Restoration of a 1788 house in Charleston, SC, with a walled garden


For years Julie and Rowan Taylor have dreamed of what it would be like to live in Charleston, SC.

“We first arrived in 2005 – a long weekend, no kids,” said Taylor, 54, managing partner of a private equity firm. “And fell in love.”

After that, they visited the city often from their home in New Canaan, Connecticut, and their admiration for its beautifully weathered buildings, towering palm trees and expansive oaks – as well as its beating urban heart – only grew.

Credit…Hunter McRae for The New York Times

But Mr. Taylor worked for a New York-based company, and the couple had three daughters who had their own friends and routines, so a decision didn’t seem realistic.

Over the years, their daughters moved and Mr. Taylor started his own business, so the idea started to seem less far-fetched. They had welcomed a fourth daughter into their family in the meantime – Pippa, now 10 – but a move still seemed manageable. So, in 2016, during a flight to Charleston, Mr. Taylor decided to do a real estate search on his iPad.

“He leaned over the plane and said, ‘Look at this house,’” Ms. Taylor, 54, said. “I said, ‘We’ve never been inside one of these houses. Do you want to go see? ‘ “

He did. And after visiting a few homes, Mr. Taylor upped the stakes. “He said, ‘Which do you prefer? ”, Said Ms. Taylor. “He called my bluff.”

They picked a home, made an offer, and began to consider life in their new home – until the deal fell apart. But by then it was too late to go back.

“Over the next few months, we’ve just made the decision that, you know what, we’re going to do it,” Ms. Taylor said.

They looked at more homes while consulting with Eddie Fava of Charleston EE Fava Architects. Ms Taylor was ready to buy a home that needed a few cosmetic updates, although after experiencing a complete remodel in Connecticut, she set a guiding principle for their research: “I didn’t want a project,” she said. she declared.

But that was before Mr. Taylor fell in love with a stately federal house from 1788 in the South of Broad neighborhood. The house was 8,130 square feet, with large rooms and its own walled garden. But it needed a thorough restore and update, which they wanted to avoid. Still, Mr. Taylor couldn’t get the house out of his head, so he asked Mr. Fava to take a look.

Mr Fava returned with a glowing report: “I said, ‘That’s all you don’t want to do, but it will be all you want, no doubt.’ I said, ‘This is the big project. It will be way more than you thought, but you will be as happy as possible when it is done.

The Taylors swallowed hard and bought the house for $ 5.35 million in January 2017. Then they moved into a rental down the street and began the long process of relaunching the house with Mr. Fava, Betsy Berry, an interior designer, and Sheila Wertimer, a landscape architect and partner of Wertimer & Cline.

Although the project involved a gut renovation, the design team intended to retain the character of the house while bringing it into the 21st century with contemporary systems and spaces, including rooms for watch television and work from home.

“I believe you can have the best of both worlds in these types of homes, if they are thoughtfully put together,” Mr. Fava said. “It doesn’t have to be a house museum.”

They removed and retained the original doors, moldings and panels, so that they could be copied as needed and put back in place. They repaired the existing floors with matching pieces of antique heart pine and restored the stairs.

Mr. Fava also made significant architectural changes, including removing the floors of an old connected shed to create a new double-height family room on the ground floor, with a large walk-in closet connected to the master suite downstairs. above.

Ms. Berry was equally determined to mix the new with the old. “It was my dream project because the story of the house is so amazing,” she said. “What I like to do is respect and honor this age, but also bring a new sense of youth and modern touches, to give it more life and spirit.”

In the entrance hall and in a veranda, she had the pine floors painted with a decorative pattern, then sanded and scuffed to evoke a sense of old age. In the dining room, which is furnished with a mix of antiques and contemporary custom pieces, she covered the walls with a quaint hand-painted Gracie wallpaper and hung a Branching Bubble chandelier by Lindsey Adelman from the ceiling. .

In the living room, where she hung a 1950s Fontana Arte chandelier in the center of an ornate ceiling medallion, she offered to lacquer the walls and was surprised when Ms Taylor urged her to use a bold raspberry hue.

“I originally showed her a safer color, but she said, ‘No, I want color. I want it to be bold, ”Ms. Berry said. “It was scary for me, but this piece turned out to be beautiful.”

After two years of design and construction, and over $ 4 million, the project the Taylors didn’t want to undertake was finally over. Right before the family moved in, towards the end of December 2019, “We moved everything into their closets, made the beds and decorated for Christmas,” Ms. Berry said. “We had all the fires lit and Christmas music played.”

She added, “We took them through the house with all of their daughters, and then we went up to the living room. And Julie and I just cried and hugged.

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