Author William Allen White once remarked that Charleston, South Carolina, was “the most civilized town in the world.” Decades later, readers of Conde Nest Traveler agreed, voting the city a top tourist destination. While charm, heritage, architecture, and interior design are city hallmarks, tradition today takes a new twist.
Case in point: In redesigning an 82-year- old Georgian-style house in downtown Charleston’s historic Battery district, interior designer Ginger Breton decided to forgo its traditional roots. Instead, she focused on ways to best serve the needs of the homeowners, a young couple with eclectic tastes.
Asked to mix existing with new pieces for a fresh, modern look, Breton made a marked departure from the previous old¬school design of the residence.
Bretons love of color has earned the New York School of Interior Design alum a reputation as one of Charleston’s most popular designers. “People come to me
Hallway A large mirror from Ballard Designs sets a classic tone between sconces with British Colonial influences. A mid-century-style bench inserts a punch of color.
Front entry A vibrant green glass chandelier from Carey & Company crowns the neutral space.
Dining room The clients’ fondness for dramatic light fixtures guided Bretons decision to include an overscaled yet delicate chandelier above the dining table. Authentic flour sacks cover the slipper chairs.
because they want color,” she explains, crediting the vibrant work of designer Kelly Wearstler as a major influence.
For the Battery house, Breton chose a palette of soothing shades of green and blue in the primary rooms, used neutrals for the secondary spaces, and selected pinks and lavender for a daughter’s bedroom.
The six-bedroom house—complete with p dogs and three children under the age of p 11—was “designed to be a fun house for the n kids,” notes Breton.
With the homeowners’ eclecticism comes whimsy. Their penchant for light fixtures led Breton to eye-catching choices. A coral-and-white-striped beach- ball fixture commands attention in the bathroom while a trio of globes—red, yellow, and clear—lighten things up for a perfect contrast to the traditional wood panels in the den.
From the mustard-colored front door to vibrant mosaic tiles, the Battery house represents the best of the old and the new. Library Breton hung three colorful pendant fixtures at different heights in the paneled room. Accent tables in neon hues—teal, chartreuse, and bright orange—emphasize the contemporary feel of the traditional space.
Ginger Bretons tips of the trade
Mix old and new Combine antiques with updated pieces, or upholster a vintage chair in a modern fabric.
Make bold statements Don’t be afraid to paint a small powder room a dark color. It can create a beautiful jewel box.
Put lights on a dimmer Whether you are having a dinner party or relaxing in the tub, dimmers can set the mood.
Remember the ceilings Use wallpaper or high-gloss paint to treat the ceiling as if it were a fifth wall.
. Paint your cabinetry High-gloss paint adds
^ a chic, modern appeal to cabinets.
Living room Breton added electric shots of color—the curvaceous light fixture from Y Lighting and purple chairs found on eBay—to energize the room’s soft blue walls and neutral upholstered pieces.
Master closet A ladder safely accesses high storage and rolls neatly out of the way. Sunroof Curvy pendants contrast with the straight lines of the horizontally clad walls.
Love of color
The request from the young couple moving to the ’burns with their three children was simple: “Make our home happy and kid- friendly, yet bold and eclectic.”
In a world where most clients play it safe, that was music to the ears of Chicago interior designer Summer Thornton.
Relocating from Chicago to the nearby suburb of Hinsdale, the clients had purchased a newly constructed home that had, in Thornton’s words, “an East Coast feel to it.”
They wanted to bring lots of color into the space (particularly the all-white study) and were fearless with their choices.
“This project represents what we like to do,” explains Thornton, whose design firm is particularly known for its love of color. “We use a lot of bold color, mix patterns, and incorporate vintage finds into our designs as opposed to rooms that look like they just came off the showroom floor. My personal style is traditional, and I infuse it with a young, fresh
Great room A geometric blue-and-white rug from Madeline Weinrib anchors the room’s sitting area. Patterned pillows and an throw add contrast to the sofa from Than Allen. Preceding pages A pair of framed 1950s Bjorn Wiinblad prints makes a colorful statement in the Great room Pale blue vintage Locate lamps accentuate the symmetry of the Jonathan Adler console. Silhouettes of the clients’ children by artist Julie Foley grace the walls. A tray from West Elm placed on the coffee table becomes a stylish spot for organization. Entry A custom console and garden stools from Wisteria create a cozy moment.
Thornton, who credits other color devotees, such as Miles Redd and Kelly Wearstler, as major design influences, brought in varying shades of blue as a connecting color theme. “We wanted to bring in the clients’ favorite color of blue, and we used unusual color combinations and palettes,” explains the designer.
In the study, that design decision translated into a backdrop of lacquered blue walls accented with pale emerald green draperies and shots of orange and coral in furniture and accessories. It’s all anchored by a white Moroccan rug that, Thornton explains, “has a life of its own.”
The great room/kitchen combination received a lighter, airier look. A vibrant blue-and-white geometric area rug brings immediate impact to the comfortable space. An unusual multicolor chandelier above a custom wood-and-iron table designed by Chicago’s Blazon Conner completes the eclectic yet traditional design theme.
Summer Thornton’s tips of the trade
Don’t be afraid to do at least one thing your mother wouldn’t do.
Use patterns and colors recklessly Colors don’t clash!
Reference the past Don’t repeat it.
Incorporate vintage finds Every home should have at least one thing from a flea market.
Push the envelope Traditional designs need not be boring. No beautiful room was ever designed without taking a risk.
Buy fresh flowers They are a room’s best accessory. s
Be one-of-a-kind If your neighbors are doing it, you probably shouldn’t.
Study Never one to shy away from vibrant color, designer Summer Thornton lacquered the study walls cobalt blue and incorporated coral accents and furnishings. A big believer in color overhead, Thornton extended the blue to the border of the tray ceiling molding, as well. “We always like to address the ceiling,” the designer notes. “It completes the space.” tudy Emerald green was introduced at the windows as a contrast to the bold blue walls. The sofa from Room & Board is dressed with a throw from West Elm and patterned pill
When clients hired her to rework their mock Tudor in Brentwood, California, designer Frances Merrill was excited to reinvent something besides the ubiquitous Spanish Revival-style house. The couple wanted a home with old-world charm designed to feel youthful but not trendy— with baby-safe style. background working in Bangkok and on notable houses in Los Angeles made her the ideal designer.
Merrill and her clients aimed to take the dated “country” out of the Tudor-style house and replace it with Bohemian cool. Their inspiration was Charleston—a country house in Sussex, England, used as an early- 20th-century gathering place for such Bloomsbury Group members as Virginia Wolf, Duncan Grant, and E.M. Forster.
Fueled with inspiration, Merrill began the transformation by picking a muted but not bland palette. “We tested a lot of colors and did a lot of sandblasting,” she recalls. “It was important to get a natural look without getting too yellow or too rustic.”
Living room Wood finishes were sandblasted to harmonize with walls painted in Farrow & Ball’s “French Gray.” Bollywood posters add quirky color. Preceding pages The home office features floating feather wallpaper by Travel in New York. A vintage Swedish daybed from Eloquence, a marble desk from Obsolete, and a desk lamp from Collected add resting and working space options with little visual weight.
Settling on varying shades of historical grays for the large living areas, with trim painted in the same shades, gave a sense of seamless sophistication. The palette also includes the chalky wood tones of freshly sandblasted wide-plank floors, ceilings, beams, and reworked furnishings.
Complementing the gray-greens, muted plum and lilac are seen in the dining room’s sea grass wall covering, the master bedroom’s tartan bedding, and accessories throughout the house. Low-sheen hammered tin provides a touch of soulful reflection in such key pieces as the twin round coffee tables in the living room and the headboard in the master bedroom.
Merrill then added baby-appropriate accents. As an aesthete and a mother, Merrill created a space where stair balusters double as safety gates, hard edges are banished, and §
CN clutter can be easily contained. M
In this house filled with old and new furniture mingling with toys and texture, a s modern-day Bloomsbury member would feel ^ right at home here in Bohemia.
Frances Merrill’s tips of the trade
Sandblast traditional pieces It’s a great way to turn a traditional piece into something more interesting and sculptural.
Hide the toys Easy-stash solutions like a custom tepee corral clutter creatively.
Incorporate interesting materials
Hammered tin integrates a primitive vibe, but it’s finished beautifully.
Paint trim to match the wall It inserts a nice modernity without looking stark. Use cool hues rather than yellow hues They improve the look of a room and offer a better backdrop for your collections.
Living room Designer Frances Merrill added a clever tepee made with fabric from Michael Devine for quick toy stashing. Paintings hung salon-style over a bureau from Mitchell Litt mingle easily with toys and texture. A vintage chaise and a floor lamp from Design Within Reach create a cozy reading nook.
Dining room Raw finishes in high relief set the tone for comfortable dining. The harp- back dining chairs from Mitchell Lit are covered in raw hemp to contrast the modern stone- topped Saarinen table. The plum of the grass cloth wall covering complements the green-grays throughout the house.
Landing Whimsical wallpaper by British designer Neisha Crosland is an abstract pattern in “a soft green we could pull for everything else,» says Merrill. Sconces by Ames flank a portrait of George Washington. The demilune table from Mitchell Lit was sandblasted and left raw.
Outside dining area “There’s a real hole in the market for outdoor furniture that looks collected over time and not just off the rack,” says Merrill. “We created this look ourselves, pairing vintage with new [chairs from Tim Clark and rugs]. We wanted to give the feeling that there was history outside, too. Not that someone came in and rolled it out.”
Breakfast room The breakfast table was custom made through Mitchell Lit. Merrill had it sandblasted, then oiled for a natural finish. The chairs are large-scale takes on Windsor chairs, painted white with a touch of pistachio green.
Master bedroom Ralph Lauren’s tartan shams and bed skirt combine with a pale charcoal duvet and tufted reading chair to give a British Colonial feel to the room. The hammered-tin headboard from highlights the dusky-toned bedding and walls. The patchwork hide rug is from The Rug Company.
Nursery Making the most of the octagonal paneled room, Merrill incorporated a handmade light fixture from Nickey Kehoe. The crib was custom painted in a fresh lavender. The lilac window fabric from Peter Textiles spreads a rosy glow. Bathrooms A Moroccan commode- turned-sink catches the light brilliantly. Opalescent tiled walls and a skirted vanity keep the children’s bathroom warm and whimsical.
Child’s room A charming zebra painting by Gate Brandt sets a playful tone. Baskets from Terrain offer additional toy storage.
Everyone needs a mentor. “I worshiped the work of Robert Couturier for a long time,” says designer Heather Garrett. “I actually wrote him a letter and told him I would work for free!” The effort paid off and landed Parsons graduate Garrett a job at Couturier’s offices in Manhattan.
Studying at the feet of the famed French architect and interior designer taught her valuable decorative and technical skills, including the art of rendering spaces for client presentations. “I learned a holistic approach to designing residences and the importance of looking at the whole picture— what it’s like to go from the beginning of the structure of a space and shape of the design to the finishing decor,” she notes. Today, Garrett runs her own full-service interior design firm in Durham, North Carolina, where her sensibilities vary from French Modern to Southern Traditional.
“When I first got to Durham, Southern style was a lot of swags, jabots, and chintz,” remembers Garrett. “I try to apply more Living room A sleek bench from BoConcept, a modern chandelier from Roll & Hill, and a mirror from Made Goods add glamour to the renovated ’50s-style home. Preceding pages Outdoor-friendly elements like Sunbrella fabric on the Lee Industries double chaise give the chic cabana a durable edge.
Pool A chevron-patterned fabric from Schumacher adds drama beside the pool. Details Nature-inspired elements—pebbled wallpaper from Hunter & Company, branches in a vase from West Elm, and on the mantel—bring the outdoors in.
modern tendencies.” Known for her neutral palettes, she is chosen by clients for her use of natural forms as well. “I like to be able to create more organic free-flowing shapes with a classic twist,” says Garrett, whose mother is also a designer. “I love anything that has to do with natural forms and shapes.”
Case in point: a couple in Raleigh, North Carolina, hired Garrett to modernize a p 1954 renovated ranch house, a process p that took more than 212 years. “The house n had plantation shutters, triple crown moldings, and six-panel doors everywhere,’ says Garrett. To add a touch of classic contemporary to the mix, she made adjustments in the form of bleached floors, stripped-down kitchen and wet bar cabinetry, and grass cloth in the panels.
To replace the now-standard flat-screen television over the fireplace, Garrett had an inventive solution—adding a creative sculpture of balsam strips inside a shadow box. “The effect is like an art installation,” the designer says.
Heather Garrets tips of the trade
Collect found objects Fallen white oak limbs, black oyster shells washed up on the shore, vacant barnacles, and calcified coral can be both beautiful and free.
Replace the ubiquitous Instead of framed seashells, gather a pile of smooth, similarly colored stones and glue them in a ring on the back of a shadow box.
Let wallpaper rule A million great wall coverings are available. One of my favorites is Cole & Sons’ “Contemporary II,” a tree-patterned paper perfect for days when I wished I lived by a pond.
Learn to love plants Choose something architectural and extra hardy—like a Christmas cactus. Go big, and let the plant be an accessory.
Family room A custom shadow box with curvaceous balsam strips acts as art over the fireplace. A Lee Industries love-seat upholstered in acid-green leather creates a focal point. The rug is by Thomas O’Brien for Safavieh. The sleek nature of the polished-nickel floor lamps from Design and aluminum side table from West Elm accentuate the room’s natural light. Master bedroom Garrett took her color cues from a contemporary painting that was a “lucky garage sale find,” she says. “We used it to define the style and palette of the entire space, with an emphasis on the rich cerulean blue.” The Venetian plaster wall behind the headboard and the Kravet fabric on the chair also reflect the rich color. The silk curtain fabric is from Avon Fabrics.