One of our favorite ways to really absorb a new place is to take note of all of the locale’s design sensibilities, and as I already said on my Instagram here and here, Charleston definitely has some serious style. Below are the top five design “notes” we took on our recent trip to Charleston, South Carolina.
Respect for History
Given that Charleston was founded in 1670, it would be easy for much of their history to have been lost over the years. However, a stroll around most any of the historic district, particularly the residential South of Broad neighborhood, will reveal abundant historical architectual details. Architectural bones and color palettes throughout the historic district remain clean and classic. Though homeowners may experiment with more modern elements inside, the outside of the homes seem untouched, gas lanterns and all. Given Charleston’s age, the city definitely has had some help with developing the beautiful patina seen on both the interiors and the exteriors throughout the city. What we loved is how well maintained and manicured the spaces feel while somehow keeping the beautiful patina rightfully earned through many years of wear and tear, which I am sure is an exceedingly difficult task given the constant moisture that comes with the humidity on the coast.
You all know what I’m talking about. That look that is effortless, put together, and chic all without being remotely ostentatious. The lobby in our hotel was a perfect example. The Zero George Street Inn maintains a neutral color palette with layered textures, original molding, and a beautiful, stately chandelier. Simple and elegant. On the flip side, mixing old bones with some modern accents tends to work really well in the design world when done right, and Charleston proves this to be true time and time again. We often saw traditional details (black and white tile, wainscoting, etc.) mixed with one bold statement color and a more modern, geometric light fixture. This was particularly true in many of the restaurants, as seen with the pop of green, black and white tile, and the modern lighting at The Darling Oyster Bar.
Black and White
The power of adding touches of black in design to add instant sophistication cannot be disputed. Above, you can see black and white used beautifully in two very different spaces. Though both exteriors are clearly classic, the top home is much more bohemian and vibrant than the second with elegant marble mixed with black, white, and perfectly trimmed hedges. However, the black and white color palette keeps both spaces feeling timeless.
It seems like everywhere you look in Charleston, architectural details abound. Almost every space we went in (even the simplest shops) had some kind of molding, wainscoting, or other type of detailed trim work. This city definitely understands that good bones can take any space, interior or exterior, from average to incredible. I love the way The Obstinate Daughter (one of our favorite restaurants in the area) uses bold architectural details with the wooden planks covering every wall and ceiling. It is subtle and sophisticated with a hint of nautical without being obnoxious or overwhelming.
Indoor Outdoor Living
Indoor outdoor living is all the rage right now. I mean, it makes sense. Who doesn’t love the idea of leaving the doors and windows open in the interior of a beautiful home that flows right into luscious gardens and casual outdoor spaces? Charleston has just the right coastal beach vibe and an easy going pace that makes it the perfect place to practice indoor outdoor living. The residents of Charleston take window boxes to a new level, raising the bar for all of us home gardeners. It seems like everywhere you look, life abounds. There are ferns growing from every crack and crevice, overflowing window boxes, and luscious palms all around. The beautiful landscaping and classical details found among the exteriors of the homes around the city welcome you home while also beckoning you back outside to spend time amongst these beautiful outdoor spaces.
Charleston is definitely a place I could see myself spending a lot of time in. With all of its charm and great design sensibilities, it sure makes the heat more bearable. If you missed our travel guide with all our recommendations and a day by day breakdown of what we did while in the city, you can check it out here. We would love to hear if you agree with our design notes or if you have any of your own!