Magic happens at the intersection of friendship and professional acumen

by DANA W. TODD / photography by HOLGER OBENAUS

Trudie Krawcheck and Melissa Koger Watson

It’s amazing what two strong women—both born and raised in Charleston and both presidents of their companies—can do when they have a sympatico connection. For Trudie Krawcheck of Southeastern Galleries and Melissa Koger Watson of Spartina Kitchens & Baths, that connection was built over many years on a solid foundation of mutual professional appreciation, friendship and trust. Over time, they worked together (at Southeastern Galleries), collaborated on client projects and raised their children, who attended the same school.

When it came time for a renovation of Watson’s home, it was a natural extension of her working relationship with Krawcheck to include her in that redesign process. “I trust Trudie and the Southeastern Galleries process,” Watson says.

Since Spartina Kitchens & Baths follows a similar business model of creating tailored, turnkey design projects for its clients, Watson knew that a collaboration with Krawcheck would result in an amazing redesign of her home. “Being a designer, it’s not always easy to put together your own space,” Watson says. “I didn’t think twice about working with Trudie and Southeastern Galleries, even though there are lots of designers I could have chosen in the Charleston area.”

As a professional designer herself, Watson knows the ins and outs of building custom-fit cabinetry for any room in the house. She put those skills to use in her home, calling on a deep well of resources to design and build custom storage for her revamped living room, new sunroom/casual den and outdoor entertainment area. She and Krawcheck collaborated on the furnishings decisions, with the cabinetry colors driving the new color palette.

The two women set about redoing the formal living room. “I love to use the living room,” says Watson. “I put my feet up for a bit when I get home at night, so I want everything to be comfortably designed even though it’s a formal room.” She designed a custom bar with a built-in Sub-Zero wine tower, integrated refrigerated drawers and unlacquered brass shelving, placing it in front of an antiqued mirror tile backsplash. She specified the ideal custom color for the bar and topped it with a marble countertop and bespoke unlacquered brass hardware sourced from an American manufacturer.

Krawcheck relied upon Southeastern Galleries’ furniture manufacturing connections and its 30,000-square-foot showroom to source hand-carved chairs with cushions covered in a Schumacher fabric on one side and alligator-embossed leather on the other side. The chairs encircle a hair-on-hide ottoman—the one on which Watson loves to put her feet up every evening.

“The nice thing about both Southeastern Galleries and Spartina Kitchens & Baths is that homeowners don’t have to travel from showroom to showroom to compare products; everything is in one place as a complete one-stop shop,” says Krawcheck.

An addition to the home gave the Watsons a new casual place to relax and enjoy family time. Wall-to-wall custom cabinetry provides a TV area and plenty of storage in the room. “I painted the built-ins with a custom-mixed paint color and designed the cabinetry for a truly personalized experience,” says Watson. Tongue-and-groove paneling on the back wall adds architectural interest. Just as in the living room, Southeastern Galleries supplied the furniture, rugs and accessories that make the room special. Of note is the Sherrill sofa that sports InsideOut performance fabric for durability, soft Italian leather chairs from American manufacturer Our House Designs, a reclining chaise from Mr. and Mrs. Howard for Sherrill Furniture and a pair of pull-up ottomans also by Sherrill.

A newly outfitted outdoor living area is a few steps outside the casual sunroom and features Sub-Zero and Wolf appliances and outdoor cabinetry with a quartzite countertop provided through Spartina. The team sourced the outdoor furniture and curated all outdoor living accessories from Southeastern Galleries and specified custom fabric on the chair cushions to complete the outdoor dining space.

While these projects were ongoing, Krawcheck moved into an older home, and both she and Watson jumped into redesigning her bathroom. “Our homes are our sanctuaries; there is no more important place,” says Krawcheck.

“The construction business at times can be challenging, but these projects progressed smoothly because we have known each other for so long,” Watson says. “It makes the decision-making process easy. Plus, we’re both planners, so we’re able to work ahead to design custom spaces on a reasonable timeline.”

“It’s like my father always said, a sign of a good designer is one who listens and provides a space that reflects the homeowner’s taste,” Krawcheck adds. “The greatest joy is when we talk to our clients who are appreciating family time in their new rooms. For these projects, Melissa and I had such fun together. We did not lose the joy of the project along the way. I felt as exhilarated as Melissa did with the completion of her home.”

“It felt like I was coming home in doing this project with Trudie and Southeastern Galleries, where I worked when I was in my 20s,” says Watson. “Our story is one of women supporting women, where we build each other up. We can accomplish so much when we come together to help each other in a collaborative effort. There were no egos involved—just a beautiful story of friendship and business accomplishment that helped both of us have the homes we really want to live in.”

Dana W. Todd is a professional writer specializing in interior design, real estate, luxury homebuilding, landscape design, architecture and art.

More Information