There is a reason Charleston has been called the best city in the world. The culture, the architecture, the grand homes and the natural wonders that surround us are renowned.
In 1977, Spoleto Festival USA brought an even sharper focus to what we have in our nook of the globe. The pandemic prevented the annual festival in 2020 for the first time since its inception. But, it’s back, and it begins a week from today, May 28.
“It is absolutely on again,” Nigel Redden, the General Director of Spoleto Festival USA, said when I spoke to him last week about how Spoleto will be somewhat different this year. “It is such a relief to have it back, and I am so looking forward to seeing live performances. I’ve been to so few live performances in the last year. I think I was an eight-year-old when I last went to so few, and I’m 70.”
The Spoleto Festival sparks an emergence for all of us, a milestone. The celebration, albeit in smaller form, is making its 2021 debut, with live outdoor performances at the College of Charleston’s Cistern Yard and River’s Green and smaller ones at the Dock Street Theatre and Festival Hall. Masks and “pod” seating will be at all venues. Chamber musicians will perform within an intimate setting indoors.
“People are coming back, without question,” said Redden. “Audiences will be smaller than usual because we have less tickets to sell. Chamber music performances will be at the Dock Street Theatre, one of the wonderful theaters in the world, though we are only selling 116 seats in the 465-seat theater.”
The 2021 poster is very special this year, Redden said. “It’s so appropriate when you’re thinking about home,” he said. “It’s a photograph of an olive tree that is near the photographer’s home in Spoleto, Italy. It is a wonderful representation of life, growth and constant care—an especially meaningful symbol after the difficulty of last year.”
The photographer, JoAnn Verburg, has exhibited her work nationwide and internationally, including solo exhibits at The Museum of Modern Art in New York and at the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston.
Classic and new — downtown
One can’t talk about art or culture in the Lowcounty without referring to the architectural excellence that runs throughout the region. Charleston’s commitment to style is a cultural staple in our communities.
Let’s begin downtown in Harleston Village. The village, which began in the 1700s, comprises Georgian and Italianate architecture.
“Harleston Village is a sought-after area of peninsular Charleston,” said Leslie Turner of Maison Real Estate. “There are tree-lined streets and joggers and cyclists head to the sidewalks and shady trees around Colonial Lake, known as “The Pond.’ It is also a favorite destination for plein air painters.”
Turner lists a historic home in the Village at 4 Smith Street for $1.795 million. It is a quintessential 1860s Charleston single, with a modern twist, akin to art that uses mixed media, such as the brilliance of Pablo Picasso, or pop artists Andy Warhol and Richard Hamilton. The mixed media art form uses anything and everything to create a harmonious whole or bring a new perspective to a space.
Within walking distance to the Gibbes Museum, the Preservation Society of Charleston, Charleston Library Society and several downtown historic landmarks such as the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist, if one wants to immerse themselves in Charleston culture, this an excellent home in which to do so.
The owner, Alison Spear, is an award-winning architect and interior designer who has designed both residential and commercial projects nationally. Relying on her own expertise and others who had a hand in making the house a home—landscape architect, Shelia Wertimer, craftspeople, art dealers and artists—the home is a cohesive collage of classic and contemporary.
“Allison decided to add an addition on to the original home and she drew a line in the sand,” Turner said. “What is old, is old and would be preserved. What is new will be modern, fresh and use interesting materials. Her design for the addition complements the old architecture of the home but she doesn’t like to copy from the past.”
The home was entirely gut-renovated, according to Turner. One of those “lines in the sand” Spear adhered to is where the kitchen, or hyphen, meets the original structure.
“It is a perfect dimension for an elongated galley kitchen running the length of the elevated cocktail terrace platform overlooking the garden,” Turner explained.
The “hyphen” transformed as a kitchen opens onto the porch, making the outdoors another room. “This space feels very indoor/outdoor in an unusual way for a Charleston single,” she said.
Spear’s modern element was the addition and her goal was for it to contrast with the original structure of the home, yet work harmoniously with it. Inspired by an old building she saw in Ireland, the roof of the addition is a classic shape—barrel-vaulted—but in a modern language. Using a weatherproof industrial metal, its geometric shape ensures proper drainage. Sustainability was at the forefront as well — reclaimed wood is used, and form and function marry beautifully.
“The space (in the back of the home) contains a chic family room with reclaimed wood beams, built-in bookshelves, a huge wall to highlight art, a floating staircase that is light and airy built in an industrial style of reclaimed wood, and a cool loft that could be used as a guest room or office. “
Spear said: “Charleston has been a dream for us – we have loved every minute at 4 Smith Street; as an architect it is my and my husband’s joy to move on to new projects as adventures. We will always have a foothold in Charleston and look forward to experimenting with new, exciting, and challenging architectural adventures.”
The home’s lavish garden space is laid out like a series of rooms, a garden shed mimics the addition’s metal roof. “The garden feels expansive and modern with a reflecting pool with fish in it.”
A brilliant collage indeed.
Contemporary island living
Water views in the Lowcountry are a masterpiece and large windows that frame those vistas complete it. The modern home at 1538 Wando View Street on Daniel Island reflects a modern coastal vibe on its exterior. But, inside the home celebrates the modern art form, using innovative shapes, colors and lines to define its dramatic personality. Matisse, Kandinsky and Picasso all used shapes and bold color in their work. The home is listed at $5.995 million.
“When we get to represent a house that is so beautifully designed and has so many meaningful spaces, it’s magic,” said Jacquie Dinsmore of Carolina One Real Estate. Dinsmore co-lists the property with agent Clarice Cawood.
The five-bedroom, 5,500 square foot custom home was built by Shelter in 2016, one of the Lowcountry’s premier builder, and one that has earned multiple PRISM awards and the highest rating from Guild Quality. Architect Damien Busillo had a hand in its “coastal chic” design that incorporates a private white sand beach and private dock. The elevated masterpiece has 280-degree unobstructed water and marsh views from every room.
“The house was designed to bring the outside in,” said Cawood. “The setting enhances this home’s unique beauty.”
Unique is an understatement. Inside, white oaks run throughout. An open, airy kitchen has reclaimed wood from a barn in Kentucky that runs behind the stove and cascades overhead on to the ceiling. Below it is a large island with room for five to sit. The dining and living areas flow into the kitchen and striking fixtures, finishings and artwork show up everywhere. The dining room’s light fixture is a replica of a vintage one the owner found in a magazine. She enlisted the help of her designer Hollis Erickson. After sketching it out for Erickson, it was hanging in the home within a few weeks.
The colorful abstract art that is scattered throughout the home is mostly by Joseph Fern, her husband’s brother and an artist who lives in the Hudson Valley.
Owners Jennifer and John Fern, who have been developing real estate in Nantucket for 12 years, said that she and her family sometimes live in the homes they build and they sometimes sell them. The living moss art hanging in the dining room was Jennifer’s creation.
“I designed it after being inspired while checking into a boutique hotel with a moss wall a few years ago in New York City,” she said. Fern said the home is “magical,” and she wanted what she put inside it to feel the same.
“The house itself has been exactly what we wanted, with places for kids, teens and adults to live, gather and entertain, and the outdoor space is something really special.”
Enchanting is an apt descriptor as well, along with very private. Expansive gathering, cooking, and dining areas—from the outdoor kitchen to the bar, complete with flat screen and bright green bar chairs—the outdoor spaces are exceptional. Water views are a large part of the picture. A Gunite pool and spa area makes it feel like an island paradise.
Pops of green and orange (the green front door, orange Adirondack chairs on a lower deck), and other bright colors repeat themselves in art and furnishings against neutral walls. The primary suite is on the main level and its ensuite bath has a herringbone tile floor, large shower and a soaking tub underneath a large window. A custom light fixture hangs overhead and a floating double vanity with plenty of storage complete this private enclave of the home. Four other bedrooms are on the level above, all with ensuite bathrooms.
“The home has a touch around every corner that makes you realize what a great collaboration between architect, builder and client can do for a home,” said Dinsmore of Carolina One. “The entire place is in sync. It’s beautiful, but functional. You can picture yourself with the cup of coffee at sunrise and the glass of wine at sunset—it is harmonious.”
If one wanted to live within a modern masterpiece, this home is as close to perfect as it gets.
“Our kids love jumping off the dock, fishing, kayaking and walking down the beach at low tide looking for arrowheads and other treasures,” Jennifer Fern added. “I cherish watching the sun rise over the Wando River and the thrill of watching dolphins breach the water – it never gets old. We are ready to create another home on Daniel Island, but we’ll miss this place. It’s one of a kind.”
Traditional in Summerville
Summerville is a creative hub—a thriving art community with its own art scene, evident in the murals that decorate some of its historic main street buildings to the sculpture collection in Azalea Park to its picturesque streets of homes that look straight out of a classic painting. One could compare the home at 208 Sumter Avenue to the masters; Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Sandro Botticelli, Johannes Vermeer, Monet, Van Gogh, all had works depicting both realistic and fantastical interpretations of life.
Known as “The Elizabeth Arden Home,” it most assuredly captures an old-world charm in the middle of historic Summerville. It has housed its share of creative residents since it was built in 1897. First the home of Charleston attorney Samuel Lord in the late 1800s, its current moniker stuck once the cosmetic giant bought the home in the late 1930s.
“In 1938 Elizabeth Arden bought the southern Victorian-style estate as a summer home and sold the house after many years in 1954 while creating the Elizabeth Arden cosmetic empire,” said Kalyn Smythe of William Means Real Estate.
Arden’s signature style showed up here and there while she was busy creating her legendary line of cosmetics, and those elements remain today. While living here, she opened her Red Door salons in fashion capitals all over the world.
“Arden reportedly painted the front door a different color for each season, but it now remains red, the inspiration for the entrances to Elizabeth Arden Salons. There is also ivory disc on the bannister, which indicated that the house was owned without debt,” Smythe said.
Beautiful, hand-carved mouldings decorate nearly every room. Crystal chandeliers, curved doorways and floor-to-ceiling windows are abundant. Fanciful murals appear in a child’s room. The main home has upholstered walls in the dining and bedroom. A gracious dressing room has built-in cabinets upstairs. Double piazzas give the home its grand appearance—Victorian with Lowcountry charm, it has original heart pine floors, 12-foot ceilings and six fireplaces. With over 7,400 square feet, five bedrooms and six and a half bathrooms, modernity has been seamlessly integrated with an elevator, chef’s kitchen with Viking appliances and a pool house with an outdoor kitchen. It is ideal for large parties
Gazebos and three separate cottages on the Robert Marvin designed grounds give guests plenty of privacy and room to spread out. Listed at $2.295 million, it has been on the market for less than a month. The current owners purchased the property from Mrs. Lillian Bostwick Phipps.
“Mrs. Phipps was married to the late Ogden Phipps and their daughter was then fashion designer Lilly Pulitzer,” said Smythe. “This home is within walking distance of downtown Summerville, town hall and shopping.”
Imagine the creative souls who’ve visited this home and walked along its 1.2 acres. Inspiration for any artist of any medium.
“The Elizabeth Arden house is a truly magnificent property enriched with a remarkable history, timeless elegance, and magical grounds,” Smythe added.
Contact Brigitte Surette at [email protected].