Glance through the portfolio of interior designer Nicole Norris, and you’ll see plenty of colorful inspiration. Her signature work with strong colors is why many Lowcountry homeowners turn to her to enliven their spaces. The need for her expertise struck a little closer to home in this latest project—a luxury condo perched on the bank of the Wando River on Daniel Island owned by her parents, Mary and Tom Folse. They asked Norris to incorporate some of their furnishings and treasures collected over the years while traveling at the behest of the U.S. Air Force, while adding fresh, new pieces and their favorite bold color palette of turquoise, orange and chartreuse to their new waterfront condo.
Since they purchased the condo while it was still under construction, the Folses were not required to use the developer’s recommended in-house finish packages but instead could handpick materials with their own interior designer. “I have designed four homes over the last 30 years for them,” Norris says. “They trust my design sensibilities since I have worked with them on so many other projects.”
By changing the floor plan to suit her parents’ needs and adding their design preferences, the final result is a comfortable, eclectic and transitional condominium bursting with bright colors inspired by the Spanish-colonial town of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, where the Folses own another home. “Charleston and the UNESCO city of San Miguel de Allende have a lot in common,” Norris says. “The cobblestone streets and affinity for food, shopping, architecture and art are important in both cities.” The Mexican city is a hub of American expatriates who enjoy the culture, similar to the recent influx of new residents to the Holy City, which makes sense as both locations have held the title of top city in the world.
The desire for color drove many design choices in the Folses’ condo. A treasured piece of turquoise and gold artwork printed on Parisian paper, which was purchased from Scott Antique Markets in Atlanta, serves as the inspiration for the home’s color palette. It is uniquely hung from a drapery rod in the living room over two swivel barrel chairs sourced from the family’s prior residence in a North Carolina mountain town. “Mom thought she had lost this unique piece of artwork when they moved to the house in Mexico but found it as they moved to Daniel Island,” Norris says. “I was disappointed at the time because I was going to use it in the Mexico house, but it worked out much better as a focal point in this condo.”
Norris carried turquoise and other key colors into every room through the addition of newly purchased artwork and accessories. In the living room, a muted Turkish Oushak rug just steps away from the Parisian focal artwork continues the theme without being overbearing. Down the hall in the study, a Bernhardt sleeper sofa transforms the room into guest quarters when needed, while orange tones on a vibrant rug and throw pillows brighten the mood and hint at the Mexican aesthetic.
Only in the primary suite did Norris stray from bold colors, opting instead for cozy, textural neutrals for a calming effect. “The bedroom is small, but I was able to work in a king-size bed they already owned and used taupe and aqua to soften the room and make it feel restful and tranquil,” she says. A combination of honed Mediterranea Marmol porcelain tile and Calacatta Borghini quartz in the bathroom are classic and durable and remain in keeping with the soothing theme of the primary suite.
While color was important to the Folses, just as important was the need for storage. Since Norris was able to meet with the developer while construction was ongoing, she could alter the floor plan and furnishings to maximize storage capability. “The first thing I noticed when I walked into the entrance was that I looked straight into a set of double doors,” she says. “The home had no sense of arrival.” Since that set of double doors housed a closet and storage was top of mind, Norris knew she had to replace it with an even better solution. She custom designed a built-in cabinet with a decorative, mirrored front that became a welcoming piece in the entryway while providing space for hanging coats and drawers for essentials like dog leashes and car keys. “Everything you need before you walk out the door can be housed in that cabinet,” she says.
Since the entranceway built-in mimics the design of the Uttermost cabinets Norris chose to flank the fireplace in the living room down the hall, they look as if they were made to reside together. The footprint of the two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo is modest, so it was important to make storage aesthetically pleasing as well as functional. “I wanted to utilize every inch for storage without having closet after closet,” Norris says. “I repositioned the door to a closet in the entrance of the primary bedroom because it could be seen from the living room, replacing it instead with a treasured piece of furniture, family mementos and decorative touches to make the focal point more visibly pleasing.”
With an eye toward this goal, Norris reconfigured the kitchen cabinets to go all the way to the 10-foot ceiling, adding an extra level of cabinets for infrequently used items. “It’s not a large kitchen but a shotgun space,” Norris says. “As their main U.S. home, they really needed this extra bit of space.” She added an island for two, where the couple sits for breakfast each morning, after construction was complete. Its warm wood base helps to balance the modern vibe of stainless steel appliances and flat-front, European-style cabinetry painted ‘Cadet Grey’ by Farrow & Ball.
Open concept living between the kitchen, dining and living spaces extends to the large outdoor patio accessed through glass French doors off the main living room. “The patio overlooks the pool and is larger than the surrounding condos’ outdoor spaces,” Norris says. A built-in grill, large dining area complete with dining table and chairs, and a separate lounging space with comfortable furnishings brought from a previous house greatly increase the everyday living and entertainment capacity of the home. “The outdoor living space faces west, so you can see beautiful sunsets in the evening,” she adds. “They hosted a Christmas party there, and it was the best flow I’ve ever seen between indoor and outdoor entertaining spaces.”
With all the features the home has going for it, Norris added even more aging-in-place functionality by specifying grab bars in the bathroom to increase accessibility if needed by her parents in the future. “They moved here from another location on Daniel Island and decided against a two-level condo and instead chose this one where they could get in on the ground floor of the construction process and customize it for themselves,” she says. “This condo makes living easy. They love that The Kingstide restaurant is next door and they can hop the ferry to Mount Pleasant. There is no maintenance, and they can simply lock the door when they are ready to leave to spend some time in Mexico.” *
Dana W. Todd is a professional writer specializing in interior design, real estate, luxury homebuilding, landscape design, architecture and art.