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Retro Brilliance

Retro Brilliance
March 2011
With the help of rising design darling Angie Hranowsky, a young family’s downsize to a 1940s charmer in Old Windermere spurs a bold style evolution

Never mind that Angie Hranowsky was only two steps past the front door. “You gotta buy this house,” she said, with equal parts spunk and certainty, to her much-less certain clients, Daphne and Courtney Shelbourne. You’d think Angie was a pushy real estate agent, not one of Metropolis magazine’s “Five Up-and-Coming Designers.”

But Angie understood what the Shelbournes were looking for. In fact, she and Daphne were simpatico from the get-go, a kinship first realized by Daphne when she began noticing the designer’s modern interiors in magazines, including a 2009 feature in Charleston Home. Then she spotted a Domino listing of Angie’s favorite things, and noticed they were also her favorite things (well, minus the Howard Stern Show). Finally—after visiting a friend’s home and marveling at its fearless, fresh eclecticism, and learning that, yes, she had some help, and yes, the designer was Angie Hranowsky—Daphne decided to give her style soul sister a call.

Plus, there was another incentive: Daphne and Courtney’s decision to put their five-bedroom I’On home on the market and downsize was the first step in what would become both a lifestyle and a style shift. “Our friends told us we were crazy for trying to sell in this market, that our timing was terrible,” says Daphne.
Courtney, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, laughs and adds, “Obviously they were right, but it was beyond a financial decision—I had this epiphany one day: what were we doing, three of us living in this big house? Life is too short to put so much of our time, energy, and resources into a big house. We didn’t feel like we were being good stewards of what God had given us.”

And if they were going to slim things down and simplify, Daphne was ready to part with traditional hand-me-down pieces and oversize sofas and chairs in favor of furnishings better suited to her innate, if daring, sensibilities (think big on color, streamlined, and modern).

The Shelbournes set out to find a Mid-century Modern-style house, but as Angie pointed out, such places are hard to come by in the Lowcountry. So at her urging, they headed to Old Windermere—“one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in town,” says the designer.  

Immediately, the circa-1945 traditional brick number they toured felt right: strong bones; a modest, sensible layout; plentiful windows; an updated professional-grade kitchen; and an attractive price. “It’s not modern,” Angie said, “but we’ll fill it with such cool stuff, it won’t matter.”

It was during the “cool stuff” roundup that Daphne and Angie were reminded of just how in sync their tastes are. When Daphne showed Angie a wallpaper sample she liked, Angie recognized it as one she’d used on a previous project. And when Daphne e-mailed a photo of a light fixture, Angie replied that a similar one was hanging in her own dining room.

What followed were repeat forays to nearby Antiques of South Windermere, where they turned up numerous treasures, including a 1930s Deco mirror for the central hallway, glam enough to hold its own against the dramatic purple and pink Osborne & Little wallpaper. Other finds were muted Chinese panels now hanging in the den and the perfect “cocha” (daughter Ingrid’s term for a couch/sofa hybrid) for Ingrid’s killer bedroom—a pink toile palace that is the second-floor pièce de résistance.

Lots of scouring on eBay and at favorite Atlanta and Louisville (Angie’s home turf) haunts completed the bold-but-balanced menagerie of contemporary art, vintage finds, and dazzly lighting, all tastefully interspersed with family antiques. Budget played a role, so they made careful choices, like opting for inexpensive burlap drapes gussied up with striking trim for the dining room, and putting textile punch on the master bed linens rather than on pricier curtains. Where possible, pieces from their I’On home were brought into play. “I like rooms to look like they’ve evolved over time,” says Hranowsky. “You have to mix it up.”

With blues, grays, and lavenders anchoring the walls, a cohesive palette holds the décor together, but each room has its own flavor and function. “Every space is practical—that’s one thing I love about it,” says Courtney, pointing out that in their former house, they rambled right past rooms they rarely used. Now the family eats in the dining room, reads and relaxes in the living room, and watches movies in the den. As for the kitchen, it’s much smaller, but more efficient. “We no longer have a dining bar, but now we sit down together and look at each other while we eat,” Courtney notes. Granted, there’s no master bathroom or walk-in closet, but they’re not terribly missed. “If we had those things, we’d just fill them with more stuff,” he says.

“My friends ask me, ‘Where did you put all your clothes?’ and I tell them, ‘The consignment shop!’” adds Daphne.

This move to simplify and become more intentional about their use of resources, space, and family time has resulted in other unexpected benefits from the “less-is-more” school of thought. “We walk everywhere…to the coffee shop or to get ice cream, to EarthFare or Normandy Farms bakery or to dinner at Al di La,” says Daphne. And Sampson and Stella, the family Airedales, hit the jackpot with the West Ashley Greenway in their backyard. “They think it’s their farm,” says Daphne.

And infusing the home with strong color and unique mid-mod décor was definitely a team effort, with Ingrid snapping pics of possible “finds” at the antiques stores and weighing in on fabric samples, while Daphne honed her eye for art and design. In fact, the project has opened doors for her—she’s begun taking art classes and plans to enroll in an online course at Parson’s School of Design. “It’s been exciting to be around someone so creative,” says Daphne, who was formerly in pharmaceutical sales. “This experience has inspired me to pursue a whole new direction.”

It seems that, in every way, what the Shelbournes “gave up” has returned to them tenfold.

Angie’s Cues on Hues

Vibrant and imaginative color choices are the designer’s signature. Her secrets?

Try Surprise Color Combos: The Shelbourne house features shades of purple punctuated with vibrant yellow, orange, and pale pink. “A few years ago, I designed a room with deep plum walls and accents of turquoise and indigo—it was very striking. I like to surprise with color, as well as furnishings, fabric, and artwork.”

Experiment With Bold Accents: Start small and paint big. Select from colors in a fabric or rug, then pop in accent colors with accessories or pillows. To make a splash, change your wall color—“you can always paint over it! I recommend sampling at least two colors, and paint large areas (20 by 30 inches) before you invest. I’ve tried nine similar shades in one room before choosing the right one.”
Look for Standout Hues: Keep your eyes open; look at textiles, nature, books, and magazines. “I’m always inspired by other countries. In India, color is so energetic, it’s as if it almost vibrates. They use pink and
turquoise the way we use gray and black. And I fell in love with Mexico’s bold uses of red, blue, and yellow.”