Charleston, South Carolina, architect Heather A. Wilson designed a special gathering place for her family while preserving its historic charm.
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For Charleston architect Heather A. Wilson, "old-house love" isn't just an idea; it's a celebrated part of her professional and family life. For years now, she's had a hand in reviving many of the Holy City's historic structures—from large-scale renovations to smaller projects like her own 1800s Charleston-style brick home. "Our house is still what it's always been—that's what makes it special, and we renovated minimally to keep it that way," says Wilson. "You're looking at the original walls, slate roof, and fireplace."

Brick walled living room in historic carriage house
Wilson chose relaxed furniture with plenty of seating options.
| Credit: Brie Williams; Styling: Kate Malpeli

After an initial upgrade of the compact home's main quarters and backyard, Wilson looked to expand their living area. Some would see its historical vernacular as a limitation, but she immediately envisioned the old carriage house in back, which was formerly used for storage, as a connection between their main home and garden. All three together create a functional, organic spot for her young family to enjoy.

Keep Comfort in Mind

During the renovation, Wilson opened up the main floor to create an all-in-one space with dining and living areas as well as a small, wall-anchored kitchen. The room captivates with its exposed brick and modern farmhouse decor. Playing to the cozy vision, Wilson intentionally kept it simple and inviting, even converting the original coal fireplace to wood-burning for cold winter days.

Brick walled dining room in historic carriage house
Brick Carriage House Dining Area
Left: The carriage house is meant to be a natural extension of the backyard. | Credit: Brie Williams; Styling: Kate Malpeli
Right: Slipcovered dining chairs and a woven rug set a livable tone. Daisy, their Jack Russell terrier, feels right at home. | Credit: Brie Williams; Styling: Kate Malpeli

Consider How You Entertain

The sturdy dining table reads "hearth and home," which is what this escape is all about for Wilson. "We love to use this space to host dinner parties and have friends over for an afternoon. The spirit of the carriage house is one where everybody seems to make themselves at home; we sit around this big table for hours telling stories with good wine. When the weather's right, we often open the carriage doors to let in the fresh air," she says.

Brick walled carriage house kitchenette under the stairs
Credit: Brie Williams; Styling: Kate Malpeli

Remember the Room's Function

"This is a makeshift kitchen, but it does the job," says Wilson. She emphasized the importance of retaining the history of the space by making only minimal changes. "We don't intend to cook a full meal here. We designed it as more of a cocktail bar, an appetizer-prep area, and a place to warm and serve the food that we bring over from the main house. I wanted this to be a fun kitchen and not something we have to worry about," Wilson says.

Bowl of limes and water glasses on counter against brick wall
French Doors opening onto a grassy lawn
Left: Credit: Brie Williams; Styling: Kate Malpeli
Right: Credit: Brie Williams; Styling: Kate Malpeli

Embrace Your Natural Style 

Throughout the project, Wilson allowed the home's distinctive features to guide her. She looked for any opportunities to let in sunlight and played to the textures of the brick, wood, and stone. She decorated with handmade pottery, baskets, and bowls as well as collected art from her family's travels and pieces by creative friends. To accent the space, she likes to bring in long-lasting palmettos and other foliage.

Brick walled lofted bedroom
Earthy color schemes and woven textiles speak to the space's surroundings.
| Credit: Brie Williams; Styling: Kate Malpeli

Have an Always Ready Room for Guests

"We created a bedroom out of the attic, adding a stairwell up to it," Wilson says. Tucked under a small original window, the bed is nicely dressed in neutral linens. This warm hideaway easily accommodates out-of-town visitors and provides extra space for the kids' sleepovers.