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Exotica at Work: Inside a Historic Office in Charleston, Plus 13 Ideas to Steal

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Exotica at Work: Inside a Historic Office in Charleston, Plus 13 Ideas to Steal

September 7, 2018

A while back in our in-box we got an email from SDCO Partners, a Charleston, South Carolina–based creative company. The team, wrote partner and creative director Courtney Rowson, had moved from a “old, one-room shotgun building on Cannon Street” to a 100-year-old historic house that “had been retrofitted with drop ceilings, cubicles, carpeted floors, and other office efficiencies” while (ironically) inhabited by an architecture firm. “We restored many of the rooms back to their original state, while adding touches of modernity throughout. An iron-framed wall and art installation contrast the historic properties of the space, which include original inlay wood flooring, high ceilings, and detailed molding,” Rowson wrote. (She and her business partner, Amy Pastre, made all of the design decisions.) The finished product: a creative office with historic bones, plus “elements of surprise and texture.” Here are 13 ideas to steal for a low-key, high-style office.

Photography courtesy of SDCO Partners.

1. Preserve happy accidents.

the striking entryway to the office, including the ornate front door and marble 9
Above: The striking entryway to the office, including the ornate front door and marble stairs, is all original: “The house was once occupied as a residence and the homeowner’s last initial was ‘S,'” Rowson says. “Ironically, we had walked past the door many times and admired the beautiful ‘S’ monogram on the door. When we purchased the house, we knew it was fortuitous, as we could keep the monogram as signage for SDCO Partners.”

2. Mix historic with modern.

the entryway, with original staircase. &#8\2\20;we focused on restoring th 10
Above: The entryway, with original staircase. “We focused on restoring the house to its original state, as well as opening walls and adding in details that made the 100-year old house feel modern,” says Rowson. The team “restored the oak inlay and heart-pine floors, removed the drop ceilings, added a glass and metal wall to separate the conference area from the downstairs office,” and enforced a neutral palette. (At the end of the entryway is a back room with gray-painted floors, used for storage and snack breaks.)

3. Use wood as sculpture.

in the entryway the original, \100 year old carved wood door mixes with a chair 11
Above: In the entryway the original, 100-year-old carved wood door mixes with a chair by Bauhaus-educated designer Norman Cherner and a commissioned pendant light by third-generation woodworker Emily Brock of Board & Bread in Nashville. Mix-and-match wood pieces throughout add a naturalistic but sculptural feel.

4. Keep a neutral palette.

the front conference room has an original brick fireplace and is open on both s 12
Above: The front conference room has an original brick fireplace and is open on both sides to the entryway. “We chose to keep the palette neutral and went with an all-white interior,” Rowson says, but a mix of materials—black chairs, iron-framed glass doors, and exposed brick—adds texture.

5. Forgo office lights.

rather than install harsh overhead lights, the team sourced a vertigo pendant l 13
Above: Rather than install harsh overhead lights, the team sourced a Vertigo Pendant Lamp by Parisian designer Constance Guisset from the MoMA Design Store.

6. Create an architectural element with steel-framed doors.

the two rooms on the first floor are separated by a custom steel frame glass do 14
Above: The two rooms on the first floor are separated by a custom steel-frame glass door, installed by Cole Flodin, a local metalworker, who worked with David Pastre, a professor of architecture at Clemson University, to design the structure. “The openness allows the partners to always be visible, while still creating privacy,” Rowson says.

7. Don’t forget a space to lounge.

offices and home offices alike need seating options other than computer chairs. 15
Above: Offices and home offices alike need seating options other than computer chairs. An all-white room on the first floor is fitted with a high-low mix: Barcelona Couch by van der Rohe and, on the left-hand wall, a flea-market painting “that we thought juxtaposed the simple, white space nicely,” Rowson says.

8. Add something unexpected.

 an installation of quail eggs on the room&#8\2\17;s back wall plays up th 16
Above: An installation of quail eggs on the room’s back wall plays up the exotic elements throughout the office. “We knew we wanted something graphic that complimented the interiors,” Rowson says, so the team commissioned local artists Sisal Creative to create something for above the desks. “The wall is composed of 100 quail eggs that are mounted to the wall with brass pins. A few of the eggs have been purposely broken and are filled with gold foil.” Rowson adds: “We’re inherently drawn to elements of surprise and things with texture, and felt these touches paired nicely with the historic architecture and minimalistic interiors.”

9. Enlist Ikea.

with the building stripped and restored to its original condition, the team add 17
Above: With the building stripped and restored to its original condition, the team added Ikea basics—floating shelves, Kallax bookshelves, and white Kuggis bins—to serve as storage, plus white desks from Blu Dot.
here, the kallax shelves hold books (a rare moment of color). 18
Above: Here, the Kallax shelves hold books (a rare moment of color).

10. Keep something artful in sight.

an upstairs office shares interior windows with the sun porch, which the team r 19
Above: An upstairs office shares interior windows with the sun porch, which the team rents to an artist. As a result, the artist’s curios and finds are just visible on a high shelf—a reminder to keep inspiration within sight, even at the office.

11. Treat the office as a living space.

a rug and upholstered chairs, plus a working fireplace, add an at home feel to  20
Above: A rug and upholstered chairs, plus a working fireplace, add an at-home feel to an upstairs room. The fire is lit frequently in winter, Rowson says.

12. Evoke exotica in the bath.

in the small bathroom, the team broke with the neutral scheme. the pendant ligh 21
Above: In the small bathroom, the team broke with the neutral scheme. The pendant light is by woodworker Emily Brock and the leaf-print wallpaper is by French company Ananbo.

13. Consider curb appeal.

the office sits on a small block in charleston, with the original red painted  22
Above: The office sits on a small block in Charleston, with the original red-painted tin roof and detailing over the windows and doors.

More Carolina design on our minds:

N.B.: This post is an update; the original story ran on November 8, 2017.

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