When designer Quincy Forester saw the 1940s Craftsman-style house in Wagener Terrace, she saw a beautiful home with untapped possibilities hidden within a layout that was dark and choppy.
“I’m very good at seeing the potential in a house and knowing if what the client wants can be done at all, let alone at reasonable cost,” says Forester, principal of Quincy Forester Interior Design. “The basic bones have to be there.” With more than three decades of experience renovating historic homes, the seasoned designer focused on maintaining the integrity of the Craftsman style while opening up and rethinking spaces to achieve a home more conducive to the homeowner’s lifestyle. “I asked Quincy to help me create a casual, comfortable, open home with character, interesting fabrics, rugs and art, and elements of elegance,” says the homeowner. “Outdoor living spaces are also very important to me.”
During the nine-month project, Forester removed walls, closed door openings and added a fireplace, windows and wooden beams. She reconfigured spaces, turned a small bedroom with awkward access to the master bedroom into a master bathroom and closet/laundry area. “I opened up the wall between the master and third bedroom to create a suite,” she explains. Forester stained the floors a rich espresso, kept walls neutral and put the spotlight on the historical home’s thick trim and molding by painting it a shade darker than the walls. “It’s a different look,” she says. Bedroom doors were painted a rich aubergine to create drama. To allow for more natural light and merge inside and outside spaces, paneled doors were replaced with glass ones and a screened porch was added off the kitchen for alfresco dining.
Forester has been renovating homes in Charleston and as far afield as Jackson Hole, Wyoming, since 1985, when she tackled her first home, a two-bedroom Charleston single on Queen Street. A native of South Carolina, her design business grew out of her love of and noted talent for finding possibilities. “I like having a project,” she says.
Her penchant for colorful ethnic textiles and antiques is evident throughout the home. Frequent travels to Morocco allow Forester to replenish her supplies of exotic and richly colored rugs, fabrics and pottery from Fez. These items are often her way of bringing a pop of freshness to client projects via pillows, throws and art.
A major challenge for this home renovation was adding a fireplace. “The homeowner loves sitting by the fire with her dog, so we found a way—and the right place—to add one,” says Forester.
The designer eschews built-ins and cabinets, particularly upper ones. When she can convince a homeowner to avoid bulky kitchen cabinets and matching islands, she does. “Cabinets and built-ins are expensive,” says Forester, “and cabinets go in and out of style. They might increase but they can definitely decrease the value of a home. And you can’t take them with you.”
Instead, she prefers the curated look of an antique chest or china cabinet for dinnerware and glass storage, and an old wooden table or bench as an island. For this project, one streamlined, thoughtfully placed built-in with three-way access serves as pantry and dishware storage. She chose a narrow, antique wooden table as an unexpected and interesting island.
“Quincy helped me with my previous home, a small Mount Pleasant condo, and we were able to repurpose 99 percent of the furniture from that project to this one,” says the homeowner. “She gave me good advice, to invest in what I love and acquire useful things that are the best I can afford. They easily translated to this home. These are the things I love, and they are just as at home in this downtown house as they were in that space.”
Another design feature Forester embraces are banquettes, which allow her to tuck a dining spot into a tight space and do away with the visual clutter of multiple chairs. “And they’re comfortable, almost like another sofa,” she says.
Her approach is comfortable simplicity. “To me, simple is best and it has to be comfortable, or what’s the point?” she says. “I find too much stuff confusing to most people. I listen to my clients to learn what they’re hoping to gain by evolving their personal spaces. This allows me to build on the things they love to create entirely new environments.”
True to form, Forester chose alternatives to cabinets and built-ins in this home’s master bathroom and closet/laundry room. An antique pine chest houses toiletries and a vintage wire basket shelf makes for a more interesting, airy storage solution. “Invest in pieces and buy good things, you’ll always find a place for them!” she advises.
“The spaces Quincy created from this existing home work perfectly for me and my lifestyle,” says the homeowner. “My family can cook, eat, enjoy the fire, visit with each other or watch a movie together. In warm weather, I can open up the entire house, and we can eat on the screened porch or sit on my large font porch and be part of neighborhood life. There’s now a very easy transition from inside to outside and my home flows perfectly!”
M.S. Lawrence is a freelance writer based in Charleston. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.