With a storied past and magical location, you don’t find many properties as special as Kelly and Gary Cooper’s historic residence on Pawleys Island. Perched atop a bluff that’s covered in centuries-old live oaks draped in Spanish moss, the home dramatically overlooks the serene Waccamaw River and sprawling rice fields. In its past life, the property served as one of the largest rice mills in South Carolina and was also home to a schoolhouse.
When the Coopers decided to renovate the large main house, which was built in 1795, they desired a design team who understood and cherished the property’s rich history as much as they do. The family settled on interior designer Megan Sandefur and her father, Lance Griffith, owner of CHD Interiors, who partnered to transform the home. “I was born and raised in South Carolina, and this is hands down the prettiest property I’ve ever experienced,” says Sandefur. “We wanted to hold on to every ounce of the property’s history and accent the property with design elements that highlight its beauty.”
The Coopers gave Sandefur and her team full creative license to do what they needed to bring this old home alive, which meant loads of reimagined antiques and customized treasures. “They knew we appreciated those old things that tell a story, and they let us run with it,” says Sandefur. “A lot of clients are scared to commit to something without seeing it first, but as a designer, you do your best work when you’re free to be creative and customize.”
While the main house is spacious at 6,000 square feet, the living spaces were choppy and not ideal for the tight-knit family. They desired a more open concept. “The Coopers had plenty of space, but some of it was not the best use of the square footage,” says Sandefur. “We specialize in reworking a home’s floor plan so that it’s functional and addresses how the homeowners live.”
Sandefur’s team, which worked closely with Greg Fay of Sunnyside Builders on implementing all the design elements, knocked down walls and opened up the main floor, placing a major focus on the property’s breathtaking views that were formerly constrained with the home’s layout. They extended a warm quality to the interiors by adding antique support beams and installing patinaed floors and ceilings fabricated out of old barnwood siding, which fit with the home’s history and its riverfront location.
With all the new breathing room, it’s easy to flow through the home where every room reveals a story of the past and present. Sandefur and her parents embark on shopping trips to England twice a year, and this home is sprinkled with antiques from England and France. “We select mostly English antiques because they tend to be more casual, which speaks to the area’s coastal feeling,” says the designer. “We also chose contemporary and transitional pieces, which added interest against the old barnwood.” And, instead of the typical white and pale blue hues traditionally paired with antique-rich homes, this home is splashed with bold greens and blues, trendy fabrics, and every room is touched with hand-knotted rugs from Turkey and other far-flung places.
Walking through the home is like an antique treasure hunt. The informal entryway welcomes with a bleached 1800s French console table bordered by a vibrant piece of art. “I feel like there needs to be a good mix of art and architecture. It’s nice to blend unexpected elements with artwork,” says Sandefur, who also hung antique English shutters to flank the colorful artwork in the entryway.
As the hub of the home, the kitchen showcases a custom range hood in patinaed copper and stainless steel that complements the light green and taupe cabinets. Standout features of the room are an English trestle table and a custom banquette built into the kitchen island. Sandefur sketched then had an iron light fixture made that punctuates the table. Above the sink, a collection of antique oyster plates rest on antique beams.
The kitchen opens to a formal living room on one side and a casual den on the other, both of which boast an eclectic mix of old and new. The den’s ceiling is fitted with old barnwood siding that contrasts nicely with the contemporary sputnik chandeliers. A modern, dark blue sectional dotted with colorful pillows catches the eye, but other treasures such as an 1800s English pantry, which houses the television, and an English console behind the sofa steal the attention.
Move on to the formal living room, where Sandefur and Griffith’s creativity continues to shine. The designers smartly transformed an antique riddling rack—used in vineyards to hang Champagne bottles—into an oversize coffee table. “We designed an iron base for it and created a cross-type pattern with medallions on each end,” says Sandefur, who also fashioned an antique cement planter from England into another custom console table, which is highlighted by framed plants and botanicals from the area that are harvested by a local woman. The TV sits above a teal antique English buffet, which hides the TV’s components, and is distinctly framed by antique French garden pavers.
The father-daughter design duo paid extra attention to the nearby dining room, an intimate space with wood paneling that was fabricated by local cabinetmakers Challenge Cabinets. Blue display cases flank each door—their interiors painted emerald green to coordinate with the nearby dining chairs and their shelves perfectly lined with a collection of white antique French china. Another talking point of the room is the round dining table. “Round antique tables are so hard to find, so we bought old English parquet flooring and built a top with a cool metal base,” says Sandefur. Once again, the past is effortlessly blended with the present thanks to current designer fabrics that envelop the dining chairs and a large, hand-knotted rug in colorful green and blue hues that covers the floor.
One of the most striking elements of the home are custom-made barn doors fabricated from iron and glass, which offer seclusion from the back of the house yet the glass allows the views and natural light to flood the main floor. When Sandefur couldn’t find barn doors that fit the look and specifications of what she desired, she whipped up a drawing and had CHD’s in-house ironworker make the spectacular doors. “If I can’t find something, I’ll just draw it and we make it,” she says.
The designers also pride themselves on molding rooms around exceptional pieces beloved by homeowners. They designed the small study to highlight a commissioned art piece of Saint Paul, which has special meaning to the homeowner. Originally painted by Rembrandt, the team commissioned an artist to replicate the famous artwork using a special layered painting technique. The room feels warm and inviting with pecky cypress walls, a contemporary fireplace wall made of shell stone and built-in shelves created from old beams that wrap around the left side of the room. To coincide with the intimate space, furniture is kept minimal with a corner desk and shelves custom-built out of metal.
The nostalgia of the home carries to the red-brick porch that extends from the formal living room. The designer brought in an old farm table to serve as the dining table for outdoor meals and hung antique shutters and old English factory lights with a patinaed finish for added atmosphere. One of Sandefur’s favorite elements is an English pub sign that she purchased on an antiquing trip. She had the firm’s in-house ironworker fashion an iron bracket so it appropriately juts from the wall—just as it once did outside a pub.
“Those unique pieces are what bring character to a place like this,” says Sandefur, who is thrilled with the home’s finished renovation. “It’s one of those houses where you walk in and you’re in awe.” *