Historic Charleston Renovation

June 25, 2019

Do you ever scroll through Instragram and come across a photo that stops you dead in your tracks? That is what happened to me when I came across a photos of a recent Charleston historic home renovation. I did a little Google search and saw all of the photos from the incredible renovation of 119 Alexander Street. I was seriously blown away. After about an hour of research, I figured out the interior designer and architect behind this project and I knew I had to reach out for more information. The interior designer, Cintra McGauley Sedalik, from Interiors by Herlong, graciously answered some questions for me. I am so excited to share them with you!

Q: Can you tell me about the property? 

A: 119 Alexander Street, located in the historic overlay of downtown Charleston, was in a dilapidated state when my client first purchased it. Although the structure was historic, over the years, the interiors had been haphazardly renovated with non-historic materials like laminate flooring and faux wood. The exterior had been severely neglected as well. Due to its historic context, it was important to maintain design integrity, as if the home were well maintained for all these years, but improving its livability with modern conveniences we enjoy today. The original home had a framed archway, this idea, as well as some trim details and transom windows were added back in as the existing were not salvageable.

Q: I noticed the house is fairly small but it seems so much bigger in the photos. How did you maximize the space?

A: At just 903 SF the home had to be designed extremely efficiently, making use of every square inch, while abiding within the rules for the Board of Architectural Review (BAR). In other words, we couldn’t move any exterior doors or windows, but with BAR approval, we were able to add french doors to the porch which add a significant amount of natural light to the master bedroom. The home was originally a 1 bedroom/ 1 bath. After renovations, it is a 2 bedroom 2 bath with a sizable kitchen and living area. We did not add any more square footage as that would’ve not been not possible, but instead made more efficient use of the space. My colleague and I are both from big cities, myself NYC and James is from originally from Boston, so I think the idea of designing for space efficiency for city living came naturally to us because our experience with designing and living in cities where space is at a premium. 

Q: Cintra, Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and how you got into interior design? 

A: I was born a New Yorker, raised a Floridian, and became a (willingly) adopted Charlestonian. As the granddaughter of a fine artist, it was only natural for me to lean towards a career in design. That same grandmother introduced me to AD100 interior designer, Mario Buatta, who, happened to start his design career with that very same grandmother of mine. The influence of growing up in a home designed by a “maximalist”, eventually working for Mario and ultimately extending my design aptitude to a “minimalist” perspective while working for world renowned architecture and interior design firm Gabellini Sheppard Associates has given me a unique mindset when it comes to design. Ultimately, the most important design criteria being context, the who, what, when, where, why of each project. My innate ability to design for different styles and temperaments can be attributed towards a genuine predilection for aesthetic and spatial harmony with respect to the past, present and future. Having joined the team at Herlong Architects & Interior Design a few years ago, I now have the opportunity to practice my craft in a variety of design temperaments, from historic homes to new construction amongst some of Charleston’s best architects and designers. 

Q:  I must say, you two are a dream team! How did you all meet? I love the idea of having a residential architect and interior designer working on the same team! What is James background? 

A: James spent years as an architect working on historic homes in Boston’s Back Bay and on Martha’s Vineyard. Having moved to Charleston in 2006, James continued on his path of melding contemporary living spaces with traditional building forms, joining Herlong Architects in 2013. We met while working together at Herlong Architects, one of the few residential firms that actually have interior designers and residential architects, working together as one team in the same studio. The collaborative nature of our firms allows for design problems to be looked at from all angles to produce the best solutions for any given project or client.

Q: Do you guys have a favorite room?

James: The kitchen and living space, with the large historic windows that open up to the street. The house is integrated with the urban fabric but still affords secluded privacy in the bedrooms and porch.

Cintra: I can’t pinpoint one favorite room because I have so many favorite details throughout the home. The space is obviously small, so the kitchen had to be very well planned. I love that my client was on board with bringing the cabinetry wall to the ceiling, which typically will drive price up, but was so necessary in order to highlight the grand 10’5” ceilings and provide maximum storage space. I did floating shelves to balance the tall cabinetry so the room doesn’t feel over crowded. The countertop is a rare color of Brazilian Soapstone with a lot more shades of greens, blues and grays than your typical soapstone. When I saw the slab I knew that it was the perfect unique detail that the kitchen needed. I also love the master bathroom, the window allows dreamy light thought the paned shower door and the really highlights the polished black marquina marble top on the vanity. The archway that transitions the living room into the kitchen is another favorite feature. The space is still open, but the arch gives the rooms a more thoughtful partition reminiscent of how homes of this era were historically designed.


Design: Interiors by Herlong | Instagram: @interiorsbyherlong 
Architect: James Selvitelli
Interior Designer: Cintra McGauley Sedalik | Instagram: @cintra_by_design
Photographer: Joshua Corrigan | Instagram: @ellis_creek_photography
Real Estate Agent: Matt DeAntonio | Instagram: @chasresidential
Stone Fabricator: Zimpel Granite & Marble | Instagram: @Zimpelgranitemarble
Builder: CB Elrod

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