When Clare and Brock Pernice and their children, Mia, 8, and Oliver, 5, moved into their 1852 Charleston house, they wanted to mix some modern touches with the traditional South Carolina architecture
Clare, an illustrator, and her husband, Brock, live here with their children. The center hall where they stand has a graphic-pattern rug and bold overhead lamps flanked by antique farmers' benches and a grandfather clock.
To play up her home's "warm, sunshiny spirit," Clare had the staid gray-green living and dining rooms painted a glossy white, which helps sunlight "hit the walls like a mirror." In the living room, she brightened a potentially drab brown couch with a playful litter of pillows in relaxing shades she calls sorbets. The sisal rug and palm plant underline "the islandy vibe we love." The family's don't-worry-be-happy philosophy is proven again with the coffee table: a rare midcentury piece with slide-out trays.
Wanting a modern white table for their dining room but not wanting to pay a lot for one, Clare and Brock had a refinishing epiphany: to give his grandparents' Victorian mahogany table a coat of thick white lacquer. "There was the risk it could have been ruined," Clare says of the custom-built antique, which seats 22 when all eight of its leaves are in place. "We just thought, 'Let's go for it. If we don't do it, we aren't going to use it.'" Now light shimmers on the glossy surface (and bounces off the mirror Clare had her refinisher age with acid before hanging it above the mantle).
Dens are, by definition, kind of cozy. Clare found theirs so perfect for communal flopping -- on a simple banquette built by a carpenter -- that she dubbed it "the Moroccan room." This is where the family plays games, watches TV, and, in winter, roasts marshmallows in front of the fireplace.
This light-filled space is the hub of Pernice activity. The trestle table's white polished marble top was honed to give it the timeworn appearance of a European cafe table. Surrounded by old church chairs with hymnal pockets -- where Oliver hides his Playmobil people and Mia ditches her schoolbooks -- the antiqued table anchors the contemporary room and serves a myriad of purposes.
"Master bedroom" may be a misnomer -- this extravagant fabric canopy is the mistress of the house. Clare had seen a similar bed in a magazine years ago, and when she met a skilled seamstress in Charleston, she whipped out her page clippings. Ultimately, the project (which required about 18 yards of fabric) was not much trickier than a set of custom drapes. But the visual impact of sweeping layers of creamy cotton is grand, to say the least.
Clare's affection for the way paint "gets really absorbed into the walls of old places" prompted her to treat the guest room with a deep, matte chocolate. "I wanted it to feel velvety and intimate," she says. Accent colors like the pale greens and oranges of the antique crewelwork bedspread keep the darkness from becoming overwhelming. The overall effect makes it a very restful spot.
So what if sun fades the front porch fabric or an afternoon shower leaves it a little soggy? "The swing is incredibly comfortable," Clare says of the long, custom-made piece in the outdoor space. "When friends come over for dinner during the summer, they gravitate to it afterward." The swing's seat is a waterproof hospital mattress; Clare, the chronic scrap-keeper, had it covered with the heavy cotton left over from the living room sofa. But she loves what exposure to rain and shine is doing to the swing -- and the wicker chair and table beside it. "I like things that look old," she says. "They're faded, but gorgeous."
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