range; oven hood: Wolf,
    Chandelier: Lindsey Adelman Studio,
    Sconces (“Small Aspect Articulating Sconce”/Soft Silver #BBL2028): Circa Lighting,
    Bar stools: vintage.  

  • Before: Dining Room

    Two demilune tables framed the oval dining table. 

  • John Bessler

    After: Dining Room

    Blue chairs with Greek key embroidery gather around the circular dining table. Large swaths of silk draping the walls bring drama and a sense of mystery to the open, formal entertaining space. Artistic Frame chairs surround a custom table by Brad Nietert beneath a replica of a Metropolitan Opera House chandelier. 

    Paint (“Swiss Coffee” #OC-45): Benjamin Moore,
    Wallpaper on ceiling (“Lacquered Walls”/Crème Lustre #3853): Phillip Jeffries,
    Drapery (silk, colorway discontinued): Duralee,
    Table (custom): Brad Nietert Antique Restorations,
    Chairs (“James Adam Chair” #2387): Artistic Frame,
    Chair fabric (“Douro”/Lac #1463-41, by Lelievre); rug (“Indochine Sisal”/Platinum): Stark,
    Chair trim (“Aristotle Greek Key” #977-36057-05): Samuel & Sons,
    Chandelier (Metropolitan Opera replica by Nulco Lighting, discontinued; for similar, “Starburst” ): Elk Lighting,
    Sideboard (antique Regency Rosewood): Hiden Galleries,
    Lamps (Italian giltwood fragments): Hamptons Antique Galleries,
    Art: David Skinner Antiques,  

  • John Bessler

    Sideboard Detail

    In the dining room, an antique Regency rosewood sideboard is home to a silver urn and a silver tea service. 

  • John Bessler

    Dramatic Study

    Sherwin Williams' "Black Fox" blankets the study walls in drama. An eclectic mix of seats are arranged around the vintage coffee table. 

  • John Bessler

    Stylish Bedroom

    Originally the key player in the Hastingses’ Connecticut living room, the antique Oushak rug inspired the master bedroom’s soothing palette and the romantic aesthetic of its tufted custom bed and drapes crafted from Duralee fabric. 

    Paint: Sherwin-Williams,
    Drapery (#31994-407 in Porcelain); sheers (#50855-610); bed fabric (#36106-242 in Shell); silk bed shams and coverlet (#89145-16 in Natural): Duralee,
    Bed: custom.
    Linens (“Diamond Pique”): Matouk,
    Bench: vintage.
    Chandelier (custom blown glass bubbles): ESD,
    Rug: antique Oushak.
    Ceiling wallcovering  (“Silk/Abaca”/Persian Silver #3213): Phillip Jeffries,

  • John Bessler

    Light Detail

    Made of custom blown glass bubbles, the bedroom chandelier draws attention. 

  • John Bessler

    Master Bedroom Sitting Area

    A table from Knoll acts as a counterpoint to vintage tufted armchairs (heirlooms from homeowner Sarah Hamlin Hastings’s grandmother) reupholstered in a fabric from Duralee.

    Chairs (vintage); art: owner’s collection.
    Fabric (#14987-152 in Wheat): Duralee,
    Side table (“Platner Side Table”): Knoll,
    Floor lamp (“Strie Floor Lamp” #CHA9707): Circa Lighting,  

  • John Bessler

    Serene Master Bath

    A freestanding tub from Kallista and a filler from Newport Brass take center stage in the bathroom with its White Rhino marble countertops and custom cabinets painted Benjamin Moore’s “Mountain Peak White.” The chandelier is from Global Views.

    Wall, cabinet paint (“Mountain Peak White” #OC-121): Benjamin Moore,
    Cabinetry: custom.
    Countertops: White Rhino marble.
    Bathtub (For Town Collection, by Michael S Smith): Kallista,
    Tub filler; faucets: Newport Brass,
    Ghost chairs (“Louis Ghost Chair”): Kartell,
    Flooring: Carrara marble.
    Sconces (“Hulton Sconce”/Polished Nickel #TOB2190, by Thomas O’Brien): Circa Lighting,
    Chandelier (“Fluted Pendant”): Global Views,
    Roman shades: Duralee,

  • John Bessler

    Courtyard Fountain

    While the super-durable fabrics, textiles, and rugs Sarah Hamlin and designer Lisa Hilderbrand used are certainly up to the task or working and hard while also being chic, in the end the two found a simple yet ingenious way to help keep the interiors in tip-top shape: They brought landscape architect Mike Kaiser on board to create an outdoor oasis so beautiful that it’s sometimes difficult to get people to come indoors at all.

    “No house alone can contain the kind of energy expended by four boys,” McAlpine says, laughing. “It was natural for the garden to be an active participant in their lives. In actuality, we designed the whole house around it. There’s always an invitation to go outside no matter which room you’re in.”

    Architects David Baker and Bobby McAlpine used steel windows and doors from Bliss Nor-Am throughout the house. The fountain was designed by Mike Kaiser.

    Fountain and pool design: Mike Kaiser, Kaiser Trabue Landscape Architects,
    Installation: Atkinson Pools,

  • John Bessler

    Pool Area

    Awe-inspiring home transformation aside, the thing that Sarah Hamlin is most proud of is that she was able to keep her promise to her grandmother. “The first thing we did when we moved in was celebrate my birthday with a big party,” she says. “We put a tent in the backyard and just had this huge blowout. It really set the tone for how we use the home. We have the best time here.”

    The home was deliberately sited to take full advantage of the lush grounds, with water features and plantings designed by landscape architect Mike Kaiser. The patio furniture is from Brown Jordan.

    Chaise longues by pool (“Flight” #3940-7000); dining side chairs (“Venetian” #2250-1000): Brown Jordan,
    Pool design: Mike Kaiser, Kaiser Trabue Landscape Architects,
    Installation: Atkinson Pools,

  • Before: Patio

    The patio was nice, but the yard wasn't utilized to its full potential. 

  • John Bessler

    After: Patio

    Now, whether swimming, dining, or entertaining, the back yard is always put to good use. 

  • John Bessler


    Sarah Hamlin Hastings, standing, project architect David Baker, and designer Lisa Hilderbrand in the light-filled conservatory.

  • John Bessler

    Home Sweet Home

    The home's renovation was able to uphold the charm of the original structure. 

    Paint (“Palais White” #SW-2429): Sherwin-Williams,
    Shutter paint (“Revere Pewter” #HC-172): Benjamin Moore,
    Steel windows and doors: Bliss Nor-Am,
    Roof: faux slate.

  • John Bessler