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Updated Historic Charleston Home
From watching Sunday Football in the ballroom to tricycle rides down a bluestone hall, a historic Charleston home welcomes a new generation
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Many a socialite has taken a turn dazzling Charleston, but few have left such an architectural legacy as Cornelia “Daisy” Breaux Simonds. The flamboyant New Orleans beauty married Charleston bank president Andrew Simonds Jr. in 1885, and about 10 years later the couple built a magnificent home on South Battery with panoramic views of the harbor.
This was no typical Charleston “single house” (one room wide with central stair and side piazza). Andrew Simonds Sr. hired Frederick Dinkelberg—the architect of the Flatiron Building in New York and several Beaux Arts buildings in Chicago—to fashion a 9,000-square-foot mansion for his son and daughter-in-law.
Dinkelberg pulled out all the stops—most likely with young Daisy’s enthusiastic encouragement—giving the newlyweds an Italian villa-inspired home with 33-foot-high fluted Corinthian columns on the front terrace, a second-level cast-iron Florentine balcony, an enormous ballroom with a monitor skylight, and a fireplace adorned with plaster cherubs and caryatids.
Andrew and Daisy Simonds were world travelers, and those experiences likely affected the European design, says E.E. Fava, the Charleston architect whose firm, along with the home’s owners, Stephen and Mary Hammond, was pivotal in restoring the house.
“It was built as a wedding gift, but my guess is that Daisy was very involved. From everything we read, she was a very big personality,” Fava relates.
Sadly, Daisy was widowed in 1902, and not long after, she built an addition across the back and opened the house as a hotel named Villa Margherita. “Margherita means ‘daisy’ in Italian, so we think she may have named it after herself,” Fava says. The hotel operated into the 1950s, and hosted United States presidents, including Theodore Roosevelt, and some of the cast of Gone With the Wind.
By 1953, Daisy had sold the house and it was returned to a single-family residence. After changing owners one more time, the house remained with the same family for several decades.
The 1895 Italianate house has front and side balconies with views of Charleston Harbor.
Photography: Emily Jenkins Followill
Produced by Eleanor Roper
Architect: E.E. Fava, E.E. Fava Architects, 54 Broad St., Charleston, SC 29401; 843/723-5099, eefava.com.
Interior designer: Carolyn Griffith, Carolyn Griffith Interior Design, 1 Sayle Rd., Charleston, SC 29407; 843/766-7744.
Landscape designer: Sheila Wertimer, Wertimer & Assoc., 517 Meeting St., Charleston, SC 29403; 843/577-3360, wertimer.com.
Wall paint (“Toque White” #SW 7003); trim paint (“Alabaster #SW 7008); wood trim (“Aleutian” #SW-6241, 25 per cent); front door paint (“Indigo Batik” #SW 7602): Sherwin-Williams, sherwin-williams.com.
Iron lanterns by front door (original): restored by The Silver Vault of Charleston, silvervaultcharleston.com.
More than a century after it was built, another pair of Charleston newlyweds, Mary and Stephen Hammond, admired the historic structure and began making inquiries. After conversations with Fava, who specializes in historic preservation and restoration, the Hammonds approached the homeowner about a sale. She wasn’t interested initially, but after Stephen and Mary assured her they would refurbish it as a family home and not convert it to condos or an inn, she agreed to sell.
“The house clearly was in need of help,” Mary says. “It obviously has a big presence in Charleston, and we loved the idea of bringing it back to its original condition and making it a family home.” The Hammonds are native New Yorkers, and Stephen is CEO of Lou Hammond & Associates with headquarters in New York City, but Charleston is their home. And with a 2-year-old daughter and another child due soon, the couple was committed to restoring historical features while creating a livable 21st-century home.
“The level to which the Hammonds allowed us to go with restoration and renovation was so important,” Fava says. “This wasn’t just a Band-Aid. They wanted to make the house right.”
Badly deteriorating column capitals were reproduced by artisans in Savannah, Georgia, and gas lanterns by the front door were painstakingly refurbished and replumbed for gas. Exterior porch balusters were faithfully reproduced out of mahogany, the most stable wood for the humid climate. “There weren’t many balusters left. We found a few stray ones in the basement,” Fava says. The entire exterior was re-stuccoed and painted.
A spacious center hall allows for breezes and sight lines through the house, from the front door out to the back bluestone patio. An early-18th-century Louis XIII armchair is a family heirloom.
Wallpaper (“Imperiale,” by Twigs Fabrics and Wallpaper): George Cameron Nash, georgecameronnash.com.
Chandelier (Federal-style, antique); commode (Charles X burl walnut and marble top, c. 1820): Moss Antiques, mossantiques.com.
White console tables (antique Italian): Christie’s, christies.com.
Armchair: family heirloom.
Area rugs: antique Persian.
Ceiling paint (“White Flour” #SW 7102); trim paint (“Whitetail” #SW 7103): Sherwin-Williams, sherwin-williams.com.
Doors and windows: Hope’s Custom Crafted Windows & Doors, hopeswindows.com.
A full basement (a rarity in Charleston) and a spacious attic allowed for new plumbing, heating and cooling, and electrical systems. Insulation was added and a kitchen installed in an area that had housed the existing kitchen, back entry, and utility rooms. Most of the original oak floors, many with inlaid borders, were refinished. Floors in the foyer and ballroom were beyond repair and replaced.
“While the house did need a lot of work, it had not had a lot of alterations from when it was originally built,” Mary says. “The only area where we changed the footprint was the kitchen and family room to make it a more modern, open plan.”
The grand foyer extends straight to the back courtyard.
Foyer to Fireplace
An ornamental frieze embellishes the upper walls of an anteroom that links the foyer and the living room. Walls in the anteroom are painted Sherwin-Williams “Misty” blue, which accents the white frieze and wide door moldings. Two antique stools are upholstered in “Rondo” from Scalamandré.
Wall paint (“Misty” #SW 6232); trim paint (custom color): Sherwin-Williams, sherwin-williams.com.
Charleston interior designer Carolyn Griffith helped the Hammonds order yards and yards of fabric for upholstering walls and draping the 10-foot-tall windows.
Miles of Scalamandré’s “Vivaldi” fabric were fashioned into draperies for the 10-foot-tall original windows. Late-18th-century candelabras on the mantel are family antiques. Armchairs are upholstered in an Asian-inspired linen and cotton print from Brunschwig & Fils.
Wall paint (custom); ceiling paint (“White Flour #SW 7102); trim and mantel paint (“Whitetail” #SW 7103): Sherwin-Williams, sherwin-williams.com.
Sofa: Avery Boardman, averyboardman.com.
Wing chair: Christie’s, christies.com.
Benches (Louis XVI-style): antique.
Wing-chair and drapery fabric (“Vivaldi”/Maroon & Linen on Red #26715-006); bench fabric (“Rondo”/Red & Linen #26714-012); chaise fabric (“Damas Parc Monceau”/Yellow #26695-002): Scalamandré, scalamandre.com.
Chairs: Doyle New York, doylenewyork.com.
Chair fabric (“Xian Linen & Cotton Print”/Mimosa #BR79601-313): Brunschwig & Fils, brunschwig.com.
Area rugs; table lamps (French Empire); side tables; candelabra: antique.
Coffee table: Scott Salvator Inc., scottsalvator.com.
Mahogany commode beside mantel: Moss Antiques, mossantiques.com.
Orange pillows; rusty orange pillows: Antiques South Windermere, 843/571-2755.
The Hammonds added two glassed-in spaces. One is a breakfast room near the kitchen with views to the side yard and harbor beyond. The other is a corridor across the back that links the kitchen with the ballroom.
A straight shot back from the front door, and right off the breakfast room and ballroom, lies the magestic courtyard.
“The house is like a big U with two wings—the kitchen on one side and the ballroom on the other,” Mary says. The glass hall facilitates cross traffic and also creates a light-flooded, indoor-outdoor feel.
Cabinetry: Wood-Mode custom cabinetry from Signature Kitchens & Baths Charleston, signaturekitchens.net
Making the ballroom more accessible to the kitchen and family room also ensured the room would actually be used-. “That’s my man cave on football Sundays,” Stephen says.
“At this stage in our lives we’re not having dances and balls every day, so we put two big couches and a TV there and made a nice sitting area that we really use,” Mary adds.
The ballroom does have its dressy moments too, as the Hammonds frequently entertain large groups. The 22x40-foot room with a 21-foot-high ceiling (plus a monitor skylight that rises another 8 feet) has a grand piano and can accommodate several large round tables for formal dinner parties.
Two large sofas and a large TV concealed behind doors (upholstered to match the walls) turn the room into a family gathering spot.
Wallcovering and sofa fabric (“Lombard Damask”/Pale Yellow #FD624T117, by Mulberry Home, discontinued): Lee Jofa, leejofa.com.
Flooring: porcelain tiles. Paint on mantel and trim (“Creamy” #SW 7012): Sherwin-Williams, sherwin-williams.com.
Table-skirt and pillow fabric (“Waves”/Lilac #GWF-2639.10, by Groundworks): Lee Jofa, leejofa.com.
Trim (“8-inch Silk Orsay Bullion Fringe/Lavender Melange #984-34607-9): Samuel & Sons, samuelandsons.com.
Sofas: Avery Boardman, averyboardman.com.
End tables by sofas: Christie’s, christies.com.
Table lamps: antique.
Royally Red Dining Room
As the renovation was under way, Stephen and Mary shopped for furnishings at antiques shops, auctions, and estate sales. “When you’re buying for a house this large, you need big pieces of furniture. The dining room table and the chandelier had to be quite expansive,” Stephen says.
“We bought many of our finer things from Keil’s Antiques in New Orleans,” he says. “The dining room chairs we purchased at an estate auction in New York. They’re from Marjorie Merriweather Post’s [the cereal heiress] home in D.C.”
Paneled walls and trim painted with a high-gloss red enamel set a dramatic backdrop for formal dining. An antique Baccarat crystal and bronze d’ore 10-light chandelier and French Empire mahogany table were purchased in New Orleans. The dining chairs are from the estate of Marjorie Merriweather Post.
Wall and trim treatment (high-gloss surface enamel); ceiling paint (“Antique White” #SW 6119): Sherwin-Williams, sherwin-williams.com.
Table (antique, mahogany); chandelier (Baccarat crystal and bronze d’ore 10-light chandelier): Moss Antiques, mossantiques.com.
Dining chairs (from estate of Marjorie Merriweather Post): antique.
Chair fabric: Scalamandré, scalamandre.com.
Drapery sheers: Romo, romo.com.
Candelabras on table (antique): The Silver Vault of Charleston, silvervaultcharleston.com.
Area rug: Persian.
Obelisks: Scott Salvator Inc., scottsalvator.com.
Dinnerware “Gold Opulent Court Dragon,” red dragon): antique Meissen.
Stemware (“Olympia”): William Yeoward Crystal, williamyeowardcrystal.com.
Flatware (“La Comtesse,” antique Reed & Barton): owner’s collection.
A utility room adjacent to the dining room was converted into a temperature- and humidity-controlled storage space for wine.
Wine cabinet (Sapele Mahogany racking, Estate Series): Kessick Wine Cellars, kessickwinecellars.com.
The spacious rooms, while elegant, are still family friendly, Mary says, and daughter Marilen loves playing everywhere, including riding her trike down the bluestone-paved glass corridor.
“When people come over to the house, they say how livable it is, which is such a compliment,” Mary says. “It looks so big from the outside, but when you walk in you see it’s a great house and easy to live in.” Chances are good Daisy would approve.
Antique Louis XV chairs are updated in plaid in Mary's office.
Wall paint (“Languid Blue” #SW 6226); ceiling paint (“White Flour” #SW 7102); trim paint (“Whitetail” #SW 7103): Sherwin-Williams, sherwin-williams.com.
Carpet: Stark, starkcarpet.com.
Chairs (antique Louis XV); throw pillows: owner’s collection.
Chair fabric (“Montgomery Silk Plaid”/Lakeside #3455001): Schumacher, fschumacher.com.
Desk (custom): Tailored Closets & Cabinets, 843/696-0791.
Serenity rules with a Stark carpet and walls painted Sherwin-Williams “Sleepy Blue.” Draperies are Lee Jofa’s “La Cinta” with Hunter Douglas “Silhouette” shades.
Wall paint (“Sleepy Blue” #SW 6225); ceiling paint (“White Flour” #SW 7102); trim paint (“Whitetail” #SW 7103): Sherwin-Williams, sherwin-williams.com.
Chandelier: Moss Antiques, mossantiques.com.
Carpet (“Diamond Stria”/Sky Blue): Stark, starkcarpet.com.
Drapery (“La Cinta”/Aqua, Coral #2009165-137): Lee Jofa, leejofa.com.
Window shades (Silhouette): Hunter Douglas, hunterdouglas.com.
Bed linens (Mayfair): Matouk, matouk.com.
Throw on bed (“Athena”/Ciel): Yves Delorme, yvesdelorme.com.
Upholstered bench: Acquisitions Interiors, acquisitionsinteriors.com.
Pair of upholstered chairs: owner’s collection.
Pillows on chairs: Fortuny, fortuny.com.
Table lamp (alabaster): owner’s collection.
Art: owner’s collection.
Roll-top desk (antique): owner’s collection.
A hint of color on the pristine bathroom's walls coordinates with the marbling in the tub and countertop.
Pink-and-green floral draperies add a touch of elegance to the sweet space for the little girl.
Wallpaper (“One Hundred Acre”/Pink #J129W-01, by Jane Churchill); drapery (“Willowbrook”/Pink, Green #J711F-04, by Jane Churchill): Cowtan & Tout, cowtan.com.
Carpet (“Charmant” #9214): Masland Carpets & Rugs, maslandcarpets.com.
Club chair and ottoman (“SS Cottage Glider and Ottoman”); chair-and-ottoman fabric (“Little Castle Riviera”/Robin’s Egg); crib (“Franklin and Ben Liberty Crib”/White); lamp (“Doodlefish Spindle Lamp” with custom shade): Baby Bloomers, babybloomershome.com.
Pink chairs: Seventeen South Antiques, 843/225-4230.
Stuffed animals: Melissa and Doug, melisaanddoug.com.
Homeowners Stephen and Mary Hammond’s daughter, Marilen, 2, romps in the ballroom. The walls are upholstered in a pale yellow damask fabric from Lee Jofa. The ornate fireplace was cleaned using dental pick-like tools to remove layers of grime and paint.
Wallcovering (“Lombard Damask”/Pale Yellow #FD624T117, by Mulberry Home, discontinued): Lee Jofa, leejofa.com.
Flooring: porcelain tiles.
Paint on mantel and trim (“Creamy” #SW 7012): Sherwin-Williams, sherwin-williams.com.