It's a toss-up whether designer Matthew Bees likes global style or soulful old Southern houses best. But one thing is certain: His curiously contradictory passions make for strong, spirited decorating.
Mathew Bees was still in high school when he saw Monticello for the first time, but he couldn't help correcting the docent
when she misidentified several furnishings on her tour of Thomas Jefferson's masterpiece. Anyone requiring further evidence
that Matthew was born to decorate historic properties need only look inside a certain early 20th-century brick plantation
house set on a small island near Charleston, South Carolina.
The early-1900s home was built in a toned-down Lowcountry and Palladian style. Paneled shutters with original operable hardware offer a classic touch.
For the interiors, Matthew wanted to create a look appropriate for a remote Southern getaway, but nothing too sleepy. He started
with a traditional foundation composed of classic American and English wood antiques, mellowed Oriental rugs, grids of framed
prints, and Colonial portraits crowned with museum-style brass picture lamps.
The eclectic composition includes a Neoclassic sofa, overlapping Oriental rugs, inexpensive rattan poufs, and a huge Chinese bowl from Charleston's John Pope Antiques.
Most of the rooms are personable public spaces created with drinks and conversations in mind. In the living room, for example,
Matthew paired a shapely sofa with a witty trompe l'oeil plaster coffee table that looks like a stack of large books. The
sofa itself is made richer with colorful textiles and pillows. "I'm a collector of textiles," says Matthew. "A bare sofa may
look great at first glance, but toss an embroidered Indian silk throw over it and it will really sing."
"I really felt the home needed some history," says Matthew. He found the 1850s portrait that hangs over the sofa at Seventeen South Antiques + Design in Charleston.
Patterned textiles liven up the neutral sofas with a global beat.
Seabird engravings framed in white hang around a large Indian brass platter with lots of patina.
"I feed off natural elements, probably because of my upbringing in rural South Alabama," he says. "But I have definitely taken
some liberties and bumped up the usual game trophies one would find in a Southern home. The game room features an African
kudu, a gazelle, and a zebra hide. And why not? This house is all about fun and fantasy."
Matthew draped the center table and topped it with books, spiraling kudu horns on stands, and reflective glass.
Posters of the state flags of Alabama, New York, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia (the birth states of Matthew and the close family friends with whom he shares the house) hang above the sofa.
Curtains made with a John Robshaw-designed fabric frame wing chairs from architect Bobby McAlpine's collection for Lee Industries.
Conical baskets, believed to have once been used by Asian fishermen, are now airy pendant shades over the South Carolina pine dining table.
Stunning cobalt- and gold-banded Parisian hotel china is part of Matthew's extensive collection.
On the wall, a large framed Indian print and roe deer antlers hang on a whitewashed screen made of old shutters. Below that is an American Empire sofa, which Matthew suspects was originally made for a hotel lobby.
In the bedrooms, Mathew layers headboards, pillows, duvet covers, curtains, and shades with different printed textiles that
look as if they were carried home from several continents—all set against a backdrop of antique wooden beds, chests, and trunks.
"Taking propriety and pairing it with Bohemianism just flows naturally for me," he says.
Matthew layered a mix of printed pillows against a tall, patterned headboard to create a bold look.
A modern flat-weave rug adds youthful pattern beneath the pair of antique German twin beds. Vintage Indian quilts bring additional color on top.
A linen three-panel screen hung horizontally behind the upholstered daybed adds even more coziness.
"I think anything, expensive or inexpensive, new or old, American or global, can be in the same space if it is placed correctly,"
Matthew Bees on the home's front steps. The ivy topiaries grow in antique iron urns he bought from a New York estate.
Find information on the products and services featured in Mathew Bee's home in our Source Guide.