Our Very Own Renovation!
My husband and I are restoring an 1859 Historical House in Historic Downtown Summerville, where we will also live! As an Interior Designer and artist, my aesthetic of traditional meets modern, contemporary sensibility with an informed sense of history is bringing the house to life. My husband, Brian, and I fell in love with Summerville, South Carolina, something of a perfect midpoint of the places we grew up, combining both the coastal landscape and the sense of history we love. Identifying as a New Traditionalist, this historic area’s architecture is right in line with my Interior Design passions.
From the first time my husband and I visited Charleston, I will tell you we were in love with it. We came here often, and this was one of our favorite getaways. On one such visit, we decided to take a short hop to check out this bedroom community of the Holy City called Summerville; we couldn’t believe how charming the town was! (and still is!). How did we not know of this place?! With street upon street of trees with Spanish moss dripping from the limbs, antebellum cottages with climbing vines, gorgeous rooflines, and streets perfumed with the blossoms of gardenias and jasmine, its Southern charm cast its spell on us.
Isn't she a Historic Beaut?
The House we chose is typed “rare” for the area. It is one of 3 Charleston singles in Summerville. Ours is three windows wide instead of the two window width traditionally found in the peninsula of Charleston. We also loved the fact that it was right downtown and struck us as a proper city house. We knew right away that we needed to compile a full history as to the House’s lineage. We put together an abstract showing the chain of title back to the early 1800s to include the plantation’s name on which the House once sat. It was then time for us to name the House, and based on all our research, ‘The Coburn Hutchinson House’ encompassed the first families…and it was time to commence our chapter of the book.
Summerville is aptly named “Flower Town in the Pines.” It earned its name through the influx of wealthy Charlestonians who came to Summerville to “take the cure” and clear their lungs in the 19th century, as Yellow Fever was a real problem in the port city in the mid-1800s. The entire town filled with pine trees was believed the turpine in the air from the pines helped to clear one’s lungs, and it was a destination for healing for those suffering from pulmonary issues.
But it is the pretty streets filled with azaleas and the aromas of other types of southern blooms that not only drew luminaries like Elizabeth Arden to winter here year after year but have also influenced and flavored our choices. All of these elements have serendipitously guided us into a more romantic, lyrical, organic, natural design theme…and we couldn’t be happier about it. And of course, our design choices are driven by the eras the House had survived, and they are classic yet approachable. The House itself draws you in, and everyone that drops by always comments on that feature. By making thoughtful restoration decisions that showcase unique craftsmanship details, we maintain that cozy, hospitable, and welcoming environment.
We had spent considerable time shoring up the foundation and bones of the structure before any of the ‘pretty stuff’ started coming in! Ultimately, our goal is to honor the past today with this Historic House project. By blending the design palette between 1859 and today, we create a space that spans the generations, pays tribute to how far we have come, and shows how we can move forward.
What advice would you give to someone renovating an old/historic home? How do you find a balance and tie together the past and the new?
I enjoy making thoughtful choices. I find researching to get all the information I can is the key to historic homes. Find knowledgeable people in the immediate area to educate you. It’s a good idea to commission a design consultant who can help you move forward on the correct path, as many mistakes regarding color and hard surfaces can be costly to remediate. Take strides not to pigeonhole yourself into a vision of new vs. old. Honor your vision, but always remember to listen to the House; it wants you to help it to tell its story.