When most people hear “rental,” they think beat-up walls and subpar appliances. But this house would put most people’s homes to shame!
JILL SHARP WEEKS: My husband, Ray Weeks, and I were lucky to find it. An architect had lived here before and did an incredible job with the place. It took us five minutes to say yes! Our goal when we moved to Charleston, South Carolina, from Atlanta was to use our car sparingly. Here, we’re in the heart of the city’s historic downtown, and we can take easy strolls to get coffee or lunch, or to the nearby farmers’ market. We’re also just a block away from the home we’re building, which makes managing that project so much easier.
What was it like going back to renting?
For most spaces I’ve lived in, I’ve been involved on an architectural level. I certainly would never have designed rooms as petite as what we have here — I haven’t lived in spaces this intimate since my 20s — but it’s actually been an unexpected gift. My husband and I are newlyweds, and it feels like we’re holding hands in every room! But I did make adjustments. For instance, there wasn’t enough lighting, so I installed additional fixtures. Kitchen islands are generally anathema to me, and this one is 10 feet long and takes up almost half of the first floor. I would have opted for a farm table or industrial cart on casters. But while I won’t necessarily borrow this concept for our next place, I’ve really had a lot of fun entertaining around this big ole island.
You’ve painted every room in the house the exact same shade of gray. Why?
When we moved in, the walls were peach and kind of dowdy. I painted everything in Pussy Willow by Sherwin-Williams. It’s this strange gray that I adore because the color shifts throughout the day. It was an easy design solution that unified the space. I also painted the ceiling, trim, and cabinetry the same color because it prevents your eye from focusing on things like big, heavy moldings, which are not my style. I left some natural wood exposed on chair rails, newel posts, and cabinet knobs — a respectful way of celebrating what was here before while establishing a modern, graphic motif.
Speaking of graphic, there are so many pops of black. Is this a trick you use on styling jobs, too?
The interiors in my previous homes were much more understated and soft, which felt appropriate in large rooms that sometimes had 20-foot ceilings. [See her former Atlanta cottage.] My styling work — branding, ad campaigns, catalogs — is largely tonal. But I wanted this home, and the one we’re building down the street, to feel different. The scale of this house is so much smaller than what I’m used to, and threading black throughout creates a sense of continuity. This gutsier, bolder look felt like the right way to express the modern lifestyle I’m living in Charleston. I’ve also always been good at trend forecasting, and I predict that black and white is about to come on with a vengeance!
Have you always leaned neutral?
When other designers use color, I enjoy looking at and learning from their work. In my own projects, I’ll use flowers or textiles for a pop of color, but I’d rather inform a room with texture — handmade baskets, the straw pendant light in the office, pewter bowls filled with the tribal beads I’ve collected over the years. That’s where I have my fun.
How much do you love relaxing and entertaining in this stunning garden?
What we really love is that the garden is accessible only through the house. There are no side gates, so it feels incredibly private. It also has an outdoor privy, which is the only bathroom on the ground floor! Since the garden is just outside of our dining area, we often leave the huge wooden French doors open so that the room feels 40 feet longer. When we first arrived, the garden had been neglected, but we’ve replanted the beds, brought in furniture and turned it into a total paradise.
In a home built in the 1740s, how did you avoid a formal period look?
I lived in Tokyo as a child, and I’ve traveled all over the world. My style derives from having been exposed to many kinds of global architecture — from humble mud houses to the most exquisite homes. These multicultural influences helped me create a look that is unexpected in a historic house. For instance, instead of a dresser or armoire in my bedroom, I chose a pair of smart cane stools from Palecek and a great mirror from Mecox, and I set up a cool vignette with sculptures and baskets sourced from around the world.
You’re in this home for a mere 16 months. Why bother unpacking boxes and decorating to perfection?
Why not bother? Every day matters! I can’t imagine living in a space that doesn’t give me great enjoyment. You have no idea what’s going to happen tomorrow. Why not live with extreme beauty today?