The Color Cure

Designer Louise Johnson brings a 1920s Spartanburg, South Carolina home to life with inspiring artwork and bold color.

LOUISE JOHNSON loves a design challenge. When her client approached her about renovating a home in Spartanburg,South Carolina, Johnson immediately jumped at the opportunity. “The owners have a strong appreciation for art, both historical and contemporary, as well as an extensive art collection,” she says. “Couple that with the renovation of a historic home, and it was an amazing opportunity.” The stately home was originally designed by prominent southern architect Neel Reid more than a century ago. And while the previous homeowners had done some updating to the home, what remained was a dark, dated interior with a choppy floor plan not amenable to today’s living.

The homeowners saw past any cosmetic eyesores, however, and knew that with the help of Johnson, architect Albert Jolly, and  designer Matthew Quinn—who collaborated on the kitchen, bar, and primary bath renovations—the home could be updated for their modern-day lifestyle. “My clients love and respect the classic architecture in the home,” says Johnson. “We knew we could make small tweaks cosmetically and to the floor plan and it would instantly update the home while maintaining the integrity of its historic architecture.”

Walls in both the kitchen and primary bedroom were removed, and all remaining walls were updated with a fresh coat of paint.  Johnson’s goal was “to create a home that honored a traditional background while blending contemporary appointments and a love of color,” she explains. “Clean lines and crisp hues mix well with antique pieces, cut velvet, and monochromatic damask fabrics.” In the foyer, an antique settee in a brilliant metallic hot pink is the perfect complement to the artwork along the stairway wall—the homeowners’ collection of works from southern artists.

In the living room, a de Gournay wallcovering in a custom color combination sets the tone for several treasured pieces, including an antique chest. Couple these standout pieces with photos of the homeowners’ travels, contemporary artwork, and bold fabric  choices, and the result is an elevated aesthetic throughout the home. “I love layering old with new, antiques with modern artwork,” says Johnson. “It makes it a more interesting space.”

While artwork drove much of the interior design, color played an almost equal role. “The owner has a special affinity for purple and red, which we were able to incorporate into the family room and primary bedroom, and we even included a purple lacquered bar,” says Johnson. “These bold color choices make the home both traditional and unexpected.

The homeowners are classic but love an unexpected element of color in each space.” A tangerine drapery fabric from Old World Weavers led to painting the guest bedroom’s original millwork a similar hue, instantly brightening the space. Throughout, varying shades of purple bring areas to life. “Most people would never be bold enough to commit to a purple lacquered bar, but it was an idea that my client suggested, and we ran with it!” says Johnson. Upstairs in the primary bedroom, the designer added a patterned fabric by Hazelton House lined with a purple Old World Weavers material to make a vivid, beautiful statement. “It is a treat to have a client who is both daring with her design styles and trusting of mine.”

The home has been a work in progress, with Johnson making small tweaks over time to create a harmonious aesthetic that simultaneously respects the architectural integrity of the home while highlighting her client’s love of art and color. “It’s the perfect marriage of honoring the past and creating a home that will grow with her family,” says Johnson. “This project was a total dream as a designer.”