Charleston’s Finest

Im­pec­ca­ble taste and an open mind give th­ese his­toric homes new life.

Victorian Homes - - Contents - BY MEGHAN SALGADO

Im­pec­ca­ble taste and an open mind give th­ese his­toric homes new life.

“For me, the ideal project keeps one foot in the past and one in the present.”

“I con­fess to al­ways hav­ing been more of a vis­ually con­nected per­son as op­posed to a ver­bal one,” says de­signer Amelia Han­de­gan. Based in Charleston, South Carolina, Han­de­gan has over 30 years of ex­pe­ri­ence de­sign­ing up and down the Eastern seaboard. In Amelia Han­de­gan Rooms, stun­ning pho­tos bring to life 13 unique homes the au­thor has worked on, in­clud­ing a few of her own prop­er­ties.

Some­times we find our­selves without the words to ex­plain the vi­sion we have in our heads. But this doesn’t mean you’ll fail at de­sign.


Work­ing pri­mar­ily on the East Coast, Han­de­gan’s book of work is filled with homes dat­ing from pe­ri­ods as early as the 1770s. She is mas­ter­ful in her abil­ity to high­light the beauty of tra­di­tion while also mak­ing a home mod­ern. “I love the con­trast be­tween this con­tem­po­rary and func­tional space in a his­toric set­ting,” she says. “For me, the ideal project keeps one foot in the past and one in the present.” When moving into a his­toric home, you can add mod­ern fea­tures without los­ing the charm of the time pe­riod. Un­ex­pected dé­cor, plus a fo­cus on cre­at­ing func­tional spa­ces, may seem a strange com­bi­na­tion for a his­toric home, but Han­de­gan makes it seem ef­fort­less. Recre­ate this by us­ing pe­riod-ap­pro­pri­ate dé­cor on the walls and set the tone with a more for­mal color. Com­bin­ing form and func­tion­al­ity is par­tic­u­larly rel­e­vant in the bath­room and kitchen. Add small touches in an ap­pro­pri­ate ma­te­rial such as stone or mar­ble to fur­ther high­light the time pe­riod, and be sure to keep mod­ern ap­pli­ances out of sight.


At first glance, the stun­ning sit­ting area and beau­ti­ful bed­room in one of Han­de­gan’s projects makes it seem as if you’re on a grand piece of prop­erty, si­t­u­ated on a lot of land. It comes as quite a shock to learn that th­ese rooms are ac­tu­ally in a pre­war, two-room apart­ment on the Up­per East­side of Man­hat­tan. A me­dia ex­ec­u­tive and a re­peat client of Han­de­gan, the owner of this apart­ment was look­ing for a show-stop­ping at­mos­phere. For this project, the color red was the star. “Kris­ten Bunt­ing, a dec­o­ra­tive artist from Charleston, was drafted to cus­tom­ize the per­fect shade of Vene­tian plas­ter for the liv­ing room walls. The chal­lenge was to de­velop a hue that would com­ple­ment the fab­rics without over­whelm­ing the small space,” Amelia says. At­ten­tion to space and light was es­sen­tial to the suc­cess of the red tones here. She played up the light in the space us­ing gold- leaf tea pa­per on the ceil­ing of the liv­ing area. “Here, the gilded sur­face helps to cre­ate a glow in a room that does not re­ceive much direct light,” she says. If you’re de­cid­ing whether or not to re­paint, pay at­ten­tion to how light will change the color through­out the day when ob­serv­ing your paint swatch. Be care­ful not to choose too deep a color when work­ing with any­thing like this rich red hue.

This project il­lus­trates Han­de­gan’s mas­tery of es­tab­lish­ing re­la­tion­ships with her clients and mak­ing sim­i­lar de­sign de­ci­sions work on vastly different prop­er­ties. Pick a de­sign el­e­ment you want to be known for and re­peat it across sev­eral rooms. Just as this client has used red across mul­ti­ple prop­er­ties, hav­ing a sig­na­ture color pal­ette will make your home mem­o­rable.

Amelia also made small shifts to the ar­chi­tec­ture of the apart­ment to open up the rooms for en­ter­tain­ing, some­thing very im­por­tant to her client. “The salon-like liv­ing area was de­signed for max­i­mum seat­ing, from the am­ple red sofa by the win­dow to the dra­matic cor­ner ban­quette cov­ered in hand­stamped and gilded vel­vet,” she says. Han­de­gan also shifted the en­trance of the bed­room, and cre­ated a unique bar­rier be­tween the two rooms. “I had a set of jack-wood screens from In­dia made into slid­ing doors to sep­a­rate the two rooms. Even when the doors are closed, the per­fo­rated pan­els al­low light into the liv­ing room from the bed­room, giv­ing the space a more ex­pan­sive feel­ing,” she says. Again, we see Han­de­gan play with light to keep the rich and lux­u­ri­ous dé­cor from feel­ing too heavy in the small space. Consider adding French doors to cre­ate pri­vacy in a smaller space without sac­ri­fic­ing light.


Han­de­gan her­self owns an 1820s South Carolina wa­ter­front prop­erty on the Ash­ley River, which served as her pri­mary res­i­dence for over twenty years. “When I moved in, my youngest son rode a tri­cy­cle in the en­trance hall and my older son was away at board­ing school,” she says. Over the two decades she

Unafraid of the un­ex­pected, Amelia in­cor­po­rates pieces from far­away places such as Laos, Cam­bo­dia and even In­dia.

lived in this home, Amelia cre­ated a space that felt com­fort­ing and warm. This Greek Re­vival-style home is a med­ley of the South and the past, some­thing she kept in mind as she moved through the de­sign process. The over­all ar­chi­tec­ture fol­lows the Charleston dou­ble style, two rooms wide with a spa­cious foyer, yet each room has per­fect clas­si­cal pro­por­tions with square lay­outs and high ceil­ings. Cre­ate the il­lu­sion of a taller room in your own home with the win­dow hang­ings you choose. Us­ing pat­tern or de­tail­ing on top of your drapes draws the eye up­ward and will give your home the same clas­si­cal feel­ing.

Han­de­gan per­fectly blends the two by in­cor­po­rat­ing col­ors and cul­tures close to her own heart. She says, “It could have been fur­nished in a tra­di­tional man­ner, but with my in­cli­na­tion for the un­usual, I chal­lenged my­self to place my off­beat col­lectibles in rooms that were prob­a­bly entitled to things more sub­dued and elegant.” Unafraid of the un­ex­pected, Han­de­gan in­cor­po­rates pieces from far­away places such as Laos, Cam­bo­dia and even In­dia.

Han­de­gan uses color to bring the rooms to life. “With no client to please other than my­self, I in­dulged my pref­er­ence for the col­ors in the fan deck that are of­ten over­looked… what pleases me is ex­ploit­ing color re­la­tion­ships and bal­ance in or­der to pro­vide depth of tone,” she says. By lay­er­ing un­ex­pected dé­cor on top of tra­di­tional ar­chi­tec­ture, Han­de­gan cre­ates in­trigue in her de­signs. Do the same by choos­ing a bold color for your walls. If bright color in a more pub­lic space like your liv­ing or dining room is in­tim­i­dat­ing, be­gin with your mas­ter bath or bed­room. Af­ter dé­cor de­sign fell into place, Han­de­gan be­gan to in­crease the func­tion­al­ity of her home, from the moder­nity of the kitchen to con­vert­ing rooms to be rel­e­vant to her life­style.

Of one of her largest ren­o­va­tions she says, “I found a war­ren of rooms in­clud­ing two with dirt floors. I turned one room into a guest bed­room. An­other be­came a bath­room with clos­ets and a large porce­lain free­stand­ing tub.” Don’t have whole rooms to de­vote to adding func­tion­al­ity? Cre­ate func­tional ar­eas in your home with fur­ni­ture that can serve mul­ti­ple pur­poses in the same space.

Han­de­gan isn’t in­tim­i­dated by th­ese highly involved projects, and her pa­tience al­lows the orig­i­nal de­sign of the home to sing af­ter she has fin­ished. This acutely per­sonal look into her own home al­lows us to see her deep ded­i­ca­tion to the de­sign process she uses in both her own home and client’s homes.

Over the two decades she lived in this home, Amelia cre­ated a space that felt com­fort­ing and warm.

Amelia Han­de­gan Rooms by Amelia Han­de­gan with In­grid Abramovitch, pub­lished by Riz­zoli In­ter­na­tional Pub­li­ca­tions, Inc., © 2016; riz­

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.