A Charleston Adventure II

I have noted my childhood fascination with Gone With the Wind.  In addition, in my early teens, I was interested in the history of the Civil War. I read a few of Bruce Catton’s books on the subject and was totally enthralled .  As I matured, my focus on history turned to France and to the history of the Bourbon kings, Louis XIII through Louis XVI in particular. I suppose that was  because of my career in fashion design and the importance of Paris in my world. I shifted my historical interests to the legendary courtesans of the late 17th and 18th centuries. From there I began, in my early twenties, to understand and appreciate  France’s incomparable contributions to architecture, garden design, and the decorative arts. I fell in love with the country and that period.

After I left the fashion business in 1994 I rented a small but charming apartment in a Beaux-Arts building in Paris. While there, I set my sights on finding an 18th century property. After attending a party at the magnificent Vaux le Vicomte,  I decided that my heart’s desire was to live in an  orangerie  like the Vogüé family, who own Vaux. For fifteen years I searched: in the Loire, Picardie, Bordeaux, and in the south of France. I found four charming places but, in the end, did not buy any of them. (That is another story in itself.) Below I have posted photos of some of the beauties I almost bought in France —  and still dream of today.


The first picture above is of a charming chartreuse in Bordeaux that I liked.  The front facade was more beautiful but, alas, I can no longer find that photo.

The second picture is of my ” big love,” a Rococo folly that  was perfection — other than it was in a region where it rained all of the time.

Photo three is of a wonderful orangerie that I thought was perfect  —  but it was in the middle of nowhere and needed a total restoration.

Photo four is of a classic Mansard chateau with gardens that were supposedly laid out by Le Nôtre — you can imagine my bliss!  But it was too big of an undertaking for me.

This long-winded story is to explain how I ended up in Charleston. I turned 60 last year.  Overnight I began to think that while I adored my beloved France, I should embrace the practical realities of life and consider retiring in America.  I certainly am not yet ready to retire  but —  perhaps it was that bloody birthday —  I intuited that Charleston would be my first choice for a more temperate climate  — after my knees can no longer handle the bumps of Aspen and the cold of the New England winter.

The first time I visited Charleston  I was with my dear mentor, Bill Blass.  We were totally taken by the beauty of the town and the surrounding countryside. History, architectural beauty, gardens, and good food are there in abundance, along with a highly talented group of artisans who focus on historic preservation.  My good friends Dick Jenrette and Bill Thompson have hosted me at their beautiful house in Charleston and at their extraordinary plantation  just outside of that charming city. On my third trip to Charleston in early May, I found the Greek Revival Chisolm House.   I fell in love.

I have been working on the plans for the house and the garden for the last couple of months.  I promise to show you the good, the bad, and the ugly, as well as what I hope to accomplish with this grand old lady. I say ‘old,’ but she is a relative youngster, dating from 1836 in comparison to Weatherstone, my wonderful Georgian house in Connecticut, which was built in 1765!   So while I still dream of the Rococo folly in Picardie, I know this is the house and the future for me.

So now you have a bit of the history of how I got to Chisolm House.  The next post will start the design process as I renovate the garden and the house.  Please stay tuned!

18 thoughts on “A Charleston Adventure II

  1. It’s breathtakingly gorgeous. As your new neighbor a state to the north, welcome home– there is no place in the world like the American South. I look forward to watching Chisolm House renewed!

  2. What fun for you Carolyne. I’m always dreming of resurecting a derelict property in Oxfordshire and, one day, will sell my little West Cottage there when I find the right house, in the right location at the right price, but my home in Vancouver will probably always stay as home base; much like Weatherstone is for you I imagine. I think I’d have the most fun with the garden, as I’m sure you will. Can you grow dahlias in NC? I hope so.

    • Yes I can grow dahlias but….my dream is to have all of the flowers I cannot have at Weatherstone—magnolia grandiflora,gardenias,camellias, jasmine, and of course the beautiful live oaks cr

      • I have just found your Blog and have followed your wonderful designs over the years. I too just love France and all it has to offer but I can understand fully your desire to spend time in Charleston. A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to spend a week in Charleston and was thrilled with its beauty. I look forward to following your new design project.

  3. It is a beautiful home, and so very Charleston. I can’t wait to follow along on this grand adventure with you. Perhaps one day, your lovely garden will be on one of the spring tours. A girl can dream, can’t she? 😉

  4. We are all so excited about your arrival in our lovely city and know you will take extremely good care of the home in making it your! Your style and taste are impeccable. Welcome home…….

  5. Carolyne, I am very happy for your new project. I have been a fan for many years. Have all your books, have met you twice and have walked your grounds on Weatherstone. You are truly blessed. I pray that you never forget that and give back what God has blessed you with to others. I am sure you do being a girl from Kansas who was rooted with family. I had the pleasure of chatting with your sweet mom at one of the trade secret events at your home. She was lovely and sweet and charming. Never loose yourself and where you are from. I know you treasure family and history is important to you. LIfe is short and we get caught sometimes in the craziness of the world. You have always been a mentor to me. I pray that you remember that you have been blessed and always give thanks to God. May God bless your new project and adventure.
    Hoping you do trade secrets this year, I would love to go. How is your mom? Hope she is well. Lisa
    Leeshideaway.blogspot.com

  6. Our son went to the College of Charleston and as members of the Parents Council there, we spent many happy hours in Charleston. Have to say that the first place in France you showed above is my idea of PARADISE but Charleston is wonderful itself. It’s got to be one of the top restaurant cities in America and the architecture is fantastic.

    Could do without the right-wing politics and the humidity there!

    A fellow Nutmegger.

  7. Have long been a fan of Mr. Jenrette…his book among my favorites. My two favorite cities…Charleston and Paris. Was in France this week last year and in Charleston monthly if lucky. My favorite street….lower Legare. My girlfriends and I have decided to purchase an old Legare manse together for our retirement one day…sharing expenses on caregivers, drivers and such. 4 little old ladies, one big house. Charleston already accustomed to eccentrics thankfully.

    No doubt you’ve already heard about the School of the Building Arts, a great resource for sensitive restorations.

    Good luck, I look forward to your Charleston updates. Welcome to South Carolina.

  8. Great House – wonderful selection – I believe it has the same capitals as Milford Plantation. I love the graceful “flying” staircase in the house. Seems a perfect match. Congratulations! Jeffrey

  9. Charlston house could not have gone to better hands. Look forward to future trip and a book, I hope. Today come ordered copies of FLOWERS. Cannot wait to know name of cover tulip..stops the clock for me.
    Most cheerfully,
    Lynn Ziglar

  10. Nothing more exciting than a new house/ garden adventure,especially one undertaken by a ‘serious nester’ as yourself.

  11. I recall you visiting Charleston and seeing you and Mr. Blass walking along High Battery. He is so missed. It was not long after your home in Connecticut burned if I recall.

    I know your new home well and so excited to know that you will love it as it has been loved in the past. Past owners have been a cast. The opera singer one of the best. But, to quote you, “that’s another story.” Welcome to the Holy City Ms. Roehm.

  12. Charleston is an American gem of a city and the people are wonderful. I am so glad you found your home. I go as often as I can –love to walk up and down Church Street and Meeting Street. I have a wall I love there on Meeting Street( pink) and photograph it in many different lights. Welcome to the South!

  13. I just saw you @ADAC for the second time. It is so funny, the 1st time I met you was my 40th birthday or that is what I thought. I just now opened “A PASSION FOR FLOWERS” where you signed it for me and it was my 39th. I have been thinking about your comments on turning 60, well I have just turned 50 and have been wondering about all the things I have collected thru the years. Jewelry, art, porcelain, fabric and memories from around the world. Should I stop collecting now, does it make sense anymore? I have 2 sons and my friends joke that all the girls will want to marry them for my shoe and handbag collection alone!
    Listening to you talk about the Charleston Project yesterday gave me some clarity. I love all things beautiful, I have always surrounded myself with them, I LOVE to CREATE beauty in any form. A perfect fashion ensemble from head to toe, a beautiful table, art perfectly placed on a wall, arranging flowers or spending hours trying to perfectly display my treasures
    all over my home…… all of this is a labor of love for me and you can’t turn off that kind of passion and I don’t want to!
    You may be 60 Carolyne but watching and listening to you, I saw a young woman, FULL of enthusiasm and anticipation, you were beautiful! Bless you, thank you for putting the wind back in my sails!

  14. I am waiting with great anticipation to see what you do with your new home! I am so happy for you! I had a wonderful opera coach in Philadelphia who was 83 years young and beautiful. You are 60 years young and beautiful and so is every project you work on. I love all your books. They have inspired me so!

  15. Darling Woman!
    We met at your book launch at Carlton Hobbs home. I was with my housemate Rod Keenan the hat maker and we chin wagged about hats for a while.
    I too just bought in Charleston. If you ever want a partner in crime to explore the town or surroundings- give a holler!
    Would be fun for you to be a part of Charleston Fashion Week too.
    Much love and Southern socials-
    Cator

  16. OH YOU lucky girl!I was in CHARLESTON for the very first time this year in APRIL for the HOME & GARDEN tour!ABSOLUTELY adored it!Could move there in a heart beat!CONGRATULATIONS on your BUY!All the homes in France you showed are stunning!But this is more practical……….you can always go visit……..NO?

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