Charleston, South Carolina
The Gracious Guesthouse
Tasteful renovations bring a historic Charleston carriage house to life
photo: Eric Piasecki/OTTO
When Sarah Horton says that her house was built for entertaining, she really means it. The home—the William C. Gatewood House, one of Charleston’s architectural treasures—signified an attempt by its businessman owner, a newcomer from Virginia in the 1840s, to fit in among a society of Charleston planters. What better way than a party house?
After restoring the three-story mansion a decade ago, Horton and her husband, Ozey, recently turned their attention to the home’s carriage house, adding a new dimension to their entertaining options. “In the main house, the scale of rooms is so grand it takes your breath away,” says Gil Schafer, the architect and author of the new book A Place to Call Home who oversaw both projects. “The carriage house is cozy. I love the counterpoint.”
A devoted classicist, Schafer maintained the period charm while adapting the interior to create a flexible space. The ground floor has an easy, open flow. “We tried opening up the rooms without violating the authentic historic character,” he says. He had plenty of room to work with. Around 2,100 square feet, the carriage house features three guest bedrooms and three baths, a kitchen, and dining and living rooms. Outside, there’s a delightful brick and oyster shell courtyard designed by the New York landscape designer Deborah Nevins, discreetly separated from the main house by a vine-covered brick wall.
After all the restoration work, Sarah was ready to celebrate with a dinner bash. While guests nibbled on fried green tomatoes in the carriage house courtyard, a surprise awaited: a bagpiper waiting to lead everyone to the meal. “He started playing and startled everybody,” Sarah says. “We followed him out to Legare Street and up the block. Even the neighbors joined in.” All the revelers marched back up the main house’s grand staircase to the piazza, greeted by an impossibly long dinner table—where, in proper Southern fashion, there’s always room for more.
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