January 25, 2018

A Historic Charleston Charmer Is Brought Back to Life

  • By: Bryan Anthony, Houzz

This story first appeared on Houzz. Find the original here.

For as long as historic bus tours have been run along the cobblestone streets of Charleston, South Carolina, a point of interest has been the classical revival home originally owned by John N. Tidemann. A pre-Civil War beauty boasting wrought iron gates, mahogany shutters, and a gracious front porch (or piazza), this “Charleston single” home was beginning to show its age when Nancy and Steve Feinberg purchased it in 2014. The Feinbergs, who own a manufacturing company in Hong Kong, had been living in Chicago nine months a year and wintering in Charleston for more than a decade. They were now ready to split their time evenly between the Windy City and the charming Southern town. To make the transition complete, the Feinbergs reached out to Palm Springs, California, interior designer Dann Foley to bring back their historic house’s original grandeur.

The home has dual badges of preservation: It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and its facade is protected by the Historic Charleston Foundation. The Feinbergs and their designer did not find these protections limiting, however. They had every intention of embracing and enhancing the historic character of the home while bringing its inner workings, including its plumbing and HVAC system, into the 21st century. “My clients wanted to live with the past—not in it,” Foley says.

Before selecting new paint colors for the exterior of the house, Foley and the homeowners walked historic downtown Charleston for hours, taking snapshots of historic homes painted in colors that caught their attention. Then they sorted through the images and whittled them down until they came up with their favorite combination of gray and blue.

One style selection for the exterior that went against tradition, but didn’t run afoul of the Historic Charleston Foundation’s rules, was leaving the mahogany front door unpainted. “Almost all front doors in Charleston are painted, but we decided to make it a subtle but powerful statement by leaving it natural,” Foley says. The front porch's copper gas lanterns, ceiling fans, and outdoor furniture create a relaxing spot for taking in the evening breeze. Crisp white linen drapes that wrap around the patio were inspired by the Delano Hotel in Miami.

An eclectic mix of styles greets visitors as they walk through the front door into the foyer. Underneath the first floor stairs, the powder room was remodeled to become a wet room. An antique red lacquered Chinese table was retrofitted into a vanity and topped with a bronze bowl sink.

Houzz at a Glance

Who lives here: Nancy and Steve Feinberg.

Location: Charleston, South Carolina.

Size: 3,000 square feet (278.7 square meters); three bedrooms, three bathrooms.

Designer: Dann Foley.

Foley says that he likes to curate a house rather than decorate it. The home’s living room might be the best example of his keen eye for curating a space, with pieces from different time periods that nonetheless appear to have been made for one another, such as a modern chandelier and a gilded antique mirror.

“We wanted the home’s original molding to stand out, so we didn’t add busy wallpaper or distracting colors to the walls,” Foley says.

Instead, neutral tones were used throughout the house. Color was added through furniture, fabrics, and art. All of the home’s fireplace mantels and surrounds are original. The room's large area rug looks like an antique but is actually a new design. The grand piano was relocated from the Feinbergs’ home in Chicago. “Steve is an excellent musician, and he likes to play the piano for guests,” Foley says. “At first he was going to buy a new one in Charleston, but he loved his old one so much that he decided to have it shipped out here.”

A particularly stunning gold-framed painting in the room was created by Charleston artist Rhett Thurman. “Nancy and Steve really wanted a piece by Rhett because her work is so quintessentially Charleston,” says Foley. “The painting they selected is of the street they used to live on before moving here, so it brings a bit of the past with them."

“Formal yet inviting” is how Foley describes the house. “With its 10-foot ceilings, the house is grand, but it’s also quite livable—there’s not a whole lot of wasted space,” he says.

While a separate dining room would have been the more traditional approach to take for a home of this era, opening a space to the kitchen was a nod to a more contemporary way of hosting. An antique French lantern was stripped of its glass to create a sculptural chandelier over the dining table. A gray-washed armoire is full of china and glassware, and it makes up for the lack of storage space that Foley says is common in many homes from this era.

The kitchen was the one room in the house that didn’t have original pine floors. Luckily, after removing the old tile flooring, Foley and his team discovered original pine floor joists. The joists were replaced with new ones, and the old joists were planed into floorboards and stained to match the wood floors throughout the rest of the home.

Fearing that all-white kitchen cabinets would be too bland and all-dark ones too foreboding, Foley took a hybrid approach and used dark wood for the island and end caps, and painted all the other cabinets white. A breakfast nook off the kitchen is perhaps the room the Feinbergs use more than any other. With its built-in banquet, wine cabinet, and flat-screen television, it’s an ideal spot for reading the morning paper or hanging out with friends over a glass of wine.

A den on the second floor is a multipurpose room that functions as a television-watching space and an office for Nancy and Steve, who often work from home. Besides playing the piano, Steve is also proficient on the guitar. A hand sculpture doubles as a display stand for one of his guitars, and a collection of framed record albums is displayed over the fireplace.

Due to a fireplace located on the opposite wall, placing the bed along the window wall made the most sense for the master bedroom. For a visual backdrop, Foley used floor-to-ceiling drapes. Center drapes are stationary while outsides drapes can open and close. Gray flannel was selected for the bedding and armchair, so they would complement each other. A series of framed photographs over the dresser was taken by the Feinbergs while traveling the globe.

In a previous remodel of the master bathroom, the window had been tiled over and one of the main sources of natural light had been removed from the room. Foley tore down the wall and hung two mirrors from the ceiling to keep the window mostly unobstructed. An antique Chinese armoire provides storage. “I feel that furniture is a much prettier way to add storage than adding extra cabinets,” he says. Floor and shower-surround tiles in the master bathroom are marble. Two guest rooms on the third floor have peaked ceilings, completing this comfortable and cozy space for friends and family.

By: Bryan Anthony, Houzz

Have a story idea that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience? Read our Contributor Guidelines and email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.

More posts by guest authors (239)

Join the movement to save and sustain historic African American places. The African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund will help every American see themselves, their history, and their potential in our collective story and national cultural landscape.

Learn More