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Cover: WHITE IBIS YEMASSEE, SOUTH CAROLINA

Inside Front Cover: T H E AT L A N T I C N E P T U N E BY JOSEPH FREDERICK WALLET DESBARRES (PUB. 1777–1780)

Inside Back Cover: M O S S C U R TA I N ACE BASIN, SOUTH CAROLINA

Back Cover: UNTITLED FLETCHER WILLIAMS III 2019 A C R Y L I C O N PA P E R


THE URBAN ELECTRIC CO. PRESENTS

THE CURRENT While last year we explored a sense of place by traveling to all corners of the globe, this year we’re celebrating our world more immediately here in Charleston. And the journey has been no less imbued with fresh and untapped discoveries—in fact, proximity has sharpened our view of the city where we live and work. Across artistic styles, complementary cultures, changing landscapes and the creative thought that flows from growth and progress, Volume 3 of The Current pays tribute to what it means to be at home, and how the power of discovery can transport us into the familiar unknown in the process.

VOL. 3


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T H E C U R R E N T, V O L . 3


CONTENTS DESIGN 33 DESIGNING WOMEN

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At Home with Charleston’s Shelter Luminaries

A SCENE UNSEEN

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A Peek Inside a Tucked Away Metal Studio

MARK MARESCA & KATHRYN FAULL 78 In Conversation with a Creative Family Dynasty

ARCHITECTURE 89 AULDBRASS 104 Frank Lloyd Wright as Produced by Joel Silver

A SCENE UNSEEN 125 The Untold History of Charleston’s Naval Yard

RAY HUFF

134 The Life and Times of a Modern Legend

LANDSCAPE 141 STEVENS TOWING 154 The Buoyant Marriage of Design and Industry

A SCENE UNSEEN 173 Behind the Gates of a Secret Garden

SARA YORK GRIMSHAW

182 A Flower Child in Full Bloom

CULTURE 191 FLETCHER WILLIAMS III 202 An Artist Returns to the Lowcountry

A SCENE UNSEEN 219 Opening A Centuries-Old Vault

CYRUS BUFFUM 228 What Lies Beneath

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PORTE BLACKENED PEWTER FINISH ANTIQUE BRASS ACCENTS INTERIORS BY A. VILLALOBOS PHOTOGRAPHY BY ERIC PIASECKI


NEEDLES HANG V I N TA G E F I N I S H G I LT A C C E N T S SEEDED GLASS INTERIORS BY STEPHANIE MOLSTER INTERIORS ARCHITECTURE BY DUFFORD YOUNG ARCHITECTS


C H I LT E R N D O U B L E ANTIQUE BRASS FINISH ANTIQUE BRASS ACCENTS RAL #6013 REED GREEN SHADE METRO ANTIQUE BRASS FINISH ANTIQUE BRASS ACCENTS INTERIORS BY CORTNEY BISHOP DESIGN P H O T O G R A P H Y B Y K AT I E C H A R L O T T E


THURLOE BRONZE FINISH TRANSLUCENT ANTIQUE MIRROR ON REEDED GLASS I N T E R I O R S B Y J E S S E PA R R I S - L A M B PHOTOGRAPHY BY NICOLE FRANZEN


AT L I T T L E J A C K ’ S TAV E R N FOR MORE HOMETOWN HIGHLIGHTS F R O M O U R T E A M , S E E PA G E 1 6 .


FOUNDER’S NOTE

AT HOME Home is a special place. Now more than ever.

There’s an exclusive tour of one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s

This past year was a surreal one. Yet for all its challenges,

daughter dynasty, an avant-garde artist and a modern

it also gave us the opportunity to reflect on the people and the palette right in front of us. And, in the process, to remember all that we love about our hometown of

Charleston and why we decided to open our doors in this

few Southern masterpieces; profiles of a creative fathertimes Cousteau; and peeks inside the homes of a group

of women shaping the interior design scene through their own personal visions.

city nearly two decades ago.

We even asked our team for their favorite spots, places

It is a city rich in notable architecture, alive with fresh

of their selections are, unsurprisingly, off the beaten

design talent, surrounded by a landscape of waterways and imbued with a sophisticated artistic and literary

culture. These are the indelible undercurrents that keep

they love and that connect them to the Lowcountry. Many tourist trail (mine, at left, is a cozy burger and bourbon joint on Upper King Street).

this historic jewel shining three centuries on.

At the end of the day, Charleston is not just the place we

Much more than a postcard, Charleston is our inspiration.

place we found ourselves happiest to return for Volume 3.

Our community. Our original source of collaboration. And in this latest edition, we are excited to show the many reasons why.

hunkered down but also the home we chose. And it’s the

Enjoy this latest edition of The Current.

Dave Dawson April 2021

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OUR TOWN WHEN IT COMES TO CHARLESTON, OUR ROOTS RUN DEEP. SO WE TAPPED OUR TEAM—A MIX OF LIFETIME LOCALS AND MORE RECENT, BUT NO LESS INTERTWINED, TRANSPLANTS—TO SHOW US THEIR FAVORITE DISCOVERIES. FROM FISHING HOLES TO WATERING HOLES, EACH OF THESE PLACES IS A LESSON IN HOW, EVEN IN A CITY FULL OF CHARMS, WE ALL HAVE SPOTS WE FIND MOST MEANINGFUL.


S A LT Y M I K E ’ S CITY MARINA

“I’VE BEEN COMING HERE FOREVER. IT’S JUST AN AUTHENTIC GEM THAT TOURISTS STILL DON’T KNOW ABOUT.”

KATE, SALES (WITH LEON THE KING)


R AN T OWL E S CR E E K JOHNS ISLAND

“RANTOWLES CREEK WAS ONE OF THE FIRST PLACES I GOT TO EXPLORE WHEN I STARTED KAYAKING. IT’S ONE OF THE ONLY SPOTS WHERE I CAN REGULARLY GO WHERE THE WATER IS SO CALM THAT IT REFLECTS THE VIEWS AROUND ME, AND I ALMOST CAN’T TELL WHICH WAY IS UP AND WHICH WAY IS DOWN.” CHRIS, PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT


CHICO FEO F O L LY B E AC H

“CHICO FEO IS MY HAPPY PLACE ON FOLLY BEACH. IT’S AN OUTDOOR HOLE-IN-THEWALL THAT’S BEER AND WINE ONLY WITH A 5-ITEM ASIAN MENU. TWINKLE LIGHTS AND LANTERNS HANG IN THE TREES AND THERE’S ALWAYS REALLY GOOD MUSIC PLAYING.” HOPE, NEW PRODUCT DESIGN


THE SHED ANSONBOROUGH

“THERE ARE A HANDFUL OF URBAN FOLKS WHO HAVE ALSO WORKED AT CHARLESTON PEDICAB. THIS SPOT IS REVERED AMONG RIDERS AS A HUB OF FRIENDSHIPS, SHARED EXPERIENCES OF JOY AND COLLECTIVE EFFORT AND IMMENSE LOVE AND CAMARADERIE. THE BIKE SHED ITSELF MAY NOT BE THE PRETTIEST BUILDING DOWNTOWN, BUT IT HOUSES THE VEHICLES THAT ACT AS CONDUITS TO SO MUCH OF WHAT MAKES THIS CITY SO GREAT.” KEENAN & JAY, CRAFT


M A D R A R UA PA R K C I R C L E

“I WAS HERE WHEN THE DOORS OPENED. I WAS HERE WHEN MY GRANDFATHER DIED AND SPENCE BOUGHT THE WHOLE BAR A ROUND TO TOAST HIM. I WAS HERE WHEN CHELSEA WON THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE. I WAS HERE THE MOMENT THEY REOPENED THEIR DOORS THIS YEAR AFTER A FIRE DESTROYED IT.” ANNE, CREATIVE


R I V E R F R O N T PA R K N O R T H C H A R L E S TO N

“WHEN I FIRST MOVED HERE, I STARTED WALKING AT THE PARK TO CLEAR MY MIND. I RAN INTO THIS PIER AND IT IS THE SINGLE MOST RELAXING PLACE TO GO. PLUS, THERE’S A REALLY GREAT ICE CREAM SHOP NEARBY.”

DAISHA, FLEET


B O T A N Y B AY E D I S TO B E AC H

“I KNOW IT’S NOT TECHNICALLY CHARLESTON, BUT THIS PLACE TOPS MY LIST. IT IS JUST SO BEAUTIFUL HERE.” JORDAN, PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT


MOR R I S I S LAN D L IGH T HOUS E F O L LY B E AC H

“IF YOU HEAD OUT ON THE BEACH FOR ABOUT A MILE THERE IS A BEND WHERE THE OCEAN MEETS THE MARSH. EVERY TIME I GO OUT THERE, WITHOUT FAIL, I SEE DOLPHINS.” SAM, CRAFT


THE BRIDGE SPOT WESTSIDE

“THERE ARE A LOT OF SKATEBOARDERS AT URBAN THAT, OVER THE PAST 10 YEARS, HAVE HELPED BUILD THIS CONCRETE SKATE PARK UNDER THE BRIDGE ON HUGER STREET. IT’S A SPACE CREATED BY THOSE OF US IN THE LOCAL SKATE COMMUNITY TO BE ABLE TO COME TOGETHER AND PROMOTE A POSITIVE, SAFE ATMOSPHERE AND A HEALTHY CULTURE.”

GARRICK, EVAN & MATT, CRAFT


S T E AM B OAT LAN D I N G E D I S TO I S L A N D

“THIS PLACE, THIS SPOT, IT’S BASICALLY WHERE I GREW UP. MY BROTHER AND COUSINS AND I WOULD ALWAYS RIDE OUR BIKES DOWN HERE JUST TO HANG OUT AND RELAX.”

STRETCH, CRAFT


PH I LADE L PH IA AL L EY FRENCH QUARTER

“THIS WAS THE FIRST LOCATION I GOT TO HELP MY BROTHER WHEN HE STARTED HIS CAREER AS A PHOTOGRAPHER. LONG STORY SHORT, IT STARTED WITH DRINKS AND ENDED WITH ME GETTING A TATTOO.” WES, CRAFT


IN BLOOM SOUTH OF BROAD F R I D AY, M AY 2 9 , 2 0 2 0 2:23PM


DESIGN

AN INTRINSIC AND CREATIVE FORCE, DESIGN IS ALIVE IN CHARLESTON. IT IS HISTORIC AND MODERN. YOUNG AND MATURE. ESTABLISHED AND EMERGING. ENTRENCHED AND EVER-EVOLVING. A PLACE WITHOUT GEOGRAPHIC OR INSPIRATIONAL PARALLEL. AS MUCH A PART OF LIFE AS TIME AND TIDES, DESIGN IS THE UNDERCURRENT THAT ANIMATES DAILY LIFE FOR THOSE WHO CALL THE CITY HOME, AND THE LURE THAT KEEPS NEWCOMERS ARRIVING. FROM OUR VANTAGE POINT IN THE MIDDLE OF IT ALL, WE EXPLORE SOME OF THE INTERIORS, TASTEMAKERS AND VISIONARIES WHOSE VISUAL BOUNTY IS HEIGHTENED BY THE PROXIMITY TO TALENTS OF ALL DISCIPLINES.

Previous page: Kantha by Maresca Textiles.

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TUCKED IN WRAGGBOROUGH S AT U R D AY, J U N E 1 3 , 2 0 2 0 8:43AM


MAZARINE WALL HEIRLOOM FINISH B L A C K E N E D P E W T E R S H A D E S W I T H M AT C H I N G I N T E R I O R INTERIORS BY CHAD DORSEY DESIGN PHOTOGRAPHY BY STEPHEN KARLISCH


P O P P O L I S H E D B R A S S F I N I S H W I T H C U S T O M W A L L PA P E R I N S E T I N T E R I O R S B Y S A M U E L M A S T E R S , P H O T O G R A P H Y B Y T R E V O R PA R K E R

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LUNDY FLUSHMOUNT POLISHED NICKEL FINISH POLISHED NICKEL ACCENTS INTERIORS BY ELIZABETH BAUER DESIGN ARCHITECTURE BY MITCHELL STUDIO PHOTOGRAPHY BY FRANCESCO LAGNESE


T H E F L AT, C U S T O M I Z E D BRONZE FINISH POLISHED NICKEL ACCENTS INTERIORS BY MARK CUNNINGHAM A R C H I T E C T U R E B Y A U S T I N PAT T E R S O N D I S S T O N A R C H I T E C T S PHOTOGRAPHY BY KYLE KNODELL


DISC ANTIQUE BRASS FINISH WITH POLISHED BRASS ACCENTS POT WHITE GLASS INTERIORS BY STEPHANIE MOLSTER INTERIORS ARCHITECTURE BY DUFFORD YOUNG ARCHITECTS


H O C K N E Y P O L I S H E D N I C K E L F I N I S H W I T H FA R R O W & B A L L # 2 3 0 C A L A M I N E A C C E N T S A N D C U S T O M W A L L PA P E R S H A D E I N T E R I O R S B Y C H A U N C E Y B O O T H B Y, P H O T O G R A P H Y B Y R E A D M C K E N D R E E / J B S A

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D E S I G N I N G WO M E N


ANGIE HRANOWSKY AMELIA HANDEGAN KATE TOWILL ALLISON ABNEY JEN LANGSTON CORTNEY BISHOP TAMMY CONNOR

SEVEN OF CHARLESTON’S MOST INNOVATIVE AND PROLIFIC INTERIOR DESIGNERS OPEN THE DOORS TO THE PLACES THEY CALL HOME. THE RESULT IS A RARE VISUAL FEAST, AN ALL-ACCESS TOUR INTO PRIVATE ROOMS AND PERSONAL SPACES AS ECLECTIC AND EXCITING AS THE VISIONARY WOMEN WHO OCCUPY THEM.

DESIGN


Their official and professional designation may be interior designers, but the work produced and exhibited by women like the seven Charlestonbased tastemakers featured here is nothing if not outward-facing. On a daily basis, their job is to externalize, to create environments that are meant to be seen and experienced by real people and then shared. Every. Single. Day. And in a way that both reflects their clients’ preferences in the moment and also anticipates the way those predilections and spaces will evolve to suit tomorrow’s changing tastes. Their work requires the perfect mixture of subtlety and confidence, flexibility within a fixed mandate. It’s also what makes cultivating a place of one’s own all the more essential—for their own well-being, clarity of perspective and work-life balance. Which is why it’s so interesting to see how these arbiters of taste and vision apply their training and techniques at home, to their own spaces. To be a voyeur looking inward into the houses they’ve transformed into homes, retreats, places for respite, restoration, relaxation, inspiration, family events, solitude. How does someone whose job it is to create uniquely intimate spaces approach the same in their own lives? And what’s more, how does one do that in a place like Charleston, where the complexity of architectural styles, historical references, preservation and governance constraints, landscape variables and modern global influences is felt most acutely by the people who work within those confines on a daily basis? Charleston is famous for its charm, stylistic signatures and (often stereotypical) depictions of a uniform environment curtained in Spanish moss and historical importance. And, yet, beneath the city’s modest size and universal appeal, there remains more to its aesthetic potential than meets the eye. In this legacy landscape, where one encounters natural and man-made inspiration at every turn, the opportunities are virtually limitless. Beachfront clapboard homes buffered by stilts and smart updates. Historic residences that mix their core with modern references. Low-slung new build bungalows that conjure another coast altogether and refute the supremacy of mile-high ceilings and multi-floor piazzas. Rooms that blend books and unexpected builtins with dining spots and views of less formal lounging

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areas beyond. The spaces revealed on the following pages prove that in Charleston, there is room for all manner of style perspectives. But more importantly, they prove that home is where we make our strongest mark. It’s where we combine the familiar with the fantasy, maximize modern conveniences while also leveraging uniquely environmental elements, recognize natural beauty and make compromises based on our own terms, to preserve personality without pretension. These are the layers that true aesthetes, like these seven women, take particular pleasure in excavating and these are the questions that inform their own stories of what led them here in the first place. Each designer dove headfirst into an untapped reservoir of creativity, approaching her work with vigor while also falling in love with her surroundings on a deeper level via the individual dwellings, rooms, nooks and corners designed for reflection, transcendence and transportive experiences.

ANGIE H R A N OWS KY

G

ood things come to those who wait—or, in Angie Hranowsky’s case, to those who go into zen mode after finding the perfect plot of land and exercise extreme patience to create their dream home from the ground up. “I bought the lot way before I got the elements together to actually start on the house,” Angie says. “In hindsight, though, it was the only way it could have happened. I grew up in old houses and love old houses,” she continues, “but I had definitely taken a turn toward modernism when I lived in Miami before settling in Charleston, and the way this place evolved gave me time to come around to the idea of a new build.” The result is an Old Windermere bungalow that is unlike its more traditional neighbors, yet completely fits in—a credit to Angie’s strong individual style, which anchors bold forms and bright colors with low-key architecture and natural materials. “This house probably belongs somewhere more remote, like on Johns Island,” she says, “but I’m a people person—half-introvert, half-extrovert— and I wanted to be surrounded.” Her single-story spread manages to hide in plain sight while also maximizing the panorama of its street-facing, mostly glass façade and deep extended porch. Inside, the primary space is awash in natural light and defined by groupings of furniture, smart transitions and intentional nooks for moments of respite. There’s a brilliant kitchen featuring custom tiles in a sunny geometric pattern (shapes are a design hallmark, a creative throwback to her previous career as a graphic designer). An adjacent dining area showcases a light fixture pinned with family photos; beyond that,

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an airy living space runs the remaining length of the open floor plan. Each “room” flows effortlessly into the next while maintaining its own unique vibe—no walls required. It’s all very public yet also supremely personal. “Everything in this house is special to me,” Angie says. “There are pieces from Morocco, Miami, all my travels, even my front door was inspired by a Luis Barragán house I saw in Mexico. I like sharing that, but at the end of the day, what I really love is that it’s mine.”

AMELIA HANDEGAN

A

melia Handegan is a true original and one of our first collaborators. As an interior designer, she has not only pioneered the way for other women to blaze a trail in the industry, but she has also introduced Charleston to the world as more than an historic touchstone by invigorating the Lowcountry aesthetic with a dose of modernism. Along the way, she has inspired us all, and her personal residences reflect her ability to balance inventiveness, technique and quality with individual expression. Her South of Broad flat features, among other unique elements, a bedchamber and a gallery’s worth of art and textiles—all contained in the tweakedjust-right proportions of the downtown space. Farther out, along an oceanfront stretch of Folly Beach, Amelia applies the same personality and detail to the reimagined saltbox she and her husband bought ten years ago: a glassed-in sleeping porch serves as an oceanfront lookout for grandchildren; a screened-in space on the deck overlooking the garden creates an area for totems, talismans and art projects; interior nooks and stairwells house collectibles such as vintage Jantzen bathing suit mannequins; and a reimagined widow’s walk leads to her husband’s home office in the sky like some new age rooftop dog trot. In Amelia’s world, everything is interesting and nothing is off limits. “I’m not fancy,” she says. “People think I’m intimidating, but I’m not. I’m just shy...except at home.”

KAT E TOW I L L

K

ate Towill is a long way from her life in New York City, but she has never felt more at home. “You sure needed vision to appreciate it,” she says of the 1960s ranch house she has been renovating for her expanding family for the past year. “It’s two blocks from the beach

on the Isle of Palms, tucked back on a great jungle-y lot with a huge winding oak tree covered in fern,” Kate says. “We knew we could create something we would love.” It’s a fitting idyll for recharging from an otherwise jam-packed life. As one half of Basic Projects, the firm she and her chef/restaurateur/hospitality industry veteran husband, Ben, launched a few years ago after relocating to Charleston from New York City, Kate has applied her training as a set designer for the likes of Wes Anderson to interior and commercial design projects on two continents, including restaurants, hotels and two resurrected old school inns anchored by taverns, one in Charleston and the other in Ben’s native Cornwall, England. The kitchen and dining area are the center of life at home, as well. “Heather Wilson, our fantastic architect, said something to me early on that I’ll always remember and that I now pass on to clients: ‘Put your money in the area you spend the most time and let the other parts come later.’ And I’m so happy we listened to her. Being in my kitchen makes me so happy,” Kate continues, “starting when I wake up and the light is intense and bright or at night when I’m cooking with the music going. It’s my little heaven.”

ALLISON ABNEY

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or Allison Abney it all started with textiles. “My mother made all of my dresses when I was growing up,” she says, “and even then I was selecting the fabrics I wanted her to use.” As she got older, that nascent vision matured into a more holistic approach to design, which spanned from handbags to, eventually, interiors. Now, through her work in the Abney & Morton firm she cofounded with Boo Morton, she focuses on bringing out her clients’ inner eye through spaces that eschew novelty or excess in favor of authentic personality. That streamlined philosophy extends to her own home, as well, which is located on Allan Park, a tucked-away gem just south of the Olmsted-designed Hampton Park that is more redolent of Savannah’s lush squares than Charleston’s greenways lined with live oaks and cobblestones. “When we bought this house in 2006, it was just my husband, me and our dog,” Allison says. “Instead of looking for houses and starting our search that way, we looked for neighborhoods and then watched for houses to become available. Hampton Park Terrace spoke to us immediately for its architectural diversity, which is rare downtown. The homes are a collection of Freedman’s cottages, Craftsman and Prairie-style houses, American Foursquares, Colonial Revivals, bungalows.” Having kids pushed the timeline back for a planned renovation, which they completed in 2018. “I always knew what I wanted—because I always know what I like, which is why

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I can recognize what my clients are drawn to, even when they don’t see it for themselves right away. We brought that vision to life finally: we shifted the dining, bedroom and guest room layouts; replaced the galley kitchen; and really maximized the communal places where we can all come together to look out on the neighborhood we love and appreciate.” The expanded kitchen is by far her favorite space. “Honestly? It’s everything I ever wanted,” she says. “It’s a little bit crisp black and white, a little bit country and definitely the place we all converge throughout the day.”

JEN

end up at all hours of the day,” Cortney says, “sometimes together and sometimes alone. We catch up on whatever happened during the day or week, pull out a board game, read, eat a meal on our laps or just enjoy the silence.” It’s not a traditional beach house, but it speaks to Cortney’s interpretation of the refined Sullivan’s Island aesthetic, and contains enough winks to the coastal lifestyle to reflect both a sense of the place and the people who live there. In the cozy corner where Cortney prefers to curl up and relax, there’s a fireplace surrounded by custom tiles, a surfboard and Native American treasures. There’s a view of the pool in one direction and the bustle of the kitchen in the other, but it’s also the kind of space that, though small, can absorb plenty of attention on its own. “We don’t just live in this room,” Cortney says. “We live for this room. It’s our spot— and each of us possesses it in our own individual ways.”

L A N G STO N

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ome people have outdoor showers. Jen Langston has an outdoor tub. “It’s my version of a hot tub,” she says, “and my friends and I all treat it as such. We pile in and have a grand old time.” That anecdote pretty much sums up Jen’s approach to design—and life. “I love adventure and experimentation,” Jen declares, “especially in my own home.” Every room in her 2200-square-foot, two-structure compound on Johns Island features pieces from a different country, mementos of her constant trips and travels. Resplendent green Moroccan tiles. Silks from India and the Far East. Relics from a carefree youth spent trolling Bahamian waters with her farmer-fisherman father. “I was the son he never had,” Jen says, “and while I love beautiful things and elegance and sophistication—because, don’t get me wrong, I love luxury—I also think the height of chic is having everything so perfect it comes across as just normal and right.” That’s not to say basic, though, because one look at her signature blend of balanced maximalist minimalism and it’s clear she and her work are anything but. “My greatest fear is that anyone feels like their spaces, or my own, reek of pretense or a lack of authenticity,” Jen says. “Being contrived is the greatest sin.”

CO R T N E Y BISHOP

T

o paraphrase an old adage, if the kitchen is the heart of the home, then the space adjacent to it is the lifeblood that keeps the family beating. Or, at least, that’s how it feels in Cortney Bishop’s recently renovated communal nook, located within a space just off to the side of an open plan cooking and dining area in her modern home on Sullivan’s Island. “This is where we all inevitably

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TA M M Y CO N N O R

J

ust across the Ashley River, in The Crescent, Tammy Connor set about gutting and reimagining a patinaed Georgian house that would bring her joy and stand up to the pressure of a full-throttle family. “We moved to Charleston from Birmingham around four and a half years ago,” she explains, “spent two years finding this place and 16 months toppling it down and then building it back up.” The guiding vision behind the renovation was driven by her personal tastes, no doubt, but something deeper and more elemental also factored into the project: her children. “I knew one thing from the beginning,” she says, “and it has informed every decision I’ve made since we moved: This house had to be a place for all of us, not just for me. It had to be home.” In addition to structural work, such as adding a chimney, reworking the electrical and plumbing systems and resizing or replacing each of the original 54 windows and doors, Tammy focused on creating interior spaces that optimized functionality without sacrificing beauty. The dining room doubles as a library to house her collection of design books, plus a few built-in quirks such as a candle shelf for dinner party illumination. (The floor plan of the entire back half of the house was shifted to create an expansive space for gathering, entertaining friends and enjoying the view of the pool and terrace beyond.) The effect is less one of concessions and more a thoughtful nod to edited traditionalism with multigenerational appeal. “It’s about the texture of everyday life,” Tammy says, “and creating a place for everything and everyone in it.”

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A N G I E H R A N OWS KY A N G I E H R A N OWS KY I N T E R I O R D E S I G N


Angie’s Living Room, Old Windermere.


T H EDowntown. K I TC H E N Kitchen,

Chamber hall, Downtown.

Sun porch, Folly Beach.

Entry, Folly Beach.

Amelia’s Town and Beach Houses

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AMELIA HANDEGAN A M E L I A T. H A N D E G A N , I N C .


KAT E TOW I L L B AS I C P R OJ E C TS

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Kate’s entry, Isle of Palms.

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ALLISON ABNEY A B N E Y & M O R TO N


Allison’s dining room, Allan Park.


Soaking deck.

Primary bath.

Dining room.

Tea & toast kitchen.

Jen’s Creekside Home

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J E N L A N G STO N J E N L A N G STO N I N T E R I O R S


CO R T N E Y B I S H O P CO R T N E Y B I S H O P D E S I G N

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Cortney’s living room, Sullivan’s Island.

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Tammy’s entry hall, The Crescent.

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TA M M Y CO N N O R TA M M Y CO N N O R I N T E R I O R D E S I G N

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PA L M F R O N D S OLD WINDERMERE T U E S D AY, A U G U S T 2 5 , 2 0 2 0 11:06AM


CHISHOLM CLEAN ROUND BLACK FINISH HEWN BRASS LACQUERED ACCENTS CLEAR GLASS INTERIORS BY ELENA PHILLIPS ARCHITECTURE BY JAMES SCHETTINO ARCHITECTS PHOTOGRAPHY BY JANE BEILES


N Y H AV N D O U B L E V I N TA G E F I N I S H W I T H P O L I S H E D B R A S S A C C E N T S A N D W H I T E S H A D E INTERIORS BY ABNEY & MORTON

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A N N ’ S AT T E N T I O N T O F O R M A N D D E TA I L E X T E N D S T O E V E N T H E TINIEST OF ELEMENTS.


A R T F O R T H E TA B L E P R E C I O U S P I E C E S F R O M A N N ’ S F L AT WA R E COLLECTION, WHICH INCLUDES EVERYTHING F R O M ST E R L I N G S E RV I N G S P O O N S TO B R O N Z E M E AT F O R K S T O OY S T E R S P O R K S . M A N Y O F T H E M O T I F S , L I K E H E R T R A D E M A R K B A R N AC L E S , A R E I N S P I R E D B Y N AT U R E .


A DOWNTOWN FOUNDRY ANN LADSON IS A FREE SPIRIT WHOSE DOWNTOWN STUDIO AND FOUNDRY REFLECT THE WIDE-RANGING CURIOSITY THAT HAS FUELED HER WORK SINCE SHE HUNG HER SHINGLE IN 2013. ANN’S ANVIL.

BORN IN CHARLESTON, ANN WAS EXPOSED TO TRADITIONAL ARTS FROM AN EARLY AGE—WHETHER THROUGH THE WOMEN IN HER FAMILY, WHO HAVE BEEN A STRONG SOURCE OF INSPIRATION, OR THROUGH HER EDUCATIONAL PATH, WHICH LED HER INTO A SERIES OF PROGRAMS SPECIALIZING IN A MODERN APPROACH TO ARTISANAL TRADES. TODAY, THOSE EARLY INFLUENCES ARE HER FOUNDATION.

IN ADDITION TO HANDMADE JEWELRY AND TABLETOP ITEMS WROUGHT FROM VARIOUS METALS USING TRADITIONAL SMITHING TECHNIQUES, ANN SPECIALIZES IN LANDSCAPE DESIGN, OUTDOOR CULTIVATION AND RESTAURANT-WORTHY PRIVATE DINNERS THAT REFLECT HER PRODIGIOUS CULINARY SKILLS AND TRAINING. BUT IN THE END, IT’S HER UTENSILS AND KITCHEN-INSPIRED OBJECTS THAT BEST CAPTURE THE CREATIVE ALCHEMY AND SPECIAL MAGIC THAT HAPPENS WHEN A MAKER’S MYRIAD PASSIONS FIND A SINGULAR MEDIUM FOR EXQUISITE EXPRESSION. F I R I N G U P T H E B LO W T O R C H TO S O L D E R C H A I N TO W I R E FOR A DESIGN.


THE STUDIO A P E E K I N S I D E A N N ’ S D OW N TOW N S T U D I O, W H I C H I S F I L L E D W I T H T H E TO O L S O F H E R T R A D E — F R O M S P OT L I G H TS A N D WO R K L A M P S TO V I S E G R I P S A N D M E TA LW O R K I N G M AT E R I A L S .


HAND AND HEART A P O R T R A I T O F T H E A R T I S A N ’ S B E LOV E D G R A N D M O T H E R , W H O LOV E D T O C O O K , S E W A N D E N T E R TA I N , A N D PA S S E D D O W N T H O S E PA S S I O N S T O A N N .

Ann’s workspace is an intimate studio—an extension of her home, her hands, her mind and her experiences—that reflects her unique vision for handmade beauty forged in fire. It’s personal, really personal, which may sound intimidating but, of course, isn’t, because it also feels welcoming in the way that truly creative spaces, even the most private ones, inevitably do. The universal pleasure of seeing where and how an artist works is one of the few occasions in which a trip behind the curtain actually deepens an experience, and this is no exception. And even for someone as admittedly reserved as Ann is, she also recognizes that interaction is elemental to her process, too. A chef by training, whose pastry prowess and all-around talent landed her stints in kitchens alongside top chefs from Miami to New York to Charleston, Ann knew she wanted to work with her hands long before she enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, or made her way back to her hometown of Charleston at the behest of her then-boss and mentor Tom Colicchio. She pursued various creative tracks early on as a student at the Penland Craft School, a venerable center for applied artistry in the Appalachian Mountains, and nurtured a love for the outdoors along the way. Eventually, an experiment putting her metalworking skills to use to create the perfect tasting spoon she and her chef friends longed for but could never quite find, redirected her course back toward

those maker traditions, and she launched Ann Ladson Studio. Today, that same intentional approach to function and purity of form is evident in each intelligently designed utensil. Whether it’s a fork fashioned simply from brass or silver, or a spoon adorned with barnacles inspired by her days on the docks in Miami, Ann’s pieces are works of art, with personality and soul, and speak to her kitchen know-how and care for the end-user experience. A recent partnership with equally obsessive metal workers at a studio in Vermont has freed her up to further expand her studio’s reach and ensure it maintains the spirit of honest expression that has characterized it from the beginning. The foundry is now mostly used to fire prototypes and experimental designs, but that part of the process still satisfies the physical need—compulsion, really—that keeps her working with her hands and sharing the hard-wrought results of that labor with others. And despite Ann’s best efforts to fly under the radar, none of her studio’s new initiatives has escaped the notice of her expanding network of supporters and creative cohorts. After all, where else can you find someone to cultivate your garden, harvest its yield, prepare a private meal from those fresh ingredients and also supply the timeless heirloom utensils that complete the experience? It’s a full circle and evolving endeavor that defies categorization—just the way she never planned it.


D E TA I L W O R K C LO C K W I S E F R O M A B OV E : S I LV E R S A LT C E L L A R S A N D M I N I - B O W L S W I T H C O O R D I N AT I N G S P O O N S I N VA R Y I N G S I Z E S ; C A R E F U L LY L A B E L E D S AW S , G R I P S , M O L D S , T W I N E A N D OT H E R E S S E N T I A L S ; P O C K E D A N D W E AT H E R E D W O O D I S O N E O F M A N Y N AT U R A L M AT E R I A L S T H AT I N F O R M A N N ’ S D E S I G N S ; H A N D D E TA I L I N G O N A S E R V I N G S P O O N ; A N N C U LT I VAT I N G O N E O F H E R OT H E R PA S S I O N S I N A V E R DA N T U R B A N G A R D E N ; A PA I R O F U N P O L I S H E D F O R G E D P E A R LTIPPED HOOPS.


DAY B R E A K TO T H E E X T E N T T H AT T H E R E ’ S A N AV E R AG E DAY F O R A N N , I T U S U A L LY BEGINS MUCH LIKE THIS, WITH THE A R T I S T C R O U C H E D OV E R T H E L AT E S T COLLECTION OR IN-PROGRESS PIECE A S S H E E X A M I N E S T H E G R O OV E S A N D H A N D M A D E E L E M E N T S T H AT M A K E E AC H O N E U N I Q U E .

STILL LIFE C LO C K W I S E F R O M A B OV E : A N N ’ S SIDEKICK, MADELEINE; ANN PRESIDES OV E R A S E A S O N A L F E A S T T H AT S H E P R E PA R E D, AT A TA B L E D E C O R AT E D W I T H H E R F LO R A L A R R A N G E M E N T S A N D S E T WITH HER HAND-FORGED CANDLESTICKS A N D F L AT WA R E ; S H A L LO W B O W L S A N D D E L I C AT E FAC E T E D S A P P H I R E B E A D S WA I T I N G F O R A N N TO W O R K H E R M AG I C .


“I CONSIDER MYSELF TO BE MANY THINGS WHEN IT COMES TO NURTURING CREATIVITY,” ANN SAYS. “AN ARTISAN, A CHEF, A GARDENER, A SUPPORTER OF THE ARTS—ALL OF IT FEEDS MY SOUL AND ALLOWS ME TO GROW AND DREAM UP NEW DESIGN WORK.”


BIT HANG POLISHED BRASS FINISH C U S T O M FA B R I C S H A D E INTERIORS BY COLLINS INTERIORS P H O T O G R A P H Y B Y N AT H A N S C H R O D E R


DOUBLE ARM BELDI BLACK FINISH WHITE SHADE FINISH WITH WHITE INTERIOR INTERIORS BY KARA MANN P H O T O G R A P H Y B Y N AT H A N K I R K M A N


M AT C H S T I C K B L A C K F I N I S H W I T H H E W N B R A S S L A C Q U E R E D A C C E N T S A N D C U S T O M FA B R I C S H A D E INTERIORS BY CYNTHIA FERGUSON, PHOTOGRAPHY BY DONNA GRIFFITH

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OTTO WHITE FINISH P O L I S H E D B R A S S U N L A C Q U E R E D S E C O N D A RY F I N I S H RAL #4001 RED LILAC ACCENTS INTERIORS BY COLLINS INTERIORS P H O T O G R A P H Y B Y N AT H A N S C H R O D E R


PROFILE

M

TWO MEMBERS OF A SUPREMELY CREATIVE FAMILY, MARK MARESCA AND KATHRYN

FAULL ARE A FATHER-DAUGHTER DUO WHOSE INDIVIDUAL PURSUITS HAVE IMPACTED THE WORLDS OF DESIGN AND ARCHITECTURE. MARK IS A RENOWNED ARCHITECT

WHOSE TALENTS EXTEND TO EVERYTHING FROM INTERIOR CONCEPTS TO PRODUCT DESIGN. KATHRYN IS A GIFTED ARTIST WHOSE MARESCA TEXTILES FABRICS AND

WALLPAPERS ARE INCREASINGLY SOUGHT AFTER BY INTERIOR DESIGNERS. THEIR PROFESSIONAL SUCCESSES ALONE WOULD MAKE THEIR STORY WORTH SHARING...

But it’s only the short version.

MARK MARESCA & KATHRYN FAULL

To us, their story is a more personal one, dating back to the beginning of Urban Electric. Mark designed one of our earliest collections and has remained a constant collaborator ever since. Along the way, he has introduced us to his family—even naming some of his collection in their honor. As a result of that intimate and ongoing relationship, we have witnessed up close the creative talents that have emerged from the next generation of Marescas. Which is where Kathryn comes in.

IN CONVERSATION WITH The Urban Electric Co.

Though she is now based in Chicago and Mark remains in Charleston, we connected with them over the course of four interviews spread over as many months to gain a deeper insight into this family of creatives and designers we’ve come to know. We plumbed childhood tales and early sources of inspiration, unearthed stories at the heart of their respective approaches to their work, even enlisted Kathryn’s sister (and Mark’s other daughter), Lauren, a fine artist, for the illustrations at right. The result is a portrait of a family whose enduring creative legacy is poised to influence the budding generation yet to come.

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Illustrations by Lauren Maresca.


“I’D BE IN MY FRIENDS’ COOKIE-CUTTER DINING ROOMS AND THEN COME HOME TO OUR PURPLE ONE. BUT EVEN THEN I RECOGNIZED ON SOME LEVEL HOW COOL THAT WAS.” -KATHRYN


MARK MARESCA & KATHRYN FAULL in conversation with UECo.

K

athryn: Dad, I remember hearing stories about

point, I always had a room that was beautiful and it

your childhood but tell me more about what you

had to stay beautiful. As a child, I found that really

were like as a child, because I know you were not like

difficult because I wanted to just put crappy posters

everyone else.

of kittens or something on my wall and that was not

M

allowed. I could do whatever I wanted in my closet, ark: (laughs) Well, we moved to Greenville,

though, so I had the entire thing wallpapered with

South Carolina, from just outside of Princeton,

posters that I had gotten from a Scholastic catalog at

New Jersey, and my sisters and I were all allowed to

school. That was my way of self-expression, I guess.

decorate our rooms. I did mine dark brown—the entire

So, yeah, it was a little bit harder for me to be original

room. I went to Sherwin-Williams and painted every

in my space as a child (even though, again, it was a

surface dark brown: the ceiling, the walls, the trim,

beautiful environment to grow up in).

the shutters. And my father worked for this carpet company, Bigelow, and I found the same color for the

U ECo : Mark, was that a reflection of wishing

floor. I even had an accent wall, which was all dark

that someone had helped you cultivate your

brown grasscloth. And that room was where every little

room in a better way or a different way? Or once

bit of money I would get would go. I joined this art club

you finally got a taste of the power of design, you

that was advertised in the back of The New York Times,

found it difficult to release those reins?

which would send you this little piece of art every two months for $10 or something, and that started my art wall. I also had an old brass bed that was real sleek

M

ark: Well, I was a very precocious child, and when my parents moved to Greenville I actually

looking. I polished it meticulously. I was a very strange

helped them design their first house. I was only a

child in the sense that everything had to be a certain

10-year-old kid, but I would go to the job site every

way. I found a gigantic white ginger jar and made a

day, and I was just mortified at the decisions they were

lampshade out of wreaths. All sorts of things. When my

making—things like the shutters on the house that

sisters would come by the room, they were like, “Uhhh...

weren’t actually operable—and it made me crazy. Like,

what’s going on in there?,” but that was the first

why would you build a house without operable shutters!

environment that I was able to sort of create.

And when I got exposed to all of the details that go into creating a house, I just recognized how wrong it all

So that was my first recollection of a room. Katie, I don’t

was...the hardware, the finishes, all just wrong. So even

know if I allowed you to have your room the way that

in the first house that my wife, Melissa, and I moved

you wanted it…

into—and thankfully she is also a trained architect

K

so I have a very like-minded partner—it was very athryn: I think it’s interesting this discussion

important that everything be reflective of what we were

we are having about creativity being something

all about.

that’s innate, and I think that is very obvious in my dad’s childhood. You know, he grew up in an environment where his parents weren’t very interested

K

athryn: Which brings me to another story I remember as a child in that home. We had an

in architecture and art, and he figured out a way to

eggplant-colored dining room, which I’m sure was a

incorporate that into his lifestyle anyway, whereas I

custom color, and it was a space I only appreciated in

was raised in an environment that was bursting with

hindsight. As a kid, you want to be just like everyone

creativity. My home was always filled with beautiful

else, and I’d be in all of my friends’ cookie-cutter dining

things and I always had a beautiful room. But, to that

rooms and then come home to our purple one. But even

T H E C U R R E N T, V O L . 3

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81


then I recognized on some level how cool that was.

M K

and all over the world, and my parents were able to experience that with me, which opened us all up to

ark: And mom had dyed her hair that color,

new possibilities, new people, new experiences.

remember?

U ECo : How much did you also draw from

athryn: It wasn’t totally intentional. She wanted

watching your parents build their careers as

her hair, which was really short at the time, a bit

you were growing up?

darker and I guess her stylist put some kind of purple tint in it and she came home and was camouflaged in that room and it was really funny. And even though it

K

athryn: I think when we moved to Charleston, it was kind of that next step in expanding Dad’s

was totally unintended, it was the kind of punk rock

influence, because Charleston is such a different place.

style that somehow just worked on her.

I mean, right, Dad? How do you feel about how the move affected your business?

One more thing, Dad. I know you and Mom got a kick out of stenciling, which definitely influenced me, both in my work and in just having a general

M

ark: Well, I think as far as moving to Charleston, the exposure to such beautiful

understanding that as long as you’re creative and

architecture and details was important. It’s one of

resourceful, you can make your home look unique

the few cities in the United States where you could

without a lot of money. And if you do spend money,

live comfortably and still be informed and inspired

like my parents did on art and textiles, you buy the

by everything you see. And I think that to live in a

one expensive thing that you keep for the rest of your

very old 1800s house, to go through the restoration

life. My sister, Lauren, who is a fine artist, was clearly

process we went through, to have the opportunity

influenced by that, too.

to enjoy what’s good and what’s bad about it and to

M

understand that just because something is old doesn’t ark: And Mom was always that way, very, very tuned into what could be beautiful in

the simplest of ways. Like that time we went to this black tie thing and we couldn’t afford to really buy anything. I had this borrowed tux and, well, no one really looks at a man during a black tie event, but... Melissa thought, “What am I going to wear?” So she

mean it’s well designed, was really impactful.

K M

athryn: Yeah, it was designed for a different time, a different person. ark: Being able to live in a house with such history makes you think differently and your

made some kind of slip and took an old sari from our

perspective changes, it just does. I think all the houses

collection and wrapped it around her. No jewelry or

that we have lived in have shaped our life in one way

anything, just that sari and her gorgeous dark hair

or another.

and she was the most amazing-looking woman there. She walked in and people were like, “Oh my god…that woman’s got style!” U ECo : So, Kathryn, the spirit of all of this great expression was clearly impactful.

K

athryn: And for a long time, Dad had his office in the house, and so he was around and even though

Mom stopped working when I was in the second grade, she always had creative projects going on, and so it felt like we were all kind of in business together.

How did you find your own creative voice?

K

82

When I look back to starting my business, one athryn: I think it blossomed for me slowly,

component of that was being able to make my own

through travel and being exposed to cities like

schedule—especially now that I am starting a family

New York and Paris, going to museums, and then it

of my own. My parents worked really hard, but they

sort of crystallized when I went away to college and

were able to be self-sufficient so I never doubted my

had a place of my own to decorate and appreciate. I

own ability to have a career and a family. I know that

was at Yale, meeting people from all over the country

it’s not always going to be easy, but I love the idea of

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integrating my child into my work life, too, having her

is to have that opportunity to share what delights her.

come with me into the office. I hope that I can teach

And I think about our past experiences, when I would

her things there that she will be interested in—and if

be down in my little studio and she would be sitting

she’s not into it, that’s fine, but the idea of having her

at the drawing board right behind me and drawing

in the studio and being engaged in the projects that I

her own picture of what she thought the house should

am doing and teaching her to sew and block print just

be. Later, she would start coloring, and maybe I’d

seems really exciting to me. That prospect of seeing

design a house and make a blueprint of it, and she

how my lifestyle and our family’s lifestyle is reflected

would color it in various colors. And we would be up

in her and how she expresses her creativity is—I’m all

listening to music loud and those sort of experiences

in it for that.

were pretty strong and powerful and very joyful. The

M

idea that she will get to see that same sort of light in ark: I think about Katie, and about the

her own children is very satisfying. No, it’s more than

daughter she is expecting and how amazing it

satisfying. It’s everything.

Maresca family foyer.

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THE MARESCAS’ GARDEN T H E B AT T E R Y F R I D AY, O C T O B E R 3 0 , 2 0 2 0 5:52PM


MILES BREWTON HOUSE NEAR WHITE POINT GARDENS W E D N E S D AY, D E C E M B E R 2 , 2 0 2 0 11:28AM


ARCHITECTURE

IN CHARLESTON, ARCHITECTURE LIVES AND BREATHES AS MUCH AS ANY RESIDENT, AND MANY OF THE MOST ICONIC AND SINGULAR FORMS OF THIS UNIQUE BUILT LANDSCAPE HAVE NEVER GRACED THE FACE OF A POSTCARD. FOR EVERY METICULOUSLY PRESERVED SOUTH OF BROAD SINGLE HOUSE, THERE IS A REIMAGINED RURAL RETREAT THAT MARRIES MODERN DESIGN WITH TIMELESS CHARM. FOR EVERY GREEK REVIVAL MANSE TESTIFYING TO A TANGLED HISTORY, A RESTORED FREEDMAN’S COTTAGE OR RENOVATED TENEMENT BUILDING HIGHLIGHTS THE CITY’S PIVOTAL SHIFT TOWARD AN ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL ORDER ROOTED IN INCLUSION. FROM THE PRAIRIESTYLE HOUSES AND AMERICAN FOURSQUARES OF THE UPPER PENINSULA, TO THE REVITALIZED CORRIDORS OF INDUSTRY LOCATED JUST BEYOND, CHARLESTON’S EXPANSIVE AESTHETIC FOOTPRINT OF DIVERSE MAN-MADE STRUCTURES REFLECTS THE EXPERIMENTAL AND ECLECTIC SPIRIT THAT HAS GIVEN THIS AREA A SALTY SWAGGER FOR CENTURIES.

Opposite: Auldbrass emblem, repeated.

89


MACHINE SHED AULDBRASS, FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT YEMASSEE T U E S D AY, O C T O B E R 2 0 , 2 0 2 0 2:05PM


DOOR TO DOOR TRADD STREET F R I D AY, N O V E M B E R 6 , 2 0 2 0 9:48AM


CAMPION BLACKENED PEWTER FINISH BLACKENED PEWTER ACCENTS I N T E R I O R S B Y L U C A S / E I L E R S D E S I G N A S S O C I AT E S PHOTOGRAPHY BY STEPHEN KARLISCH


M A R L B O R O U G H B L A C K E N E D P E W T E R F I N I S H W I T H A N T I Q U E M I R R O R O N M I L K G L A S S I N L AY A N D PA R T I A L LY E T C H E D G L A S S I N T E R I O R S B Y C R AV O T TA I N T E R I O R S , A R C H I T E C T U R E B Y M I C H A E L G . I M B E R A R C H I T E C T S , P H O T O G R A P H Y B Y R YA N N F O R D

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REX HANG ANTIQUE BRASS FINISH POLISHED NICKEL ACCENTS INTERIORS BY PORTE ROUGE INTERIORS PHOTOGRAPHY BY SERGEY ANANIEV


MAC B E N J A M I N M O O R E # 4 6 2 V I N TA G E V O G U E PA I N T S E L E C T I O N POLISHED BRASS ACCENTS HEWN BRASS SHADE INTERIOR I N T E R I O R S B Y L U C A S / E I L E R S D E S I G N A S S O C I AT E S PHOTOGRAPHY BY JULIE SOEFER


YVES HANG HEWN BRASS FINISH HEWN BRASS ACCENTS MILK GLASS INTERIORS BY COURTNEY HILL INTERIORS N A D I A PA L A C I O S R E S I D E N T I A L D E S I G N PHOTOGRAPHY BY JACK THOMPSON


S TA M P T R I P L E B R O N Z E F I N I S H W I T H H E I R L O O M A C C E N T S HOUE BLACK FINISH WITH HEWN BRASS LACQUERED ACCENTS INTERIORS BY STEPHANIE MOLSTER INTERIORS, ARCHITECTURE BY DUFFORD YOUNG ARCHITECTS

T H E C U R R E N T, V O L . 3

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CYPRESS TOWERS MEETING STREET C L E A R W AT E R S W A M P, A U L D B R A S S T H U R S D AY, J A N U A R Y 1 4 , 2 0 2 1 YEMASSEE 10:23AM T U E S D AY, O C T O B E R 2 0 , 2 0 2 0 1:46PM


T H E S O U T H E R N ACC E N T O F F R A N K L LOY D W R I G H T


AULDBRASS

WELCOME TO AN AMERICAN ICON’S PASSIONATE TRIBUTE TO THE LOWCOUNTRY’S RUGGED BEAUTY AND SINGULAR LANDSCAPE, AN ESTATE THAT CONTINUES TO EVOLVE AND DRAW ON THE ARCHITECT’S PAST INSPIRATION AND POSTHUMOUS INFLUENCE STILL TODAY.

ARCHITECTURE


About 50 miles southwest of Charleston, down a lazy two-lane highway sandwiched between Lowcountry overgrowth and the occasional horse farm, the entrance to an unpaved driveway meets the main road. From here, the shrouded property that sits beyond resembles most of the other elegantly understated country estates in the area: Generous expanses of cultivated land, swaying Spanish moss, bucolic beauty. There’s nothing, in other words, to indicate the presence of the architectural landmark and national treasure that waits at the other end of the winding approach just out of sight, where the dirt gives way to lined red brick thoroughfares. This is Auldbrass, one of architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s most ambitious Southern masterpieces (he worked on just a handful of structures in the South and Auldbrass was his undisputed favorite) and one of the Charleston area’s best kept secrets. Of Wright’s 1000+ building designs, Auldbrass is an anomaly both geographically and stylistically and remains his largest private project, as well as a point of pride for regional and national preservationists. Today, this sprawling property is open to the public just two days each year, making it a destination for design pilgrims, as well as inquisitive types who just want a look at the place that captured the heart of an icon. One of Wright’s lesser-known “big houses,” Auldbrass was the brainchild of the Michigan-born industrialist C. Leigh Stevens, who took a shine to the Lowcountry and its particularly low-key brand of landed life, and challenged Wright to convert the series of adjacent tracts of untamed land he had purchased into a contemporary estate that would reflect the home’s Southern roots through a modern lens. Construction began in 1940. Guided by smart design, sustainable materials and a belief that economic efficiency should coincide with elegance and endurance, Stevens found a natural partner in Wright, who not only incorporated his own geometric precision into the layouts, but also took aesthetic inspiration from the indigenous populations who first settled the area. Work on Auldbrass continued at a steady and ambitious clip for

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two decades, right up until Wright’s death in 1959, but the scope of the project continued to outpace development. An inspired Wright had imagined more; unfortunately, it would be another two and a half decades before anyone was in a position to continue his efforts. Through the 1960s and 70s, Wright’s plans languished as the Stevens family’s fortunes faded; new wives and a growing family placed their own demands on design updates, and the property’s architectural preservation became less important to each new generation. Eventually, by the late-1970s, the family had begun selling off portions of the land and unloading many of the original furnishings at auction. The Hollywood mogul Joel Silver arrived just in time to rescue the landmark from irreparable decline. A successful movie producer with a blockbuster lineup of celluloid hits to his name—from 80s mainstays like Brewster’s Millions to action franchises like The Matrix and Die Hard to new school vehicles like the Sherlock Holmes series—Joel is an avid architecture enthusiast, who purchased and restored his first Wright property, the architect’s fabled Storer House in Hollywood, in 1984. (He was so enamored of Wright’s vision that he used a rendering of the house’s squarish relief ornament as the logo of his production company, Silver Pictures.) When Joel got a tip a few years after that initial purchase that a lesser-known property in Wright’s oeuvre needed restoration, he didn’t hesitate. Though he had no prior connection to South Carolina, he trained his collective focus on Auldbrass and has worked tirelessly ever since. The goal was and remains two-fold: restore the estate to its former glory and shape its future aesthetic in an authentic way. At the time of the purchase, Auldbrass was in dismal condition, with decades of neglect and

/ ARCHITECTURE


deferred maintenance to undo. The producer, however, was undaunted.

area—to the zebras, peacocks and other animals that roam the grounds.

According to Scott McNair, Joel’s friend and Auldbrass’ property manager for nearly two decades, this is what his boss does best. “Everyone in the Stevens family had made their changes over the years, and times changed, too,” Scott says. “For awhile, there wasn’t enough to justify the caretaker accommodations or staff cabins, for example. And, of course, there were plenty of natural challenges, too, from hurricanes to fires. Auldbrass needed Joel in a big way, and I think Joel needed it just as much. This is his escape, a home away from home that has kind of taken a primary place in his heart.”

The full plan at the time of the architect’s death is laid out in a collection of more than 500 drawings, housed in an on-site architectural and design archive. Filled with sketches, notes, blueprints, renderings and snippets of paper that illuminate Wright’s flights of thought as much as his fundamental approach, it is a vast and crucial historic resource that has only continued to grow under Joel’s stewardship.

Like Joel, Scott is a jack-of-all-trades whose 360° approach to the estate is born of decades of on-the-job training, a background in landscape architecture, an entrepreneur’s keen instinct and a willingness to cultivate a new skill or knowledge base in the service of authenticity, especially when it comes to Auldbrass and ensuring that any updates or additions rely on original materials and techniques. He is also, by default, Auldbrass’ unofficial archivist and historian. “Auldbrass was Wright’s biggest and most ambitious private residence,” Scott says. “We have spent years combing through and curating blueprints, diagrams, platts, drawings, archival imagery and sketches, you name it, to unearth the secrets, lost elements and unrealized vision for this place. Wright had the most grand plans and it’s our legacy to continue that work.” The result is not only a renewed plan for the estate, but also a veritable library slash museum of Wright’s methods and architectural process. Entire rooms, in fact, are dedicated to the storage and preservation of these historic documents and building records. That’s how things work at Auldbrass: Intentional design and purpose-driven organization are the fundamental fuel that power this operation. Built-in seating ensures spatial economy and fosters connection over meals with friends and family. Low-lying benches and tucked away nooks create places for introspection and observation. In the main house, bedrooms and bathrooms evoke yacht quarters—luxe and open with no wasted space. Accessibility, too, is a guiding principle, yet there’s nothing common about the execution. Auldbrass is a place that welcomes without sacrificing excellence. It’s also not without its share of eccentric beauty, from the azalea-and-jasmine-laden lawns designed by Lowcountry landscape visionary Thomas Church—which resemble the wild and riotous blooms of English country houses, a departure from the traditionally circumspect Frenchinspired manicured expanses typified elsewhere in the

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“THERE IS SO MUCH THAT WENT INTO IMAGINING THIS PLACE AND THEN BRINGING IT TO LIFE THAT IT’S EASY TO FORGET ALL THAT’S STILL LEFT TO BUILD UPON AND ACCOMPLISH FOR THE FUTURE. FOR ME, THAT’S THE DREAM. ”

To approach Auldbrass in a way that would honor its purity and originality once the sale was completed in 1986, Joel enlisted a team of experts, from Eric Lloyd Wright, the architect’s grandson, to Edgar Kaufmann, Jr., a celebrated Wright scholar, to Wesley Peters, Wright’s one-time senior apprentice who had been involved in the construction of the estate from the beginning. With their help, and the input of countless others, Joel launched a strategic effort broken down into four phases, which the author David de Long, who wrote an authoritative study of Auldbrass, describes as such: “First, all of Wright’s surviving buildings would be restored as he had originally designed them, retaining as much original fabric as feasible, and, to the degree possible, subtly distinguishing between any new materials and the originals they replaced so as to identify alterations. Second, Wright-designed buildings that had been destroyed or altered beyond recognition would be rebuilt, using materials as close to the originals as possible. Third, Wright’s unbuilt projects...would be realized as he had designed them, adhering to exterior configurations, but with selected interiors recognized to address current needs. Fourth, new buildings that were to be needed by Silver would be added, designed for the most part in a manner sympathetic to Wright’s scheme, but located at a distance, so they would not intrude.” Joel doesn’t get to Auldbrass as much as he’d like to, but he extends the invitation to others in his orbit frequently—

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use it freely, he likes to offer, whether he is in residence or not. In addition to his family and the lucky visitors who get to experience this idiosyncratic wonder during public tours, Joel has made Auldbrass available to many a highprofile figure, from Eddie Murphy to Robert Zemeckis, who decamped to the site during the filming of Forrest Gump. Situated among oak trees dripping with Spanish moss on the edge of Clearwater Swamp, this unassumingly perfect compound of main dwellings, outbuildings, pavilions and pergolas shows how appropriately Wright could respond to any environment, even one previously unfamiliar to him. As always, he liked to incorporate stylized decorative motifs inspired by local plants, and here he used copper rain spouts to suggest Spanish moss. A signature shade of red references the hue of earthen clay typical of the Lowcountry. Nine-degree angles reinforce the geometry present in earlier Frank Lloyd Wright designs and, in the case of Auldbrass, also pay homage to symbols associated with some of the early Native American tribes from the area. In some of the bathrooms, Italian tiles that are made from oyster shells nod to tabby, an iconic local material, in a reinterpreted form.

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imperial forms, all of which are either under construction, in the ground-breaking stage or nearing completion. There are also ideas that were floated around, initially discarded and later revisited and realized. An early concept for the aviary, for instance, never materialized under the Stevens family’s ownership but was revived and built when Joel took over. And there’s beauty in all of those details, too. This is a living place with a nonlinear design history, conceived to delight and evolve and reflect modernity in its shifting forms as the nature of its landscape and residents change.

THE GOAL WAS TWO-FOLD: RESTORE THE ESTATE TO ITS FORMER GLORY AND SHAPE ITS FUTURE AESTHETIC IN AN AUTHENTIC WAY.

Informal, airy and rambling, the lodge-style main house and its adjacent structures give the impression of an elegant campsite, consciously deferring to nature but becoming one with it. Structures that Wright had initially planned but never executed are now being finished, making his vision of Auldbrass—a modern Southern estate without cliché— more complete than even he had experienced it.

“There is so much that went into imagining this place and then bringing it to life that it’s easy to forget all that’s still left to build upon and accomplish for the future,” Scott says. “For me, that’s the dream...it’s certainly what’s kept me here for so long and the reason I have no plans of leaving anytime soon.”

In addition to newly constructed guest cottages and staff dwellings, there is also a 32-foot dinner barge that will float on a nearby pond, as well as a pool and an 8,000-squarefoot guesthouse based on Wright’s love of Japanese

Joel echoes the sentiment in his own words. “Auldbrass is its own sequel,” he says, “each and every time. New story. New direction. Same amazing plot line linking it all together. It’s a true blockbuster.”

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Signature crushed red brick driveway.


View from the kitchen porch courtyard, Main House.


Swimming pool terrace, Main House.

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Dining room, Main House.

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Inside the living room, Main House.


Enclosed passage, Main House.

The aviary.

Nine-degree angles, a Wright signature throughout.

Scott McNair at work.

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Terrace adjacent to living room and bedrooms, Main House.


Covered pool terrace.

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L A K E S I D E PAT H , A U L D B R A S S YEMASSEE T U E S D AY, O C T O B E R 2 0 , 2 0 2 0 3:12PM


WINSTON POLISHED NICKEL FINISH CLEAR GLASS INTERIORS BY BONESTEEL TROUT HALL ARCHITECTURE BY ERIC OLSEN PHOTOGRAPHY BY SHADE DEGGES


R E X TA B L E H E W N B R A S S L A C Q U E R E D W I T H H E W N B R A S S L A C Q U E R E D A C C E N T S INTERIORS BY LUIS LAPLACE, PHOTOGRAPHY BY FREDERIC BOUCHARD C A F É H O LT AT H O LT R E N F R E W O G I LV Y, M O N T R E A L , C A N A D A

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P R E V I O U S : I N 1 9 1 8 , A YO U N G A R T I S T A N D I L L U S T R AT O R N A M E D N O R M A N R O C K W E L L R E P O R T E D F O R N AVA L T R A I N I N G AT T H E B A S E I N C H A R L E STO N . M A N Y O F T H E WO R KS I N H I S P R O L I F I C O E U V R E , I N C L U D I N G T H I S C OV E R I M AG E , REFLECT HIS YEARS IN THE SERVICE. N AVA L AC A D E M Y OA R S M A N O I L O N C A N VA S NORMAN ROCKWELL, 1921 NORMAN ROCKWELL MUSEUM COLLECTIONS


I N T H E D E TA I L S NEOCLASSICAL INFLUENCES AND ST R O N G A R C H I T E C T U R A L N OT E S M A R K THE BASE’S EARLIEST STRUCTURES INCLUDING THIS GEM FROM 1905.


M A R I T I M E V E S S E L S AT R E S T I N D RY D O C K 1 , P R E S E N T ( TO P ) A N D PA S T ( B O T T O M ) .


HOME BASE CHARLESTON’S HISTORIC NAVY YARD, AND ITS 21ST CENTURY CULTURAL AND ECONOMIC REVIVAL, MANIFESTLY OFFERS A UNIQUE PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE PERSPECTIVE ON THE LOWCOUNTRY’S MARITIME ROOTS. WHAT IS LESS KNOWN IS THE

“The history of Charleston can best be described in three epochs, each of which was defined by its own unique and all-encompassing forces,” says Don Campagna, an archivist, historian and Naval preservationist whose knowledge and tenacity have earned him a reputation as something of a crusader when it comes to documenting and protecting Charleston’s endangered maritime relics. “First, in the 17th century, you have Rice and Revolution. Next comes Cotton and Rebellion in the 18th century. And, finally, there’s the maritime connection and the culture it spawned that dominated the 20th century.”

EQUALLY DEEP ARCHITECTURAL LEGACY OF THE STRUCTURES THAT POPULATE THE SPRAWLING COMPLEX. HIGHLIGHTING A SELECTION OF ITS MOST ICONIC BUILDINGS AND SPACES—EACH OF WHICH HAS ITS OWN STORIES TO TELL—HELPS TO CONTEXTUALIZE THE RICH AESTHETIC LANDSCAPE OF THE AREA AS WELL AS THE ONGOING EVOLUTION OF ITS DESIGN. ON THESE PAGES, WE’RE PROUD TO SHARE THE AWEINSPIRING VIEW WE ENJOY DAILY FROM OUR OWN EXPANDING HOME WITHIN THE YARD.

It’s this last era—which Don, who has come to be one of the foremost experts on the base, as well as a collector of rare material relating to its construction and operation, refers to as the “Maritime Century”—that we’re just beginning to fully understand and appreciate. Fortunately, there’s no better entry point for insight than the Charleston Navy Yard, a sweeping industrial expanse located just north of downtown along the west bank of the Cooper River, where the history of the area remains alive and central to the landscape through a breathtaking collection of iconic landmarks. Spanning roughly 1500 acres in total and encompassing 57 historic structures and buildings, including our own headquarters, plus 120 sites currently in various stages of operation and redevelopment, the Yard is a behemoth. The Yard served the United States Navy from 1903 to 1996, and it reflects the architectural schools of thought and design trends that came up alongside its widening footprint. There’s the Neoclassical style employed during the military base’s establishment and the early years of its installation, from 1903 to circa-1910; the Moderne Industrial form, which dominated from the 1910s through the end of World War I; the federal works projects that were constructed during the interwar period; the largely utilitarian forms prevalent from the emergency period of the late-1930s through the end of World War II; and more recent additions which added their own aesthetic flavor to the collective visage. And then there’s the Olmsted connection. The landscape architecture of the greenways and park that encompass the Yard and its original living, working, shipbuilding and maintenance hubs, were designed by the sons of Fredrick Law Olmsted, who is most famous for his layout of New York City’s Central Park. The Olmsteds’ work, which combined both cultivated and natural greenspaces, is preserved in platts, drawings and meticulous records of everything from the onsite nursery that supplied much of the greenery and landscaping for the Yard, to the horticultural influences of Native Americans who first settled the area, to the generations of colonial descendants who lived there up until the early-20th century.

T H I S S TA I R W E L L D E TA I L O F T H E B AS E ’ S I CO N I C F O R M E R P OW E R BUILDING IS ONE OF THE LAST I M AG E S C A P T U R E D B E F O R E T H I S F LO O R WA S D E M O L I S H E D D U R I N G R E N OVAT I O N L A S T Y E A R .

To tour the complex today is to witness a visual timeline of the Maritime Century on full display. “This is what will come to define how we look back on Charleston a hundred years from now,” Don says.


A V I E W O F T H E B OT TO M O F D RY D O C K 1 , A M A S S I V E F E AT O F E N G I N E E R I N G M A D E F R O M 1 0,0 0 0 I N D I V I D UA L G R A N I T E STO N E S W E I G H I N G 2 T O N S E AC H T R U C K E D I N F R O M A Q U A R R Y FA R T H E R I N L A N D .


B U I LT I N 1 9 0 9 , T H E B A S E ’ S F O R M E R P O W E R B U I L D I N G , O R “ P OW E R H O U S E ,” I S A N E O C L AS S I C A L WO N D E R I N B LO N D E B R I C K .


SERVICE INDUSTRY A B OV E : A V I E W F R O M T H E R O O F O F T H E S H I P F I T T E R S ’ S A I L LO F T, W H I C H S I T S 5 5 F E E T A B OV E A N H I S TO R I C FA B R I C AT I O N S H O P. AT R I G H T : T H E O F F I C E R S ’ Q U A R T E R S C O M P L E X WA S B U I LT O N PA R K GROUNDS DESIGNED BY THE O L M S T E D B R OT H E R S . B E LO W, F R O M L E F T : A N A E R I A L VIEW OF BUILDING 56, URBAN E L E C T R I C ’ S M AC H I N E S H O P ; O N E O F T H E F O U R O R I G I N A L “ PA N A M A H O U S E S ,” N A M E D A F T E R S I M I L A R LYS T Y L E D Q U A R T E R S B U I LT A L O N G T H E PA N A M A C A N A L .


H O N O R I N G T H E PA S T AT R I G H T : B U I LT I N 1 9 4 2 , T H I S S P I R I T U A L TO U C H S TO N E I S K N O W N A S T H E E T E R N A L FAT H E R O F T H E S E A C H A P E L . B E LO W, F R O M L E F T : A M I D - C E N T U R Y F E D E R A L O F F I C E B U I L D I N G ; WAT E R D E P T H MARKERS ON A SHIP IN DRY DOCK 2. B O T T O M : R E L I C S F R O M T H E S A I L LO F T.

“In the WWI and WWII era of the Navy’s history, this was one of the most prolific shipyards in the country. At its peak, you had 25-28,000 people working out here and in the machine shops at a time. It was the leading employer for Charleston,” says Elias Deeb, the Chief Operating Officer of CMMC, the 25-yearold company who took over much of the operational oversight of the portions still supporting the maritime community, including the US Navy, following the base’s closure in 1996. “And this old sail loft [right] is a beauty, such a cool reminder of that bygone time.”


THE ANCHOR OF THE URBAN ELECTRIC CAMPUS AND ONE OF THE OLDEST B U I L D I N G S O N T H E N AV Y YA R D.


T H E F LO O R S I N B U I L D I N G 3 A R E M A D E O F A L AY E R O F C O N C R E T E , S A N D A N D S I D E -T U R N E D P I N E B LO C K S T O C U S H I O N T H E T O N N AG E O F S T E E L A N D M E TA L S H A F T S T H AT U T I L I Z E T H I S C E N T U R Y- O L D M AC H I N E S H O P F O R R E PA I R S .


FINN PEWTER FINISH BRONZE ACCENTS I N T E R I O R S B Y H I AT U S D E S I G N S PHOTOGRAPHY BY LAUREN MILLER


LUNDY HANG BLACK FINISH POLISHED NICKEL ACCENTS A LTA M O N T W A L L BLACK FINISH CLEAR GLASS INTERIORS BY STUDIO MCGEE ARCHITECTURE BY ERIC OLSEN P H O T O G R A P H Y B Y R YA N G A R V I N


JENNIFER WALL HEWN BRASS LACQUERED FINISH INTERIORS AND ARCHITECTURE BY CHAD DORSEY DESIGN, BUILD BY MORE DESIGN + BUILD PHOTOGRAPHY BY STEPHEN KARLISCH

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SCOOP BLACK FINISH BLACK ACCENTS INTERIORS BY LAUREN NELSON DESIGN ARCHITECTURE BY GEDDES ULINSKAS ARCHITECTS PHOTOGRAPHY BY SETH SMOOT


PROFILE

R

RAY HUFF IS A NATURAL STORYTELLER. HE SETS THE SCENE, INTRODUCES THE PRIMARY CHARACTERS, LAYERS IN THE SUPPORTING DETAILS GENEROUSLY AND WITH GREAT

CARE AND THEN LETS THE ACTION UNFOLD AS HE CONNECTS THE MANY DOTS ALONG THE WAY. THE RESULT IS AN EXPERIENCE, AND REFLECTS RAY’S INNATE GIFT FOR GIVING FORM AND STRUCTURE TO THE CONCEPTUAL.

As a longtime architect and educator, Ray has applied that same thoughtful approach to his work over the past five decades. During nearly forty years in private practice, he took on projects in the public and private sectors and began his teaching career as a professor at the Clemson Architectural Center, an independent floating campus affiliated with Clemson University’s School of Architecture. Later, when he assumed the role of director and emeritus professor at the school and its sister institution, the Charleston Design Center, Ray pushed to broaden student offerings and connect more deeply to the city itself as a learning tool. All the while, he has remained engaged with civic and community organizations such as the Lowcountry Lowline, a planned linear park connecting downtown communities through the adaptive reuse of an old rail line, which have benefited enormously from his knowledge of and experience with public projects.

As a native Charlestonian, Ray also brings his deep knowledge of the city’s history and evolution to bear, recasting local history and the legacies of the past as a real-time model for confronting universally applicable issues, such as monument building and preservation guidelines, and innovating the kind of responses that will shape future projects. That ability to view Charleston’s complicated reality as a catalyst for thought and learning among a broader audience is what sets Ray apart. His story is one defined by connection, reflection and imagination—the kind of story, in other words, he tells best.

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RAY HUFF AS TOLD TO

The Urban Electric Co.

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Ray at home near Hampton Park.


B U I L D I N G B LO C K S Scenes from the Charleston Design Center, one of two related architectural institutions where Ray has spent the last few decades educating tomorrow’s visionaries.

“AT NIGHT, I WOULD FALL ASLEEP TO THE ROAR OF LIONS FROM THE ZOO AND THE MELODIES FLOATING IN FROM THE JAZZ XYLOPHONIST WHO LIVED NEXT DOOR.”


I

RAY HUFF in his own words...

interior designers in town during my junior or senior year of high school. She lived in the Jenkins Mikell

grew up in what is now called the Hampton Park Terrace neighborhood of Charleston, but

it didn’t have a name back then. We rented part of a house, and I remember it being really large. My room was converted from what was initially the piazza, so the floor sloped. I vividly remember taking my little model cars and letting them just roll down one side of the bedroom floor to the opposite wall. My mother was a school teacher and things weren’t easy or convenient for her at all. We didn’t have hot water—no one really did back then, which was around 1952—so we had to plan ahead for baths and that kind of thing. Same with air conditioning. It just wasn’t common in Charleston at the time. And the absence of those types of conveniences, coupled with a different approach to childhood, enabled more freedom and access to move around in the world around us. Later, I moved a few blocks away but it was the same type of experience, only closer to the border where different factions of the neighborhood met. (Where people live and why and how they arrived there is a fascinating history unto itself and I’ve always been intrigued by it.) There was a vibrant Greek community and a Jewish community and obviously a Black community—all of which reflected the patterns of settlement that prevailed at the time. And at the center of it was Hampton Park and, more interestingly for me as a youth, the zoo that used to be there. There was an aviary and there were lions and all sorts of exotic animals, and I’d walk past it on my way home from my sixth or seventh grade job as a delivery boy for a pharmacy that used to operate on Rutledge Avenue. At night, I’d open the windows to let the air circulate and fall asleep to the roar of lions from the zoo and, in the other direction, the melodies floating in from the jazz xylophonist who lived next door. It didn’t seem out of the ordinary to me. It was just life. It also taught me to look to the world around

House at the time, and opened me up to a broader understanding of our historic collection of architecture, something about which she was very passionate. I studied architecture at Clemson University, but the emphasis wasn’t as much on critical thinking and holistic value as it is today, something that came through in my private practice. My partner and I ran it for 40 years, and we both admit we were focused a bit too much on critical thinking and developing projects with a lasting societal impact. All good for the soul and mind, obviously, but not so lucrative in the commercial sense. But even then, I was teaching and engaging with the next generation of architects and designers, something which helped a lot when I took over as director of the Clemson Architectural Center. Fifty or so years ago, when the School of Architecture at Clemson University created its first floating campus in Genoa, Italy, to train citizen architects, I never imagined that Charleston would eventually become the third site for that program [the school also operates a location in Spain]. At the time, Europe was the destination for technical and conceptual thinking when it came to building design and a semester there was the best way to absorb that knowledge and have a real awakening. Architecture in America just wasn’t viewed on the same level in terms of “worldliness.” Today, that’s different, and a campus in Charleston (with some of the oldest and best preserved structures in the country) says so much about the way the field is evolving to focus on preservation and built environments here in the US. My hope is that it’s a model not just for education but also critical thinking and discussions around present-day issues. Young Ray would have benefited enormously from the program that exists here today.

me for stimulation and entertainment. And, because segregation was still in place functionally if not legally,

In the end, I’m just really privileged to be in academia

I walked everywhere and my experience of Charleston

and be able to develop programming and experiences

and sphere of influence was hyper-localized.

for young people that will ignite passions, encourage original thinking and stoke curiosity. I’m highly

It wasn’t until I got older and began to drive that I saw

conscious of each and every student—especially in

Charleston through a wider frame and found myself

today’s complicated learning situation—and want to

leaning toward architecture. Not that I knew anything

ensure that they get the support and instruction they

about architecture, or had any exposure to professional

need personally and professionally as their career paths

architects. I did, however, learn a great deal from an

begin to take shape. If I leave any kind of legacy, I hope

experience I had chauffeuring one of the original iconic

it’s that—a story that keeps going after I’ve gone.

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OLD SOUL H A M P T O N PA R K M O N D AY, A U G U S T 3 1 , 2 0 2 0 11:13AM


LANDSCAPE

IN CHARLESTON, LANDSCAPE REFERS TO SO MUCH MORE THAN JUST THE GROUND BENEATH OUR FEET. IT’S A PATCHWORK OF ENVIRONMENTS THAT SPEAKS TO ALL FIVE SENSES, AND IT TAPS INTO SOMETHING ELEMENTAL. THE LANDSCAPE COMES ALIVE WHERE THE WATER MEETS THE SKY OVER MARSHLAND RIBBONED WITH INLETS. IT RIPPLES IN THE CONFLUENCE OF RIVERS AND HARBORS THAT SWELL WITH MARINERS AND SEACRAFT OF ALL SHAPES, SIZES AND PROVENANCE. IT SWEEPS A JAGGED COASTLINE DOTTED WITH BARRIER ISLANDS THAT HUG BOTH LAND AND SEA. THIS LANDSCAPE EXTENDS FROM UNTAMED FIELDS QUILTED IN WILDFLOWERS AND GRASSES TO CULTIVATED GARDENS PUNCTUATED BY BOXWOOD PARTERRES AND BRIGHT CAMELLIA BLOOMS AND BRICK WALLS COVERED IN JASMINE. AND, MOST IMPACTFULLY, IT TOUCHES THE SOULS OF THE PEOPLE WHO LIVE HERE, WHOSE LIVES, LIVELIHOODS AND DREAMS HAVE BEEN SHAPED BY THE LUSH AND ENCHANTING NATURE OF THIS UNIQUE PLACE.

Previous page: A circa-1794 banana plant drawing by the British naturalist and explorer Mark Catesby, courtesy of Charleston Library Society.

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WALLED GARDEN TRADD STREET T U E S D AY, J A N U A R Y 1 9 , 2 0 2 1 11:07AM


C L E A R W AT E R S W A M P YEMASSEE T U E S D AY, O C T O B E R 2 0 , 2 0 2 0 3:20PM


BOUCLIER POLISHED BRASS FINISH INTERIORS BY STEPHANIE MOLSTER INTERIORS ARCHITECTURE BY DUFFORD YOUNG ARCHITECTS


CHISHOLM CLEAN BLACK FINISH WITH HEWN BRASS LACQUERED ACCENTS AND CLEAR GLASS I N T E R I O R S B Y C H A U N C E Y B O O T H B Y, A R C H I T E C T U R E B Y B R O O K S & FA L O T I C O , P H O T O G R A P H Y B Y R E A D M C K E N D R E E / J B S A

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PAV I L I O N BRONZE FINISH HEWN BRASS ACCENTS INTERIORS BY MUNGER INTERIORS A R C H I T E C T U R E B Y N E W B E R RY A R C H I T E C T U R E PHOTOGRAPHY BY JULIE SOEFER


BELMONT BENJAMIN MOORE #349 YELLOW BRICK ROAD FINISH CLEAR GLASS INTERIORS BY BETTY BURGESS A R C H I T E C T U R E B Y D . S TA N L E Y D I X O N P H O T O G R A P H Y B Y E M I LY F O L L O W I L L


VIC ON BRACKET BLACK FINISH CLEAR GLASS POT WHITE GLASS ACCENT INTERIORS BY PROEM STUDIO ARCHITECTURE BY HSU MCCULLOUGH


REX WALL RAL #5009 AZURE BLUE WITH RAL #5009 AZURE BLUE ACCENTS INTERIORS BY WHELAN DESIGN HOUSE

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C H A R T I N G A N E W CO U R S E


STEVENS TOWING

TUCKED ALONG THE BANKS OF THE WADMALAW RIVER, WHERE THE INTRACOASTAL WATERWAY FLOWS TOWARD THE ATLANTIC, SITS A SHIPYARD ANCHORED BY ONE OF THE MOST STUNNING EXAMPLES OF WHAT HAPPENS WHEN HIGH DESIGN, HISTORIC PRESERVATION AND A FRESH APPROACH TO A FAMILY-RUN BUSINESS COLLIDE TO TRANSFORM AN INDUSTRIAL WORKPLACE INTO AN AESTHETIC INSPIRATION. AND ALMOST NO ONE KNOWS ABOUT IT.

LANDSCAPE


Adventure. Exploration. Wild weather and international intrigue on the high seas. When it comes to Stevens Towing, the 108-yearold maritime transport and freight company set on a tiny Lowcountry spit known as Yonges Island, everything defies expectations. It is fitting, poetic even, that Stevens Towing is headquartered in one of the most stunning commercial structures in the Charleston area; glassed-in conference areas and pristinely preserved brick edifices overlook a working shipping center with a 75-piece flotilla, from tugboats to barges, in varying sizes and service capabilities. Both Stevens Towing, now run by fourth-generation scion Johnson Stevens, and its iconic location inside a newly restored former post house, are under-the-radar landmarks whose past, present and future are firmly anchored in a spirit of originality. Today, thanks to Johnson’s commitment to quality, this unique property also presents a vision of the modern workplace in which industrial expertise, coastal beauty and historic preservation are all natural aspects of business as usual. None of it came about in a way that can be described as direct or linear, but ask any one of the more than 250 people who come to work there each day, and they will tell you that the path to where they are now was nonetheless a natural progression. A few, those who are given to sailors’ stories and superstition, swear the way it all unfolded was even predestined. That’s because when Johnson took over for his father, Bill Stevens, in 2013, it was the logical passing of the baton from one generation to the next, and company tradition by that point. But Johnson’s position wasn’t always guaranteed, at least not in his mind, nor was he fully prepared for the moment when it came. Johnson initially sidestepped entry into the family business, eschewing the line of succession in favor of work in destinations farther afield. He went out west to fly-fish for a few months, traveled to various destinations pursuing wildlife in between and eventually got a gig guiding fishing charters around the Caribbean. “It started out as just a couple of months,” Johnson says, “but eventually I was following the seasonal circuit, going to Panama, Costa Rica, then on into Mexico. I lived the life...until one day I got a phone call saying I needed to be at work on Monday and that was the end of that.” With his father’s health in decline, Johnson returned home

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to begin steering his family’s business toward the future. Fortunately, he had the support of a pretty seasoned crew— from his mother, Susan, a guiding matriarch who knows all the stories and became a sort of conduit connecting Johnson’s era to his father’s, to the outfit’s swashbuckling veteran captain, Scott White, who has served as Stevens’s main pilot for more than twenty years. Add in a ballooning crew of engineers, electricians, welders, shipfitters, crane operators, painters, carpenters, mechanics, salesmen, accountants, pipefitters and blasters, maintenance experts, deckhands and all-around loyalists—including many who boast of multiple-generation lineages of their own—and Johnson found his footing. In addition to forging ahead as Stevens Towing’s new leader, Johnson devoted himself to honoring his father’s legacy. That commitment extended not just to elevating the business but also to raising the bar on the company’s headquarters, a dream his father had held for years. Johnson’s wife, Dillard, whom he had married in the interim, was happy to weigh in. A childhood friend whose family’s own seafaring business, founded in 1919, is equally as anchored in the area, thanks to their expertise in commercial diving and marine construction, Dillard introduced Johnson to the interior designer Jenny Keenan. A partnership was born and Jenny set about reimagining the company’s historic headquarters in a way that would reflect the fresh vision of a new generation of leadership. Johnson’s rise is a modern tale of derring-do in which the zeal for experimental design mimics an encompassing approach to work and life. At Stevens Towing, the aesthetic perspective mimics the family’s overall ethos: all-in and willing to take risks. Design is just an extension of the company’s culture, after all, and at the company the quality of work and the quality of life go hand in hand. The origins of this mindset go back to the company’s founding, in the late-1870s, when brothers Joseph Stanyarne Stevens and William Yates Stevens recognized a growing need for water-borne transport to ferry produce, perishables, cotton and other crops and material goods to and from points of sale up and down the coast. At the time, bridges were few and far between and the preferred modes of delivery—railroads, horses, oxcarts and, later,

automobiles—weren’t sufficient to meet growing demand. Flooding issues and lax road maintenance presented additional challenges. The Stevens brothers built their business using a single boat, the Mary Draper, but expansion came swiftly. In 1913, Stevens Line Company was formed to incorporate trucks, trailers, barges, freight vessels and manpower. By the 1970s, the family had built a thriving business that

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continued to broaden their reach and services under the direction of Johnson’s father, Bill, and the name changed to Stevens Towing.

mapped the milestones of the island, the company and the building it now occupies in extreme detail, an ongoing project that is well into its next chapter.

When the old post office finally shuttered for good in the mid-1980s and the Stevens family set about converting what they didn’t already occupy into their primary office complex, the goal was to do more than renovate and maintain the structure. They wanted to turn it into something special and significant that would reflect its importance as a hub of Lowcountry island life during the 19th and 20th centuries.

“This work, what we’ve done, was definitely Bill’s dream first,” says Dillard. “When he passed away, we knew the time had come to make that a reality. For Bill, the most important thing was for Johnson and his brother, Robert, to love coming to work every day.”

“The railroad ended here, on the other side of the post office,” Johnson explains, “and this was a station for all of the passengers. They would come here, but so would the mail and anything else being brought in. If you bought a car, the salesman would come here, take you on one of our boats back to Edisto and stay with you long enough to teach you how to drive it. After that, he’d ride back and do it all over again. Same with the produce that we’d ferry from the farms to Charleston so that the farmers could make a living. It was a really important spot.” The building was always special to Bill, whose deep connection to the area and community was evident to everyone he encountered—both inside and outside the company. And though Bill passed away a few years back, his legacy looms large.

When the family initially contacted Jenny Keenan, the designer didn’t know what to expect. “That first visit, I wasn’t sure what my team and I would find when we went out to Yonges Island,” she says, “but I fell in love with it—the people, the place, four generations of family and business history. It’s pretty special and we’ve been really lucky to have it as our workplace, too, during this project.” The first goal was to open up the layout to create a lighter, brighter interior. “Most of the inside had already been gutted, and we wanted to work with their incredible architect, Eddie Fava, to preserve its bones and beautiful centuries-old brick walls while also modernizing it,” Jenny says. “The result is a mix of antique and vintage and new elements, which is perfect.”

WHEN THE OLD POST OFFICE FINALLY SHUTTERED FOR GOOD IN THE MID-1980s AND THE STEVENS FAMILY SET ABOUT CONVERTING WHAT THEY DIDN’T ALREADY OCCUPY INTO THEIR PRIMARY OFFICE COMPLEX, THE GOAL WAS TO DO MORE THAN RENOVATE AND MAINTAIN THE STRUCTURE. THEY WANTED TO TURN IT INTO SOMETHING SPECIAL AND SIGNIFICANT THAT WOULD REFLECT ITS IMPORTANCE AS A HUB OF LOWCOUNTRY ISLAND LIFE DURING THE 19TH AND 20TH CENTURIES.

“Bill Stevens is the reason I came to work here, and Bill Stevens is the reason I’ll never leave,” says Captain Scott White. “He loved this island and this building so much. It was an extension of his family.” Raised in a shrimping family in McClellanville, South Carolina, just up the coast, Scott has witnessed Stevens’s growth firsthand. He has also overseen more trips than anyone else on the team, occasionally with Johnson onboard. With its current fleet of 12 towboats, a handful of 500-ton floating cranes, 50 barges and a bustling shipyard, Stevens’s current workload is varied and, in Scott’s case, requires patience, flexibility and a level of zen more commonly associated with monks. “We do a little bit of everything,” Scott says. “We tow vessels all over the world, from bringing a replica of Air Force One down from Norfolk, Virginia, to carrying freight to the Middle East to trips to Alaska by way of western waterways. Sometimes there’s cargo involved; sometimes the ship itself is the cargo. We also tow boats in need of repair to Yonges Island, where our shipyard rebuilds them to get them back on the water.” Scott’s wife, Mathilde Dumond, also works there in the capacity of training and development. Her knowledge of the company and the island itself is unparalleled. She has

Jenny used metal-framed glass walls to create defined meeting and working spaces. She also installed fixtures from Urban Electric that have coastal and industrial echoes, alongside vintage pieces and weathered details to balance the space’s original design and materials against a fresh aesthetic befitting a new, younger generation. The design team’s work was recently recognized with a Carolopolis award for excellence in historic preservation.

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Beyond the building, the view is no less breathtaking and unique. The waters of nearby Botany Bay are home to frisky pods of curious dolphins, grazing nurse sharks, unsullied marshlands and the kind of preserved coastal beauty that remains untouched as if frozen in time. The commute is not typical but it is stunning. As part of the restoration efforts, the family donated a cache of historical artifacts and materials from the post office itself—metal mailboxes, equipment, tools—to the Old Exchange Building on East Bay Street in downtown Charleston, where it remains on display today.

From the unshakable loyalty of the men and women who work there to the reputation and recognition it enjoys well beyond these local waters, Stevens Towing is built on a fearless thirst for innovation and an uncompromising commitment to excellence and community. “I learned early on,” Johnson’s mother, Susan, says, “that this is way more than a business, and it’s way more than a job. For all of us, top to bottom, it’s a lifestyle and we take pride in that.”

An early map of the waterways that Stevens Towing has traversed for more than a century, courtesy of Charleston Library Society.

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Johnson Stevens at the helm.


Island Girl, one of the fleet’s larger tugboats, takes to the water.


Barnacles on seasoned equipment.

A shore bird at attention.

A view from the tug.

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A colorful lookout.

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The marsh near Botany Bay.


Looking out from the deck.


Captain Scott White.


West Wycombe pendants in a first-floor meeting space.


Kensington and Pop fixtures in the entry.

Interior designer Jenny Keenan.

Chiltern in the upstairs conference room.

Johnson and Dillard Stevens.

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B O TA N Y B AY EDISTO BEACH S AT U R D AY, S E P T E M B E R 5 , 2 0 2 0 1:57PM


EDDYSTONE ANTIQUE BRASS FINISH O PA L G L A S S INTERIORS BY LUCAS STUDIO, INC. ARCHITECTURE BY ERIK EVENS P H O T O G R A P H Y B Y K A RY N M I L L E T


THE HAND SCONCE HEIRLOOM FINISH WITH CUSTOM SHADE INTERIORS BY LANDED INTERIORS & HOMES, PHOTOGRAPHY BY HARIS KENJAR

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G A R D E N PAT H .


GARDEN GEOMETRY AS S E E N F R O M A B OV E .


FROM THE GROUND UP AFTER A HYPER-FOCUSED HUNT FOR A PLACE IN CHARLESTON, DIANNE AVLON FOUND A PROPERTY THAT CHECKED ALL THE BOXES: NOT ONLY WAS IT ON THE STREET OF HER DREAMS, BUT IT ALSO POSSESSED ENOUGH HISTORY TO BE INTERESTING AND ENOUGH PROMISE TO BE CULTIVATED AND WORTHY OF FUTURE PRESERVATION. OVER THE ENSUING THREE DECADES, SHE HAS TRANSFORMED THE HOUSE INTO A HOME DEFINED BY PERSONAL TOUCHES AND PRECISE

Dianne and her husband, John, fell in love with Charleston more than 40 years ago. Though she and her family lived in New York at the time, Charleston’s alluring downtown peninsula—and in particular one historic stretch—captured her heart over a series of visits; eventually, she decided to move. “It was Bastille Day, 1989,” says Dianne, as she recounts the timeline of her family's relocation from Manhattan to the circa-1818 house that had first caught her eye two years earlier during her search for the perfect place in Charleston. “We fell in love with the house straight away, but it was clear from the beginning that we would need help with the rest of the property,” she recalls. “The grounds basically consisted of a paved parking lot and little else, which was never going to work for us.”

ATTENTION TO DETAIL—ESPECIALLY WHEN IT COMES TO HER BELOVED GARDEN. IT'S AN IDYLLIC EXPANSE THAT BLENDS STRUCTURAL BOXWOODS AND THREE DISTINCT GARDEN “ROOMS” WITH DIANE'S “CHARMING INHABITANTS”—ALL CONJURED AS IF BY MAGIC FROM A VACANT LOT THROUGH A COLLABORATION WITH LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTS HUGH AND MARY PALMER DARGAN. TODAY, THE HOUSE IS ONE OF SOUTH OF BROAD’S MOST ENDURING AND ENDEARING LANDMARKS, BUT ITS GARDEN HAS REMAINED A MOSTLY PRIVATE PLEASURE. UNTIL NOW. ENJOY THIS RARE GLIMPSE AT WHAT LIES BEHIND THE GATES.

Enter Mary Palmer and Hugh Dargan, the nationally renowned masterminds behind Dargan Landscape Architects, a Cashiers, North Carolina–based firm with Charleston ties and project credits across the country and throughout the South, from the Virgin Islands to the Smoky Mountains (where they recently completed an English-style garden for the co-founders of Blackberry Farm). “We saw the potential beneath the surface immediately,” says Mary Palmer. “The house had been split into multiple units, each of which had its own parking area. Dianne knew what she wanted for her garden and property and, well, that sure wasn’t it. Through a mutual friend’s recommendation, she found us and basically enlisted our input on day one. From there, it was off to the races.” This would be a garden from scratch. Extensive research failed to turn up any trace of an excavatable garden or previous landscape plan, but the Dargans loved the challenge of transforming this outdoor hardscape into something lush and verdant and inspiring. Part of the mandate was to introduce new plantings and features that combined a mixture of fresh and immediately impactful growth but that would also evolve over time into something that felt like it had always been there. To do that required loads of new plant material combined with an overall plan rooted in history and knowledge of local flora. In other words, the goal was to create a new garden with roots. “Because our vision was built on the idea of an imagined re-creation of something historic that would match the provenance of the house,” Mary Palmer explains, “rather than on an actual restoration of something that once was, we knew we could realize a vision for what this garden could be better than anyone else.”

AN 18TH CENTURY SUNDIAL

The special alchemy that resulted from the collaboration between the Dargans and Dianne further elevated the project. “Dianne was the driving force in shaping this legacy space, and our relationship was nothing if not a partnership,” Mary Palmer says. “She is a genius. And she had a plan that worked so brilliantly with ours—from the boxwoods we trucked in to the creation of new brick walls made in the exact specifications of the mortar-free, 19th century style, to the enduring game of chase between native saltwater-resistant roses and the Georgia jasmine that just keeps climbing.”

S TA N D S S E N T I N E L I N T H E CENTER OF THE GARDEN.

And as Mary Palmer notes. . . the jasmine always wins.


A PA N O R A M I C P E R S P E C T I V E LO O K I N G O U T F R O M T H E M A I N H O U S E R E F L E C T S T H E L AYO U T ’ S A P P R OAC H T O S Y M M E T R Y: A R O S E M A R Y- R I N G E D D WA R F B OX W O O D C O R E W I T H PAT H S T H AT F O R M B OT H S E R P E N T I N E C U RV E S A N D S H A R P A N G L E S ; B E YO N D, A S I T T I N G A R E A I S F L A N K E D B Y T W O G A R D E N WO R KS H E DS .


POINTS OF VIEW TO P : F R O M T H E B E G I N N I N G , D I A N N E WA N T E D H E R O W N PERSONAL ENGLISH GARDEN— S T R U C T U R E D B U T N OT G R A N D , S M A L L B U T C H A R M I N G . TO DAY, S H E D E L I G H T S I N TA K I N G I N THE FRUITS OF HER LABOR F R O M T H E R O O M J U S T B E YO N D T H I S PA I R O F W I N D O W S .

CENTER, FROM LEFT: CHINTZ IN THE GARDEN ROOM ECHOES THE VIEW JUST OUTSIDE; CAMELLIAS I N B LO O M .

B OT TO M , F R O M L E F T: A S Q U I R R E L K E E P S WATC H OV E R T H E G A R D E N F O U N TA I N , A D D I N G D I A N N E ’ S S I G N AT U R E W H I M S I C A L TO U C H ; A S H A D O W B OX I N T H E N O R T H G A R D E N WO R KS H E D F I L L E D W I T H TREASURES UNEARTHED WHEN T H E G A R D E N WA S F I R S T B U I LT.


P E R S O N A L TO U C H E S AT R I G H T : A S E R E N E S E AT I N G N O O K . I N A D D I T I O N TO T H E F O U N TA I N , D I A N N E W O R K E D W I T H LO C A L I N T E R I O R D E S I G N E R COZ Y P E L Z E R O N T H E O U T D O O R F U R N I T U R E , INCLUDING THIS BENCH,

B E LO W, F R O M L E F T : H A N D - PA I N T E D WA L L PA N E L S ; A N I N T R I C AT E LY D E TA I L E D AC O R N M OT I F F E AT U R E D T H R O U G H O U T T H E M A N I C U R E D S PAC E ; A L AY E R E D C O R N E R F E AT U R I N G C O N I C A L S H A P E S , A N D D I M I N U T I V E H E D G I N G P U N C T U AT E D B Y A S E R I E S O F B LO O M S .

B O T T O M : A PA R T E R R E S T U DY.

“We paid attention to

every detail in this magical garden,” says landscape architect Mary Palmer

Dargan. “Every six inches of the entire space was mapped out, every element studied and considered equally.

That’s why it was so timeless thirty-plus years ago, and

why it’s still that way today.”


LES ROSES BY PIERRE-JOSEPH REDOUTÉ CO U R T E SY O F C H A R L E STO N LIBRARY SOCIETY PIERRE-JOSEPH REDOUTÉ ( 1 7 5 9 – 1 8 4 0 ) WA S K N O W N A S T H E “ R A P H A E L O F F LO W E R S . ” C R E AT E D B E T W E E N 1 8 1 7 A N D 1824, REDOUTÉ’S MASTERPIECE USES THE TECHNIQUE O F S T I P P L E E N G R AV I N G TO P R O D U C E CO P I E S O F WAT E R C O LO R I L L U S T R AT I O N S .


BOWLINE HEIRLOOM FINISH PA R T I A L LY T R A N S L U C E N T M I R R O R O N C L E A R G L A S S INTERIORS BY THOMAS HAMEL PHOTOGRAPHY BY MARK ROPER


FORME ANTIQUE BRASS FINISH HEIRLOOM ACCENTS S M O K E A C R Y L I C PA N E L S A R C H I T E C T U R E A N D I N T E R I O R S B Y H E AT H E R A . W I L S O N


JENNIFER WALL CUSTOM FINISH I N T E R I O R S B Y R O N E N L E V, A R C H I T E C T U R E B Y E L I Z A B E T H R O B E R T S A R C H I T E C T S , P H O T O G R A P H Y B Y N I C O L E F R A N Z E N

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YVES HANG, CUSTOMIZED O I L R U B B E D B R O N Z E P O W D E R C O AT F I N I S H HEWN BRASS LACQUERED ACCENTS CLEAR GLASS INTERIORS BY AUDREY STERK PHOTOGRAPHY BY READ MCKENDREE/JBSA


PROFILE

S

IN THE WORLD OF FLORAL DESIGN, FEW LEADING FIGURES PROFESS THEIR

LOVE—PASSION EVEN—FOR INVASIVE SPECIES AS READILY AS SARA YORK GRIMSHAW. A SEASONED AND EXPERIENCED HORTICULTURALIST AND INDUSTRY VETERAN

WHOSE EXPERTISE RANGES FROM CREATING LIVING ENVIRONMENTS FROM SCRATCH TO BREATHING FRESH LIFE INTO EXISTING SPACES TO ENHANCING EVENTS AND

PHOTOSHOOTS THROUGH HER TRANSFORMATIVE APPROACH TO NATURE, SARA IS THE ULTIMATE FLORAPHILE. SHE JUST LOVES PLANTS—ALL PLANTS—FINDING BEAUTY EVEN IN NATURE’S LESS DESIRABLE SPECIMENS.

The roots of Sara’s calling run deep, all the way back to a small Ohio farm town called Andover, where the designer grew up in an idyllic world punctuated by fences overgrown with peonies and a can-do culture of canning. If not for a series of pivotal events that led to Charleston, she might well have stayed there and lived out her days contentedly tending to her own plot of land. But when her path turned southward, Sara dug in, establishing herself on the Charleston floral design scene while still in college and building a following that eventually led her to found her own floral design studio, SYG. In the process, she has been commissioned by everyone from interior design impresario Ken Fulk, who introduced us to her wow factor early on, to movie producer Joel Silver, who enlisted her services to enliven Auldbrass, his Frank Lloyd Wright–designed home (see page 104), to the work she did bringing trees, greenery and other living elements to our new factory here at Urban Electric. A consummate partner who anticipates her clients’ needs and desires even as she brings her own vision into verdant focus in unexpected ways, Sara describes herself as a “salt of the Earth” type of person, who derives joy and satisfaction from enhancing the environments of others. She is an aesthete but also a naturalist—hence the embrace of a botanical spectrum that encompasses both weeds and wonder—and her talents continue to bloom through additional ventures, such as Gnome Café, the vegan-curious dining destination she runs from the space adjacent to her floral studio. But, then, hard work is in her DNA, as Sara continues to make clear, and her approach to cultivation is rooted in community, whether it applies to plants or people.

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SARA YORK GRIMSHAW AS TOLD TO

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Harvest born: Sara at a favorite foraging spot on Johns Island.


“I HAVE A SPECIAL PLACE IN MY HEART FOR INVASIVE SPECIES AND THE PLANTS THAT ARE SO ABUNDANT THEY ARE BEGGING TO BE NOTICED.”


I

SARA YORK GRIMSHAW in her own words...

was very much a tomboy growing up. We didn’t

Florida because, for me at that point, Florida was the

have a working farm, but it was close to it. We

farthest away I had ever been in my life. I didn’t get

always had a garden; we canned a lot of vegetables,

accepted to the school there that I applied to, though,

froze a lot of food. We had seven horses that I rode. I

and the College of Charleston was my backup. I honestly

baled hay. There were peonies along the fenceline. It

thought when I moved here that I would stay for one

was magic, the kind of childhood that I wish everyone

semester and reapply, but then I got here and I was

could have. I remember thinking even then, ‘I wish I

like...‘Woah! This place is amazing. I am definitely not

could just stay in this moment forever.’

moving to Florida.’ I immediately fell in love with the landscape and got a job working at Charleston Florist,

At a very young age I was super attracted to cutting

a flower shop that used to be on King Street. I was there

plants and flowers to design with, but my father is

for two years and loved it. After that, I got married

highly allergic to flowers, so we were never allowed

and took a brief hiatus to teach when my husband got

to bring anything into the house. As a result, we were

a teaching job, but I would come home weeping every

always looking for excuses to use them, like, ‘Oh,

night, and I left after seven weeks. I freelanced for a

Mom, are we having people over? I’ll do something

bit but never could fully find my footing doing that,

on the picnic table,’ or ‘Are we doing something

either. I kept wondering, ‘What is my thing that sets me

outside? Maybe it could use some flowers?’ And I was

apart?’ So I started focusing on my own work and put a

just gathering what was around, going out on the

walk-in cooler shop in my house in 2008.

old railroad tracks and harvesting bundles of Shasta daisies and that kind of thing. In high school, I worked

At that point, I had been in the business long enough

at English Rose Floral Shoppe, which was a local place,

that I figured…‘If I keep my overhead low and get this

and our specialty was making these gigantic red rose

off the ground, it’ll be okay.’ And when our current

arrangements—the two-dozen special—and 90s-style

space on Spring Street became available in 2010, the

prom corsages. I loved working there, but my heart was

studio found its permanent home and I couldn’t be

always more into wild blooms and organic cuttings,

happier. We do events and installs in all shapes and

which is what I still love to do.

sizes, and the people who are exposed to what we create may not even realize that their overall experience was

Even today, I will go back home and cut armloads

elevated by the flowers; they’ll just know that it felt

of things that are just interesting. I’ll wrap them in

good, and it looked amazing even if they can’t pinpoint

newspaper, tape them up, water-pack them and take

why. That’s always my question, ‘Was it fun? Did they

them as my carry-on back to Charleston. I have had

enjoy themselves?’

some epic adventures traveling with flowers. Like, me in airport bathrooms, trying to keep them alive,

This work is part of who I am, the fabric of my life. I’m

watering them down in a sink.

still an avid gardener—my husband and I have a little bit of land on James Island and most of it is greenhouse

The first passionate love of my life was tragically killed

space. And at work, I’ve really tried to recommit myself

in a car accident, right on the street at the corner of

to being an earth-centric florist or designer. I source

my parents’ house, and it sent me on a path away from

plants regionally, instead of shipping from all around

home. Up until then, I could see myself going to school

the world. I also have a special place in my heart for

in Cleveland, somewhere closer, and kind of embracing

invasive species and the plants that are so abundant

Midwest life. And the moment that happened that all

they are begging to be noticed. Everything has a

went away. I immediately started scouting schools in

purpose, and it’s my job and my joy to put them to use.

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SARA GRIMSHAW’S SECRET FORAGING SPOT JAMES ISLAND T H U R S D AY, O C T O B E R 8 , 2 0 2 0 8:38AM


BANANA BLOSSOM THE CRESCENT F R I D AY, D E C E M B E R 4 , 2 0 2 0 12:36PM


TURMERIC #1 38” X 50” A C R Y L I C O N PA P E R FLETCHER WILLIAMS III, 2020


C U LT U R E

BEGINNING IN THE 1920s, CHARLESTON ENTERED A CULTURAL AWAKENING THAT WOULD COME TO BE KNOWN AS THE “CHARLESTON RENAISSANCE,” A PRE-DEPRESSION ERA CREATIVE SURGE DURING WHICH PLAYWRIGHTS, ARTISTS, PRESERVATIONISTS, MUSICIANS, POETS, NOVELISTS AND OTHER MULTIDISCIPLINARY MINDS OF ALL GENDERS AND PERSUASIONS EXPANDED THEIR RANKS AND ADVANCED THEIR VOICES. THESE PAST FEW DECADES HAVE BEEN A RETURN TO THAT TIME OF FREE THOUGHT AND ABUNDANT INSPIRATION. FROM BOUNDARY-CHALLENGING ARTISTS TO NATURALISTS BLURRING THE LINES BETWEEN COMMERCE AND CONSERVATION TO AN HISTORIC LITERARY POWERHOUSE DEVOTED TO RESTORING PAST TREASURES BY DUSTING OFF THEIR COVERS FOR RENEWED CIRCULATION, THIS MOMENT IS A WATERSHED FOR CULTURAL ADVANCEMENT AND RECOGNITION FOR CHARLESTON.

Previous page: An 18th-century Atlantic Neptune map detail, courtesy of Charleston Library Society.

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P O W E R A N D G L O RY M U R A L B Y S H E PA R D FA I R E Y UPPER KING S AT U R D AY, S E P T E M B E R 2 6 , 2 0 2 0 9:39AM


W H I T B Y ( S O F T- W I R E D ) POLISHED BRASS FINISH BENJAMIN MOORE #2022-10 YELLOW SHADE I N T E R I O R S B Y R E AT H D E S I G N PHOTOGRAPHY BY LAURE JOLIET


PAV I L I O N HEWN BRASS LACQUERED FINISH A N T I Q U E G I LT A C C E N T S I N T E R I O R S B Y A N N W O L F I N T E R I O R D E C O R AT I O N PHOTOGRAPHY BY CHRIS LUKER


REX FLUSHMOUNT BLACK FINISH WITH HEWN BRASS LACQUERED ACCENTS I N T E R I O R S B Y W H I T T N E Y PA R K I N S O N D E S I G N , P H O T O G R A P H Y B Y S A R A H S H I E L D S

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C H I LT E R N D O U B L E ANTIQUE BRASS FINISH POLISHED NICKEL ACCENTS RAL #9017 TRAFFIC BLACK SHADES WITH HEWN BRASS INTERIOR INTERIORS BY JEREMY D. CLARK STUDIO ARCHITECTURE BY JAMES B. LAUGHLIN PHOTOGRAPHY BY HECTOR SANCHEZ


P O R T R A I T O F A N A R T I ST AS A M A N


FLETCHER WILLIAMS III

A FRESH PRESENCE IN THE NATIONAL ART WORLD WHO CREATES LARGE-SCALE PAINTINGS, SCULPTURES, MIXED MEDIA WORKS AND CIVIC INSTALLATIONS FROM HIS CHARLESTON STUDIO, FLETCHER WILLIAMS HAS GAINED A FOLLOWING FROM NEW YORK TO LOS ANGELES. BUT, LIKE MANY ARTISTS, THERE IS MORE TO HIM THAN MEETS THE EYE. THERE IS THE PERSON, THE PERSONA AND THE PARTS UNKNOWN—ASPECTS DEFINED AS MUCH BY HIS FEARLESS APPROACH TO NEW IDEAS AND TECHNIQUES AS BY HIS REFUSAL TO BE CATEGORIZED BY THEM.

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After we encountered the work of Fletcher Williams over the past few years, and began collecting a bit of it, too, we were charmed. Fletcher is an imaginative artist whose beautiful paintings, provocative sculptures and installations present a fresh perspective on historical narratives. The trifecta of competing identities that comes with expressing creativity out loud, in the open, for others to witness and collect is something Fletcher is just beginning to reconcile. On the one hand, it’s a necessary part of the professional journey for any working artist—to be able to make a living in the visual realm, after all, requires balancing one’s private inner space against an increasingly public image. On the other, it’s also an intrinsic piece of the creative process. “Part of the practice that people don’t often realize is that sense of self-discovery,” Fletcher says. “There is a lot of push and pull, yin and yang, a sense of the abstract, in my work. That path is continuous for me, and joyous.”

THE PERSON A North Charleston native, Fletcher’s talent was evident from a young age. “As a child I was painting everywhere,” he says. Encouraged by his mother, a professor, and various teachers along the way, Fletcher followed an art-centric path from grade school straight on to New York City, where he scored a spot at the prestigious Cooper Union. A powerhouse university and creative arts institution just southeast of Union Square, the school is as renowned for its rigorous education as it is for the caliber of contemporary visionaries who matriculate into its programs. During his time in New York, Fletcher dabbled in various fields and odd jobs, from a part-time gig at an Apple Store to a stint working at Cavi, a men’s fashion label that pushed the envelope on streetwear and precision tailoring. Through it all, his studies left him with not only a deep appreciation for New York and its incomparably rich art world, but also a new outlook on Charleston. “I had a professor at Cooper Union who helped me

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understand that language was the original practice,” Fletcher says. “The focus of study was on uncovering the sociology behind culture—studying culture, relating to culture and recognizing the importance of culture in what members of a community choose to share or not share. Ultimately, that level of thought has also helped me see the ways in which linguistic and cultural delineations directly connect to authenticity and historical narratives, which has had a huge impact.” His friend of more than a decade, Dwight Lazarus, who is based in New York, puts it this way: “Fletcher has always been a storyteller. He thrives in spaces where he can bring modernity to history. And he does it in a way that no one else does. Every time I see his work, it’s like it’s the first time, and yet, I totally recognize it, too. It’s that sense that deeper ideas, a collective experience or concept, are bubbling up and being rearranged in a fresh, of-themoment way.” In addition to his work in New York, which is characterized by experimentation and artistic exploration and a candid critique of the role galleries play in an artist’s life, Fletcher’s work since returning to Charleston, in 2013, has been driven by his relationship to the Lowcountry and its diverse communities and culture. He has developed public initiatives that recognize specialized artisanship and handwork, celebrating the art of sweetgrass basketry and championing its economic reevaluation, for example, and utilizing the skills of Palmetto rose weavers in various projects; designed signage that reimagines the public square as a place where all communities, not just the dominant ones, can claim visibility and privilege; and hosted performative shows that address Charleston’s complicated history of cultural, social and spacial division. “I’ve just been more aware of culture and how it impacts people, both as a participant and an observer,” he says. “And with Black culture being such an important part of Charleston’s history, there’s that component that’s always kinda in the back of my mind—I guess because I call myself a descendant of these original practitioners, these artists in the Geechee community. So even though I don’t always have a specific objective going into the work, I know that everything I experience on a day-to-day basis becomes part of my work in some way. And I’m conscious of adding to a larger story, regardless of whether I can visualize the exact outcome at the outset. When I work with bricks, for instance, I ask myself, ‘What am I doing to contribute to

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the Geechee narrative? How am I augmenting that work and redirecting it?’ And it all goes back to Cooper and that emphasis on understanding culture and social landscape in a connected, big picture way.”

THE PERSONA In the summer of 2020, Fletcher was riding a wave of exposure and prominence brought on by Promiseland, a sweeping exhibition staged at the historic Aiken-Rhett House and produced in collaboration with the Historic Charleston Foundation. The multimedia show contained thirteen pieces of original artwork, including works on paper, video projection, sculpture and environmental installations, situated throughout the property. Guiding visitors beyond the big house to the dwellings and spaces where the former enslaved populations once lived, worked and slept, it delivered a dynamic and immersive experience that both educated and engaged visitors. It also focused on the lines of demarcation—both visible and unseen—that define boundaries. Promiseland debuted to unanimous acclaim, and amplified Fletcher’s influence in the art world. The Gibbes Museum of Art, in Charleston, purchased a piece for its permanent collection, cementing a relationship with Fletcher that had begun years prior. The work also attracted a wider audience across the country. The actress Busy Phillips, who fell in love with all things Charleston while filming an HBO series here a few years back, purchased one of the exhibit’s untitled pieces, a large-scale horizontal painting that had been positioned prominently in Aiken-Rhett’s Drawing Room for her Los Angeles home. Multiple national publications, including Veranda, also rushed to devote pages to Fletcher’s professional and personal journey in subsequent issues. For Fletcher, the attention is both welcome and slightly unsettling. And yet it also reflects the friction inherent in being an artist. “What I’m getting [from Promiseland] is, I think, what happens with all artists, too. There is a certain expectation, depending on when someone was introduced to your work, that they will want to see rendered similarly going forward,” Fletcher says. “And my work can evolve very quickly, or I could abandon something very quickly, and want something very new.” He continues, “There are transitional pieces in my practice, and also a component of my work that anyone who lives in

the South, or who has a relationship with where they live, identifies with because they are interested in the history and the origin of that place. But I can say that I’ve steered myself away from and also toward this historical narrative, and that intention and conflict are ingrained in my work.” In recent years, one form has emerged as a signature in Fletcher’s work: the wooden picket. A simple column with a squoval upper silhouette reminiscent of Shaker styles, it borders on the primitive. But this picket—which Fletcher selected as the Platonic ideal of pickets after a search more exhaustive than most blockbuster movie castings—is infused with meaning. A brief retrospective: Set against a popping backdrop of color, the picket is a mark against which to experiment with turmeric-colored dye, as he did in the piece “Turmeric #1” (see page 188), in 2020. Slanted at an angle, the perspective of the pickets on the green background in “Shadow 001” (see page 214) evokes the brightness of a manicured lawn, plush with grass and landowning promise. Superimposed over the punchy blue and orange of a transportation crew member’s vest, “Untitled” (see page 207) acts as a top layer to a story of blue collar labor and the American dream. Within the context of Promiseland, the picket also evokes both the metaphorical line between two groups of people living within one estate, as well as the spaces that separate each.

THE PARTS UNKNOWN To understand Fletcher is to embrace the artistic process in all of its inscrutable and addictive and voyeuristic glory. To accept the unknown and unknowable, and to acquiesce to the power that comes when an artist asks a question that leads his audience to a personal, and often unique, conclusion. Whether or not Fletcher shares the same perspective on any given work of art is largely irrelevant: where one quest for expression ends, another begins. This is a sentiment readily accepted by people who encounter his work—whether they are art novices who stumble onto him by chance, art collectors who seek him out, fellow creatives who encounter him in the field or friends who value his worldview.

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“He is the nicest, most delightful person,” says Joel Caldwell, a photographer who worked with Fletcher recently on a project for an Australian style brand. “It sounds stereotypical but you would never know he was an artist by his temperament. His talent, yes. His intuition, yes. His insight, yes. Which is remarkable—he’s most definitely exploring existential issues in his head constantly, but there’s no outward angst. Just someone who knows who he is.” Fletcher’s ability to balance the pressures of his work also testifies to the impact of place on his artistic development— if home is where the heart is, then the impact that New York and Charleston share on his soul is a defining dichotomy. New York is where he learned to think critically and resist categorization. It’s where he began to question what “art” means and to encourage others to do the same, rather than to wait for the answers to be revealed. And it is also where he learned to embrace contradictions, and to think bigger about his corner of the world and what it could be with a bit of creative self-reflection—in both the public and the private spheres.

He continues: “When I was in New York, my work focused on pop culture. I was doing stuff about [hair] weaves and gold teeth and rap culture. And I’ve kinda gotten away from it but I am looking to revisit some of that, too, in an abstract way. I miss the freedom to just make exciting and fun work when it strikes me. It’s not always about protests, not always about trauma, not always about the Black experience in the South. I’m an artist, not an activist. I participate in storytelling, delivering a narrative forward and hopefully adding to it. But that doesn’t apply only to heavy themes. There are a lot of things that I grew up with that I thought were cool in a lighter way, like candy paint and old Southern music and fast cars. Again, it’s about finding and delivering those joyous moments in my art.” “Now, I’m in a space where it’s also still about material, about my journey, about free expression, but also about the ways those experiences interact with the public space. And today, that’s what motivates me.” “Tomorrow, who knows...”

In Charleston, he learned to see his home from the inside out. And in the same way he dove headlong into mastering native materials and techniques—from welding iron to weaving marshgrass—Fletcher also embraces what he doesn’t already know, and inspiration he hasn’t yet tapped, to build the scaffolding required to prop up and present new ideas down the road. “I originally left Charleston to rebel against the traditional art and work that was made here, and the desire to reinvent my practice,” Fletcher says. “Now I’m heading toward a larger scale from here, I think. I definitely like work that engages the public space. That really mobilizes people.”

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UNTITLED 2019 38" X 50" A C R Y L I C O N PA P E R


EDEN 2019 A C R Y L I C O N PA P E R 72" X 120" SHOWN: PROMISELAND, AIKEN RHETT EXHIBITION GIBBES MUSEUM, PERMANENT COLLECTION


HOMESTEAD 2018 T I N R O O F, P I C K E T F E N C E , R E B A R 84" X 44" X 44"

GIFT FOR A GARDENER

WORK GARDEN

H A N D - C R A F T E D PA L M E T T O R O S E S

2019 2020

A N D PA L M E T T O L E AV E S , T I N R O O F,

PA L M E T T O F R O N D S , B R I C K C O L U M N S

WOODEN PICKET BASE 80" X 44"

PROMISELAND

PROMISELAND

AIKEN-RHETT EXHIBITION

AIKEN-RHETT EXHIBITION SECOND FLOOR PIAZZA

W O R K YA R D

UNTITLED 2020 DISCARDED PICKET FENCE, WOOD BASE PROMISELAND AIKEN-RHETT EXHIBITION

The artist’s materials.

E N S L AV E D Q U A R T E R S

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Fletcher in his home workspace.


UNTITLED 2020 DISCARDED PICKET FENCE, WOOD BASE PROMISELAND, AIKEN-RHETT EXHIBITION S TA I R H A L L


SHADOW 001 2018 A C R Y L I C O N PA P E R 38" X 50" P R I VAT E C O L L E C T I O N


CAMPION HEIRLOOM FINISH ANTIQUE BRASS ACCENTS INTERIORS BY ALISA BLOOM PHOTOGRAPHY BY BJÖRN WALLANDER


LOU LOU WALL POLISHED BRASS UNLACQUERED FINISH WITH POLISHED BRASS UNLACQUERED ACCENTS AND GOLD SILK SHADES I N T E R I O R S B Y S A R A R U F F I N C O S T E L L O , P H O T O G R A P H Y B Y PA U L C O S T E L L O HOTEL CHLOE, NEW ORLEANS, LA

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Charleston’s Athenaeum PR ESERV ING a Legacy.

A Survey. First Edition.

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harleston is filled with historic treasures—both on display and hidden from public view—but one trove stands alone for the sheer volume and scale of its wonders: the Charleston Library Society. A font of inspiration and information, the Society houses carefully preserved and protected literary gems and papers, such as original collections of Elizabethan Shakespeare (the Bard’s second folio!), and a letter from then Chief Justice John Marshall hurling snark and insults at Thomas Jefferson circa-1808. Alongside these rarities are countless other materials that are still being combed through and cataloged as part of the institution’s active and ongoing curatorial mission. And nearly three centuries after the Library Society first began gathering inventory, it’s still the kind of place anyone would relish getting lost in.


Charleston Library Society.

F

ounded on December 28, 1748, by a group of 19 young dreamers spanning a broad spectrum of vocations, the nascent Charleston Library Society formed what would become one of America’s earliest subscription libraries. From the beginning, those founding members—merchants, planters, lawyers, a schoolmaster, a doctor and a wigmaker, the oldest of whom was around 40 years old—had aspirations that expanded far beyond their areas of expertise, or financial capabilities. “These were up and coming thinkers who were not wealthy enough to have their own private library but wanted to stay in Charleston and decided that bringing all of the latest materials in math, history, natural history, geography, literature—you name it—coming out of Europe at the time was crucial to building a truly enlightened city,” says Anne Cleveland, the Society’s Executive Director. “Out of necessity, and a bit of ingenuity, they got together and pooled their resources.” That ethos continues to define the institution. In 2020, the Library Society unveiled its Igoe Shakespeare Library, a collection of more than one hundred pieces of Elizabethan-era history, including a series of portraits on display in a stunning dark red gallery room encased in glass. The paintings had been previously exhibited at the Folger Library in Washington, DC, and are a major addition to the permanent collection. This trove also includes rare and prized works from Shakespeare, including a valuable 1632

edition of the Bard’s complete works. A gift from the passionate bibliophile and Elizabethan enthusiast Skipper Igoe, it extends the Society’s already substantial Shakespearean archive, and harkens back to the days when the institution was a prominent player in historical acquisitions on an international scale. Under Cleveland’s leadership, the Society’s mission has remained very much a live one. In addition to bringing renowned works of literary and local history to dynamic life and reclaiming its position as one of Charleston’s premier educational resources, the library also seeks out contemporary materials that document modern times and will likely become tomorrow’s relics. Beyond its membership circle, the Charleston Library Society liaises with acclaimed authors, artists, visionaries and innovators from a range of disciplines and schools of thought, in order to bring new perspectives to Charleston. And the building’s interior is suited to fostering a sense of community with these visiting leaders against a backdrop of culture. “The Library Society has hosted as many as 350 people for speakers, such as Walter Isaacson and Jon Meacham,” Anne says. “We’ve also had up to 200 people in attendance for our musical experiences—an approach to programming that allows people to actually make contact and feel part of the same experience. It’s been a great way to bring people in, and an even better way to get them to stay.”


P O R T R A I T O F L A DY C AT H E R I N E STA N H O P E

By William Larkin c. 1651

William Larkin’s 1651 portrait of the English noblewoman Lady Catherine Stanhope is a focal point of the new Igoe Shakespeare Library, a dedicated viewing room designed to house more than one hundred rare Elizabethan works.


M R . W I L L I A M S H A K E S P E A R E S CO M E D I E S , H I STO R I E S , A N D T R AG E D I E S . P U B L I S H E D ACCO R D I N G TO T H E T R U E O R I G I N A L L CO P I E S .

C A L L N U M B E R : H .C . Y B E S S H 1 OV E R S I Z E D

By William Shakespeare (Pub. 1632)

One of the anchors of the Shakespeare collection, this circa-1632 Second Folio of complete works is as rare as it gets—and features the first published appearance of the poet John Milton.


WAS H I N GTO N L E T T E R S E R I E S 1 N O. 1

C A L L N U M B E R : M S . 1 7 8 S E R I E S 1 , N O. 1 - 2

By President George Washington (c. 1796)

In this letter dated September 9, 1796, President George Washington, a onetime member of the Library Society, introduces the South Carolina statesman Charles Cotesworth Pinckney as the ambassador to France.


H I STO I R E N AT U R E L L E D E L A C A R O L I N E , D E L A F LO R I D E , & DES ILES DE BAHAMA

C A L L N U M B E R : H .C . M C 2 8 F O L I O

By Mark Catesby (Pub. 1754) 2 Volumes

The English naturalist and explorer Mark Catesby was the first to conduct an ecological survey of the habitats of southeastern North America in the early 18th century, mostly through his focus on the Lowcountry of South Carolina and neighboring colonies.


T R A N SAC T I O N S O F T H E A M E R I C A N P H I LO S O P H I C A L S O C I E T Y, H E L D AT P H I L A D E L P H I A , F O R P R O M OT I N G U S E F U L K N OW L E D G E D E S C R I P T I O N O F N E W F R E S H WAT E R A N D L A N D S H E L L S

C A L L N U M B E R : A P A M 3 .1 6

By Isaac Lea (Pub. 1834)

This early taxonomy of freshwater and land shells was written in 1834 by Isaac Lea, a prominent conchologist, geologist, naturalist and publisher.


The Atlantic Neptune - One of the earliest detailed renderings of the Charleston coastline, then referred to as Charlestown.


B O O K B I N D E RY A N D CO N S E RVAT I O N L A B

The Library Society is constantly surveying its collection for signs of age and wear (coastal humidity is the enemy of paper-based relics). The in-house Conservation Lab and Bookbinding Studio, directed by James Davis, works to preserve, protect and, when needed, reconstruct volumes in the collection.


C H A R L E STO N L I B R A RY S O C I E T Y

Est. 1748

The building’s edifice has been updated and modernized to welcome members and visitors, as well as to reflect its historical and national importance as a forwardlooking institution that draws international authors, musicians, intellectuals, scientists and artists to its salon-style interior to hold forth on the latest in contemporary culture.


Charleston Library Society.

LIBR A RY LEGENDS NOTES & A NECDOTES

Behind every great building or institution is a great story. When it comes to the Charleston Library Society, that truism is magnified exponentially. There are centuries-old ephemera, wild geographical accounts, tales of political intrigue, major milestone markers, accounts of pivotal interactions and monumental occurrences that altered the course of history. Even a shallow dive into the stacks reveals a timeline of epic discoveries, both on and off the page. Here are a few.

EST. 1748

OVERFLOW

DOODLES

The second oldest circulating library in the country (after the Library Company of Philadelphia), the Library Society has survived alcohol-induced fires, shifting fortunes and the wrath of scorned lovers.

The Library Society’s excess inventory led to the creation of America’s first museum, The Charleston Museum, in 1773.

During the ongoing process of cataloging and reviewing materials, library staff often find doodles and other hand-drawn notations dating back as early as the 14th century.


Charleston Library Society.

LIBR A RY LEGENDS IN NOTES & A NECDOTES

CULTURAL CURRENCY

IT’S CONSTITUTIONAL

During the American Revolution, the Society served as a bank, funding most of the war against colonial rule.

The Library has one of only four copies in the world of a handwritten Fundamental Constitution for Carolina written by John Locke.

SKINS & SCALES Amongst other exotic materials in the vault, the librarians swoon over a FrenchEnglish dictionary bound in fishskin. The in-house bookbinder even created a backstory for its hypothetical former owner, who he imagined to be a resourceful waterman with a deteriorating book and only one available material with which to recover it. The date of the book’s reupholstered origin? 1794.

HIGH STAKES A former Society member bequeathed to the organization the Steeplechase racetrack that once occupied the present-day location of Hampton Park. When the track closed at the turn of the 20th century, the proceeds of the sale went to the library’s endowment, though the institution donated the enormous wrought iron gates to the track where the Belmont Stakes are run, where they remain today.


HOUGHTON BRONZE FINISH ANTIQUE BRASS ACCENTS I N T E R I O R S B Y C R AV O T TA I N T E R I O R S ARCHITECTURE BY MICHAEL G. IMBER ARCHITECTS P H O T O G R A P H Y B Y R YA N N F O R D


PUNCH POLISHED NICKEL FINISH BRONZE ACCENTS INTERIORS BY KEN FULK PHOTOGRAPHY BY REAGAN PETREHN FELIX ROASTING CO., NEW YORK, NY


HEDGES HEWN BRASS LACQUERED FINISH WITH BLACK ACCENTS I N T E R I O R S B Y C W I D E S I G N   A N D H E I D I P I R O N , P H O T O G R A P H Y B Y M I K E VA N TA S S E L L

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WINSTON POLISHED BRASS LACQUERED FINISH CLEAR GLASS INTERIORS BY SHELBY WAGNER P H O T O G R A P H Y B Y N AT H A N S C H R O D E R


PROFILE

IMAGINE KEROUAC’S WANDERLUST MINUS THE DISDAIN. HEMINGWAY’S AUTHENTICITY WITH LESS ROAD-WEARINESS OR DEFEATISM. COUSTEAU’S DEPTH WITHOUT COSTUME.

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CYRUS BUFFUM IS AN EXPLORER WITH AN OLD SPIRIT WHOSE CURIOSITY IS ROOTED IN PRECISION (WITHOUT PRETENSE) AND INTROSPECTION (WITHOUT SELF-IMPORTANCE).

AND LIKE HIS SEAFARING PREDECESSORS, CYRUS IS MORE EASILY DEFINED BY HOW HE THINKS THAN BY WHAT HE DOES.

Officially, Cyrus Buffum is the founder of Seaborn Oyster Co., the six-year-old Charleston-based outfit that cultivates South Carolina’s wild oysters using traditional methods to produce premium singles for restaurants and private clients. Seaborn also offers programming to promote awareness of coastal issues, from resource conservation to the unique flavor profile of his sought-after selects. Unofficially, his work encompasses a broader mission to protect the natural world and be a steward for the waters that connect us all. If that seems sweeping and ambitious, that’s because it is. Since Cyrus is always on the move—literally—the best way to get a true sense of his essence is to observe him in his natural element: the water.

A day in the life of Cyrus typically involves a boat ride to an obscure island or inlet, or to the leased strip of intertidal land near Breach Inlet where his oysters are growing in briny beds. The conversation is lively and nothing is off limits. A physics major in college with a minor in mathematics, Cyrus is equal parts introspective and extroverted and carries forth confidently on everything from migratory patterns of roseate spoonbills to the local oyster taxonomy. His favorite topic of late is how Charleston’s unique geography, coastal conditions and cultural history have manifested themselves in the native oyster, a fact that, he feels, has been overlooked and undervalued. In other words, the potential to elevate Lowcountry merroir is long overdue for serious consideration.

CYRUS BUFFUM AS TOLD TO

The Urban Electric Co.

Water has been Cyrus’s passion since he was a kid growing up on Cape Cod, and he embraces it with reverence and an unquenchable thirst to learn its secrets, share its stories and be guided by its flow. Professionally, this ethos has led him down multiple paths, but there’s also an inspiring consistency in his openness to new experiences. Cyrus embraces the freedom to create impact outside of traditional channels, relying instead on a lesson he learned long ago: Adaptation is the engine of life. And who is he to contradict the laws of nature?

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Sunset on Swinton Creek, home to one of Cyrus’s cultivation sites.


“LOOKING BACK, THESE SCARCE OYSTERS TAUGHT ME TO SEE THE SUBTLETIES OF NATURE IN WAYS I PREVIOUSLY HAD NOT.”


I

CYRUS BUFFUM in his own words...

t was December 2015. I was in the Department of Natural Resource’s commercial licensing office to fill out paperwork when an old salt next to me offered some unsolicited advice. “There’s no money in oysters,” he said. That was the day I launched Seaborn. His words might have been daunting had my hubris not led me to gloss over his perspective with an internal scoff: Clearly, I knew something he didn’t. I was setting out to take advantage of a booming opportunity. Charleston’s culinary scene was on a steep ascent and the oyster was poised to play a leading role. I harvested single oysters that first season from the public grounds of an inlet-facing island at the confluence of the Stono and Kiawah Rivers. I called them Snake Island Selects. I carried them back to the landing in a single milk crate aboard my 1987 aluminum Starcraft powered by a two-stroke Evinrude, also from 1987, and a pair of wooden oars mounted amidship as frequently as the tide would allow (a contingency I’d come to rely on often). I’d often tie up behind or just ahead of a group of seasoned-looking oystermen, who’d always have an intimidating number of bushels stacked on their decks, cigarettes between their lips, voices, mostly profanity, projecting across the surface. It was around this time that I discovered two sources of oyster lore from the nineteenth century. The first was a federal report published by the United States Fish Commission, which contained a detailed analysis of the status of oysters on every creek, waterway and inlet along the South Carolina coastline—from the salinity and turbidity of the water to the total acreage of bivalves in a given location. The other was a series of proceedings from Charleston’s Elliott Society of Natural History, a longstanding organization that often focused their studies on the characteristics of our native oysters. Seeing the potential for growth in Charleston’s oyster industry, I remember thinking in those early days how unsustainable my trajectory was. I was reliant on public beds that were open to every other commercial oysterman in the state, and what few oysters I was able to harvest on these grounds were the hidden gems that had been passed over and left behind by clear-cutting types who harvested for volume.

T H E C U R R E N T, V O L . 3

Looking back, however, these scarce oysters taught me to see the subtleties of nature in ways I hadn’t before. At the time, I was a man stuck between two worlds, pinned at times to the point of paralysis by what felt like conflicting forces. On the one hand, I was chasing the growing popularity of the oyster. I assembled nearly forty acres of private beds on which to grow my business to scale, certain that more is better than less. I courted the latest and newest technologies to produce a consistent and perfect looking oyster, certain that new is better than old. I bought a bigger engine, too, certain that speed is a sign of success. And I grew confident on a wave of acclaim from chefs, restaurants, media and social likes, certain that my value came from the judgment of others. At the same time, my intuition, quiet as it may have been to start, was growing into a deafening force of its own. I lost my ego in the writings of Wendell Berry, E. F. Schumacher, Jane Jacobs, Masanobu Fukuoka and George Perkins Marsh, as I learned about the ancient wisdom ingrained in our natural world, and slept hunched over my computer as I poured over library archives of obscure manuscripts from years ago. I felt the strain of imbalance between competing signals. Eventually, a calibration of sorts took place. Things came to a head the season before last, when I surrendered all but six of my acres, lost several restaurant accounts due to an infrequent production schedule and swapped the big and fast boat for a lower-octane vessel more suited to the current-laden conditions of a tidal creek. As a result of the shift, I started paying more attention to what had been previously undetectable: The different types of algae that grew on the farm and when; the patterns of shorebirds overhead; the nuanced characteristics of the oysters of varying locations; when my body grew tired, or thirsty or hungry. Gradually, the feeling of strain weakened. The value I’ve gained these past five years has been in realizing the enduring connection we have to the natural world—which exists whether we recognize it in the moment or not. To fight this bond is, in the end, to fight oneself.

/ C U LT U R E

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The Current, Vol. 3  

The Current, Vol. 3  

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