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Charleston orchestra organization's downtown tour of homes inspires blend of old and new

Montagu Street home

Pictured is the living room Alexandra Howard redesigned inside her parents' house at 13 Montagu St. The home is one of the six featured in the Charleston Symphony Orchestra League's first ever Tour of Homes in downtown Charleston. Susan Sully/Provided

The Charleston Symphony Orchestra League is well-accustomed to home tours.

The group for years has invited guests to explore large, beautiful houses on Seabrook and Kiawah islands.

Now CSOL plans to take that concept from the islands, populated with more modern houses that sit on larger pieces of property, to downtown Charleston, a historic place where centuries-old dwellings sit on smaller lots along cobblestone streets.

Designers have sought to apply modern styles while preserving the historic architectural integrity of the peninsula's residences.

This will be the league's first ever Tour of Homes downtown.

When people think of the peninsula, mansions typically come to mind, said Jane Miller, co-chair of the event. But the upcoming program includes a variety home sizes, she said.

She hopes the event will be an inspiration for others looking to revamp their dwellings.

"You can transform your home into anything you want it to be with some imagination," Miller said.

For 44 years, the league has hosted a monthlong Designer Showhouse featuring a home transformed by area designers. Due to the pandemic, the timing and format has been adjusted to a shorter program that will still showcase striking designs and historic architecture.

The homes and gardens can be visited on self-guided tours 10 a.m.-6 p.m. May 22 or May 23. Guests will be able to explore properties across the peninsula.

Montagu Street home

The library in the house redesigned by Alexandra Howard contains shelves organized by travel region and styled with pieces purchased from trips to those regions. The house is located at 13 Montagu St. The home is one of six houses in the Charleston Symphony Orchestra League's first Tour of Homes in downtown Charleston. Susan Sully/Provided

Six houses will be available for viewing, including a small cottage transformed with antiques and contemporary pieces, a large house with expansive views of the Ashley River and a tucked-away carriage house that blends historic touches with modern livability. Some of the houses are accompanied by gardens that also have been revamped.

Among the more historic structures is 13 Montagu St. Built in 1789, the home is a two-story, federal-style residence. An addition was built on the back of the home in 2000.

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The residence has been revamped by interior designer Alexandra Howard, who has close ties to the place. Howard grew up in the home and her parents still live there. The two-year project of redesigning her parents' house has been special.

"It really brought our family closer together," Howard said.

Charleston Symphony Orchestra League to host first ever tour of homes downtown

The living room inside 13 Montagu St. was redesigned by Alexandra Howard. The home is part of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra League's first Tour of Homes in downtown Charleston. Susan Sully/Provided

Howard, whose father was born in India, gave the home a more personal touch. She added Asian antiques and family heirlooms in her new design, including a temple rubbing, Chinese screen and other figurines.

Howard also used bright colors to help the space come alive.

"There's a lot of orange, red and gold in some of the formal rooms," she said. "I incorporated a mix of old and new. I don’t believe in decorating in just one style."

The Kiawah and Seabrook islands home tour, usually held in the fall, has been successful, despite the coronavirus. The orchestra league held the event in November. Excited to get out of their own houses, mask-wearing guests viewed beautiful dwellings, following a specific route, said Claudia Porter, co-chair of the event. 

The event on the peninsula will be different because it will provide a more diverse group of houses, Porter said.

“What we have in this tour is a little bit more variety," she said.

Advance tickets are on sale through May 20 for $55.

Montagu Street home

The guest room inside the home at 13 Montagu St. contains a saffron hue. Alexandra Howard redesigned the home, her parents' house at 13 Montagu St. The home is one of the six in the Charleston Symphony Orchestra League's first Tour of Homes in downtown Charleston. Susan Sully/Provided

CSOL, a group of 230 volunteers, is the largest institutional donor of Charleston Symphony Orchestra. The league has been forced to double its fundraising efforts amid COVID-19, said CSOL President Lyn Magee.

"We are proud of the energy demonstrated by our members, and we have managed to not only provide financial support to the orchestra, but also to maintain our scholarship program, albeit at reduced levels," Magee said.

Reach Rickey Dennis at 937-4886. Follow him on Twitter @RCDJunior.

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