Nicole Norris helps a family squeeze big life out of a small condo



When a Sumter family of five decided to purchase a luxury condominium in Mount Pleasant, so they could spend more spare time in their beloved Charleston, they knew interior designer Nicole Norris and her team at Nicole Norris Design Studio would make it a beautiful space that would accommodate them in style.

“In our Sumter home each of our three children has their own room and space,” notes homeowner Julie Reynolds, who shares, along with her husband, Andy, a special affection for the Charleston area since they spent their college and graduate school years there. “Our new condo in Mount Pleasant is two bedrooms, so if all three children are there, they share one bedroom.”

While the design studio team had worked with the Reynoldses and their three sons before, it was on their large, full-time residence in Sumter, a four-bedroom home on a spacious lot with much more of a traditional feel. This project, a corner condominium with gorgeous river views in the Tides IV high-rise building overlooking the Ravenel Bridge, was much smaller.

“It’s small for five but we made it work, we made it comfortable,” says Norris. “Needing the space to function in the most user-friendly way for their family was why the Reynolds family chose to work with me on this project. And because this is a second home, and new construction, we could start from scratch.”


“My husband and I have worked with Nicole on several projects and have learned to simply trust her vision,” says Reynolds. “We wanted this condo to feel like a vacation home. Nicole selected window treatments, cabinet hardware and lighting fixtures that are more modern than what we have in our Sumter home.” Norris also made the smaller space more colorful, fun and youthful.

Norris and her team, a full-service interior design studio with offices in both Mount Pleasant and Sumter, have worked with residential and commercial clients for 21 years, with projects throughout South Carolina, including Charleston, Columbia and Sumter, and as far afield as California. Signature touches include color, texture and lighting with impact.

A few big design challenges came with this project. A wall and a half of windows in the master bedroom made furniture placement tricky. “It was difficult to envision how it could work,” says Reynolds. Norris suggested covering the entire wall behind the master bed with draperies, creating a detailed drawing that brought her vision to life, and convinced Reynolds it would work.

“As much as I struggled with this idea in the beginning, this approach gave our bedroom balance and made furniture placement seem very natural,” says Reynolds. “We just had to trust Nicole. It’s now one of my favorite things in the house.”

Another big challenge: “How to sleep three kids in one room without it looking like a bunk room!” says Reynolds. Norris designed the room around two twin beds with trundles, allowing for a spacious look even while the room accommodates four. “When the trundles are both out, we have four twin beds,” says Reynolds. “Each morning, the trundles are pushed back and the kids can hang out in that space easily. The beds function as two sofas, but become four beds when it’s time to sleep.”

Norris worked closely with the Reynoldses to guide them during the construction phase, adding a gas fireplace to the plan as well as offering advice on additional choices. “The builder design options were impressive and overwhelming,” says Reynolds. “Nicole helped us make selections and often encouraged us to do or add something different than what was offered. This gave us a more unique unit with the style we were seeking.”

With lots of natural light and plenty of windows overlooking the marsh and Wando River, the condo boasts enviable views. The living room seats up to 10 comfortably, with two sofas flanking the fireplace and two chairs facing it. “The room is full but still looks open, with the window walls overlooking the marsh,” says Norris. Airy draperies frame the views and add softness to the otherwise boxy space. The round dining table can also seat up to 10 yet still allows for flow, since the dining room is a major traffic area. The chandelier with its sea glass-like accents, a keynote piece, was the springboard for the home’s color palette, a mix of cool aquas and greens. “I love color and I’m not afraid to use it in appropriate doses,” says Norris.

“Nicole heard our thoughts and wishes and added a layer of creativity,” says Reynolds. “Working with her has saved us money and time. While staying true to our style, she pushed us toward something new.”

M.S. Lawrence is a Charleston-based writer. Email: mslawrence@bellsouth.net.

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