The Charleston Symphony Orchestra knows a thing or two about encore performances, and so does the Charleston Symphony Orchestra League's Designer Showhouse.

Contributing designers

The designers who contributed to the 2014 CSOL Designer Showhouse are:

Cici Moss (Cici Moss Interiors); Lance Griffith, Megan Sandefur, Michelle Still and Hannah Mayo (CHD Interiors); Marilyn Mauriello (Marilyn Mauriello Interior Design); Teri M. Bergin (Bergin Design Group); Audrey Wood (Creekside Interiors); Jeff McKinney and Randy Grussing (Circe and Architectural Antiques & Design);

Wiggie Bitter and Cathy Paterson (Catherine Brown Paterson Design); Cathy Swider (Cose Belle Interior Design Services); Diana Grabowski (NEWCHAPTERinteriors);

Laurie Cooper and Elizabeth Newman (Charleston Revisions/Elizabeth Newman Interior Design); and Elisa Constanzer (ElisaChristine).

Not only is the Rutledge Avenue home itself giving a repeat performance - it served as the designer showhouse once before, in 1995 - the encores go even further. Many of the rooms illustrate how to give a new moment in the spotlight to older pieces of furniture, and an older home, by combining the best of the past with fresh inspiration from the present.

If you go

What: Charleston Symphony Orchestra League's 37th annual Designer Showhouse

Where: 67 Rutledge Ave., Charleston

When: Daily through April 19. Hours are 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 1-4 p.m. Sunday. Lunch is offered in the garden 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Saturday. There also is a boutique, and some artwork and items from designers' rooms can be purchased.

Cost: $20 at the door.

More info: 723-0020 or

The showhouse, at 67 Rutledge Ave. near Colonial Lake, dates to 1852. Col. James H. Taylor built it in the style of a Persian villa, unusual for a home in antebellum Charleston but all the rage at the time in Taylor's native New England.

"It makes sense that the man who built this house was from Rhode Island, because the Gothic style was the height of fashion up there," says Randy Grussing of Architectural Antiques & Design, one of 11 interior designers who donated their time and talents to the event, a major annual fundraiser for the CSO.

A fundamental element of the Gothic style of architecture is the pointed arch, which is thought to have been borrowed from Islamic architecture. In the showhouse, the Persian-villa sensibilities are apparent from the first glance. They come through in the front arches, the frets, the turret over the cistern and the architectural details in some of the doors, Grussing says.

Inside, the house features heart pine floors, etched glass windows, 10 fireplaces, the original copper bathtub and some of the city's first indoor plumbing.

Carol Lou Yaeger, a showhouse co-chairperson and designer liaison, says that in the home's 162-year history, only three families have owned it. The original owners kept the house in the family for 115 years, she says, and it's seen many generations grow up. A couple with two young children bought the house recently, so the family-home tradition will continue.

"It's a grand house, with these 12-foot ceilings, but I think it feels very comfortable," says showhouse co-chairperson Marilyn Mauriello, an interior designer who created a music room on the first floor. Part of what makes the house comfortable and gives it personality is the blend of old with new, which leaves visitors with the feeling that the home has been lived in and well loved. "It's just a happy home," Mauriello says.

The master bedroom, designed by Grussing and Jeff McKinney, proprietors of Circe and Architectural Antiques & Design, epitomizes the idea of giving favorite family pieces and collections an encore performance alongside more contemporary touches. For example, the elegant bed (an 1830s estate find) and vintage Chinese porcelain look totally at home with the vivid abstract artwork over the fireplace.

"Everything looks like it was just gathered together with some things the family might have picked up on their travels and others they might have already had in the family," Mauriello says. That gathered-together feeling is typical of many Lowcountry homes, where older pieces that have been handed down through several generations find new life and purpose when paired with newer finds - perhaps an abstract painting or a chair with minimal modern lines.

She and Grussing agree that if you combine diverse elements you love in a way that you love, then the combination works.

Yaeger says that in addition to the 11 interior designers, a small army of local contractors, shop owners, artists, rug merchants, lighting dealers, electricians and many others devoted their personal time and resources to the project. Each room offers inspiration on how old and new, vintage and modern, can complement each other without clashing. Visitors to the house will get a booklet full of resource information and specifics on each room. Here are a few highlights:


The knockout in the kitchen is the original brick fireplace, located on a brick wall that divides the space into basically a work area and an eating area. Designer Audrey Wood of Creekside Interiors used vintage rustic pieces and incorporated natural tones of gray, blue, beige and ivory to soften the brick, exposed beams, original heart pine floors and some built-in wood cabinets believed to date to the 1880s.

Across from the fireplace, Wood added a comfy banquette that beckons guests for coffee and the newspaper in the morning or a glass of wine at night.

Birder's Study

Designer Teri M. Bergin of the Bergin Design Group drew on her own interest in birding for this comfortable, eclectic room that seems to bring the outdoors in. The glazed woodwork, etched windows and earthy palette give a lightness to the traditionally heavier, more masculine concept of a study. Bergin used artwork collected during her own birding travels to bring the theme together in an inviting fashion.

Lady's Study

The lady of the house gets her own sitting room featuring hand-painted wallpaper, whose subtle colors and textures inspired designers Wiggie Bitters and Cathy Paterson of Catherine Brown Paterson Design. Bitters says the exterior architecture of the home sparked their imaginations as well, particularly with the Moorish echoes in the cornice treatments.

Mary Poppins Nursery

This charming space features white lace curtains borrowed from the dining room.

Designer Cathy Swider of Cose Belle Interior Design says, "It was the perfect room for a nursery, with its quaint size and cozy fireplace, terrific lighting coming into the room and the two steps down from a main room of the house" (the Lady's Study).

The lavender walls, distressed white wrought-iron crib, Mary Poppins bed linens, hand-painted valances, and artist Stephanie Poe's silhouette of Mary Poppins on the wall bring the popular story and movie to life.

Historic Bathroom

Designer Elisa Constanzer of ElisaChristine faced a special challenge in her room: working with the large copper bathtub that was original to the house.

The tub is built into a wood surround and retains the original plumbing, which includes a Gothic arch detail. When Constanzer first saw the room, fuchsia, green and yellow were the color palette. Constanzer used shades of gray, a classic hue now experiencing a design revival, and added warm and cool accent tones, as well as accessories that nod to the sand and shells of local beaches.