With clean lines and a neutral color palette, a minimal aesthetic is an ideal choice for Lowcountry interior design. In Charleston and the Grand Strand, cool colors and organic materials are a refreshing break from the heat and humidity, and they don’t visually compete with dramatic marsh or ocean views. However, when it comes to neutrality and minimalism, there’s a fine line between soothing and bland. Lance Griffith, owner and lead designer at CHD Interiors, is an expert in helping clients achieve elevated, peaceful interiors that are anything but boring.
CHD Interiors has been part of the Lowcountry’s design community for more than 40 years. Started by Lance Griffith and his mother, Pollye Griffith, today the design firm has two expansive showrooms in Mount Pleasant and Murrells Inlet, and 36 employees, including in-house interior designers and craftspeople. The company is known for out-of-the-box thinking, a wide in-house selection of European antiques and the ability to create one-of-a-kind accents and furniture. This creates its signature collected, eclectic look that embraces the comfortable, relaxed lifestyle of the South.
To keep the antiques selection fresh, Griffith travels to Europe at least once a year to choose pieces from a carefully curated selection of trusted vendors. “We’ve been collaborating with some of our European vendors for more than 25 years, so they answer our call when we ask for specific things,” he says. “Even through the pandemic, we could put together shipments even though we couldn’t go in person.” CHD keeps a generous selection of antiques in stock but can send requests or search for the perfect piece from its long-term connections in England and France.
Griffith’s latest project, interior design for a renovated six-bedroom oceanfront home in the Prince George community just south of Pawleys Island, is a master class in sophisticated understatement. Located on a 1,900-acre tract of land on the Waccamaw Neck, Prince George is known for its abundant wildlife and serene marsh, river, forest and ocean surroundings. Homes on Prince George are extremely private; each is nestled into the land. In this gated community, the natural environment is the star of the show, which strongly informs design choices, from color and texture to the choice of window treatments.
This home is a full-time residence for a retiring couple and a family gathering place for their three grown children and extended family, including the homeowner’s sister and mother. “When the clients bought the home three years ago, it had good bones but was too beachy and had too much color,” Griffith says. “The client’s former home didn’t have a lot of color, and that’s an aesthetic she prefers.”
The key to a sophisticated neutral color palette isn’t avoiding color—it’s thoughtfully using one or two colors. An absence of color can be calming and extremely elegant when done well. Instead of color, the focus is on layering textures, patterns, light and shadow for a dynamic space. At first, the homeowner was cautious about using color, but with Griffith’s encouragement, she enjoyed branching out into a broader natural palette that reflects the changing colors of the Lowcountry ocean, sky and seagrass.
Overall, the clients wanted an elevated, sophisticated interior design plan that didn’t fit the typical beach house style. They also wanted their family to have input into the overall design and their private spaces. “My client wanted a place where everyone would be comfortable, so it was a very collaborative process,” Griffith says. “She wanted to explore a design that was new and different from their former home; she wanted to branch out and make this a happy place for everyone. The more she worked, the more she became interested in textures and patterns.” The clients also have several furry family members, so most fabrics and floor coverings had to be pet-friendly.
The view from the front of the house is of the marsh, and the view from the rear is of the ocean. As we enter the home, we see through the living room to the beach and a long boardwalk. CHD’s signature design strategy is mixing new and antique or vintage furnishings for a lived-in and collected look. The client brought a few of her own pieces to this project, including the 150-year-old French settee that graces the entry, and it’s here that we get our first hint of the blue and green color and botanical motif that runs throughout the home. “One of the first patterns we picked for the house is the big blue, green and yellow floral pattern on the settee,” Griffith says. The bright, contemporary pattern is a lively contrast to the traditional lines of the settee.
To the right of the entry, the dining room is also open to the living area. A row of tall windows lets in additional light while preserving the feeling that the room is its own defined space. This room features a vintage traditional mahogany table that seats 10 and an antique French buffet. Notice the interplay of light, texture and pattern that brings the room to life. To keep the circa 1850 buffet from making the space feel too formal, Griffith gave it a bleached finish. He also added contemporary dining chairs with oyster shell-inspired upholstery, elegant silver-toned chandeliers and gold-toned lamps on the sideboard to reflect light. Here and throughout the home, original artwork by the client’s son (a professional artist) adds color, as do jewel-toned lumbar pillows the exact color of the sky after dusk. “I think this room is a true reflection of the client,” Griffith says. “It has all of the small touches that she loves.”
In the living room, Griffith and the client settled on a cool color palette of duck egg blues, grays and oyster shell whites. A generous hand-knotted wool rug in a contemporary geometric design anchors the sitting area. Sofa pillows pick up the botanical greens from the entry while silver lamps and furniture legs contribute shine. Two display cabinets flanking the fireplace are used to display the client’s blue and white porcelain collection. On the rear wall, floor-to-ceiling shelving with a slate blue backing holds objects d’art and glassware for the built-in dry bar and wine fridge. Because this is the family gathering space, furniture is upholstered in performance fabrics that are easy to clean and maintain.
Next to the living room, the casual family room is open to the kitchen. Comfortable seating upholstered in soft blues and a big-screen TV are ideal for watching hockey, a favorite family pastime. Since the space is shared with the kitchen, the breakfast table can easily convert into a game or cocktail table. Roman shades with a loose weave provide privacy and light control when needed. On the covered porch, the homeowner chose comfortable outdoor furniture arranged to make the most of the dramatic views.
Down the hall from the living room, an elegant primary suite provides a restful retreat for the homeowners. Softly patterned drapes and accent bedding carry the subtle botanical motif from the rest of the house, while bottle-green glass bedside laps add color to a refreshing gray and white backdrop. Window coverings are motorized and controlled via remote, making it easy to adjust the light and privacy at the touch of a button.
Overhead, the homeowner indulged in a beautiful and unique contemporary chandelier featuring rough-cut crystal drops hanging from metal branches. As the light hits the crystals, it’s softly diffused, providing a cozier effect than a traditional crystal light fixture. In the primary bath, soft gray walls and a darker gray ceiling accentuate white fixtures. Dark leafy green botanical Roman shades provide privacy when needed.
Behind the kitchen, a hallway leads to a separate bedroom wing that hosts a bedroom with an en suite bath for each of their adult children. White shiplap that runs a third of the way up the wall provides a sense of place and gentle contrast to the light gray walls. As an example of how thoughtful the client was about considering her family’s individual aesthetic preferences in their private spaces, her daughter’s bedroom is noticeably more colorful than the rest of the house. “Her daughter loves bright color, so we used Lilly Pulitzer fabrics and tropical pops of pinks, blues and oranges in her bedroom,” Griffith says.
Upstairs is a bedroom designed specifically for the client’s sister, a craft room and an office that can be used as a guest room when needed. This room has plenty of bright, natural light for working, but 15 feet of custom bookcases give the room a cozy library vibe. Over the garage, a furnished guest suite in soft blues and greens has a comfortable seating area and a game table.
Though the home was completed during the pandemic, Griffith says the process went smoothly. The company is used to working with clients over FaceTime, Zoom or on the phone when needed, so its pandemic pace didn’t slow. “We had hurdles to overcome, but we were all transparent about it. There weren’t any surprises,” Griffith says. “Steve Goggans of Goggans Residential Architecture always sends us great clients. The builder, Paragon Builders, was incredible as usual, and James and Martha Propps at Challenge Cabinets are just the best in the country. We all make the client a part of the process when they want to be so they can help create their home. It’s a collaborative process, which makes it enjoyable for everyone.” *
Robin Howard is a freelance writer in Charleston.
See more of her work at robinhowardwrites.com.