The Historic Charleston Reno You Need to See
Charleston architect Mary Mac Wilson transforms her circa-1890 Victorian into a home that flatters both its history and her love of contemporary design
A beaten-down rental with chain-link fences, the home had a brightly colored pink-and-green exterior with decorative—and dilapidated—gingerbread detailing all over it.
The Exterior: After
Victorian houses are traditionally painted in bright, contrasting hues. Mary Mac Wilson chose a neutral exterior palette to bring her circa-1890 Charleston home into the 21st century.
The Living Room: Before
What was once the home's formal living room and dining room had been walled off and turned into bedrooms to accommodate renters. This cut into much-needed first-floor living space and brought the 2,700-square-foot home's bedroom count to a whopping (and unnecessary) five. Wilson's first order of business was to reopen both rooms to the center hallway and reconnect them by uncovering a stunning original archway between the two that a previous owner had enclosed with drywall.
The Living Room: After
This Victorian sofa belonged to Wilson's great-grandmother. She gave it new life with simple gray linen upholstery instead of its previous brocade.
The Kitchen: Before
Wilson moved the kitchen from the back of the house to an interior room with better access to the dining room
The Kitchen: After
The trouble? The room had only one window. She removed the wall between the kitchen and the new eat-in den at the back of the house, flooding the space with light from French doors and windows. This also had the added benefit of creating a casual, open floor plan that better suited the couple's day-to-day living and entertaining needs. The space is now her favorite room, in large part because of the utilitarian finishes she used, such as cedar shelving, stainless steel, and marble.
The Master Suite: Before
Years of paint and wallpaper residue covered the walls in the master bedroom. Wilson loved the unique texture and story that they told about the past. "This was one of the things that got me really excited about this house," she says. However, the boring master bath lacked the same charm.
The Master Suite: After
An existing claw-foot tub from the guest bath—which wasn't practical by itself for her and her husband's purposes—was re-enameled and placed inside the footprint of a new shower they installed in their master bath. The drain can be plugged as usual for when they want a deep soak. To shower, they simply stand in the tub and leave the drain uncorked. "I'm sentimental about these old things," she says. "I felt like I needed to use it. Putting it in the shower felt like a fun way to make it mine."
The Master Suite: After
Wilson's decorating strategy was to mix contemporary furniture with antiques and not spend a fortune doing it. The chairs in her master bedroom were a side-of-the-road discovery that she had reupholstered and refinished.