All it took was a single drawing on a napkin for Charleston, South Carolina–based interior designer Jenny Keenan and her husband, Joe, to dream up their forever home.
On their newly purchased lot in the Old Village of Mount Pleasant in Charleston stood an old shotgun style house and a "sweet shop"—the Lowcountry term for an old store. The couple initially wanted to save the original structures but their beat-up shape proved too difficult to restore. With a little imagination and a lot of elbow grease, they faithfully re-created an extended version of the original house—and much more—with the family room serving as the historical pillar tying the new family home to its charming Southern history.
The inside of the Keenans' residence paints an entirely different picture: Far from Southern traditions, the home was packed with rock 'n' roll memorabilia, bold tie-dye fabrics, and an impressive collection of colorful wallpapers. Softened with a sweet blend of family-friendly furnishings and a hint of classic tradition, Keenan masterfully built her dream family home. Take the tour and take notes—this family home sits at the intersection of modern family and Southern charm.
"People ask us all the time if we renovated the house," says Keenan. "We actually built it from the ground up." The young couple, who wanted the home to tie into their beloved neighborhood, kept the cottage exterior traditional, keeping all the modern elements for the inside.
Falling in line with its exterior, the entrance paints a traditional picture—family photos are framed and coupled with a carved chest from Hickory Chair and a soft pink grasscloth wallpaper. Only the edgy Moroccan boucherouite rug serves as a hint of what's to come.
A perfectly polished dining room with a dramatic octagonal ceiling serves as the perfect space for formal entertaining—and plays on the tradition of Southern hospitality: a classic oval table, inviting dining chairs upholstered in a light pink fabric, silk wallpaper, and theatrical curtains surrounding the space tells tales of long-gone entertaining traditions. The spiked Sputnik chandelier hangs above as a sign of a more modern era.
"Our architect [Beau Clowney] is so great at figuring out ways to get the best light into a space," says Keenan. "We don’t have to turn a light on during the day because we get such great light." For the kitchen, this meant a stepped-up ceiling finished with an ornate chandelier. A good open flow in the living areas was important to Keenan, who loves having her family in the kitchen while cooking.
The white shiplap walls set a continuous tone throughout the ground floor of the house, where bright colors intermingle. Adjacent to the kitchen, a bold silk ikat rug in the foyer offset a whitewashed BDDW cabinet and objects collected during various family travels.
No TVs were allowed in the formal living room, where a more conventional floorplan set the tone for conversation and reading. While the furniture was kept timeless, punchy accents were brought in with pillows and art.
Beyond the Southern etiquette, it's in the family room that the true personality of this fun-loving family shines. Joe needed a place for his music, and collection of rock 'n' roll photography, and the kids—Jay, 9, and Lily, 8—needed a space to watch cartoons. "The custom 12-inch round chandelier made of tobacco stick felt just perfect for the look and the size of the space," says Keenan of the towering custom-made fixture.
While the outside of the family room is the most original part of the house, the inside is a complete departure from the shotgun structure. "We really wanted to save it," says Keenan of the original house—"so by building a structure that gave a nod to the old house, we felt like we had done something good."
Keenan's favorite part of the house: the French doors: "I had an antique pair of arched French doors from Paris. They are amazing and stand about nine feet tall. The arch of the doors gave us the idea to make the vestibule leading to the family room barrel-vaulted."
Upstairs in the children's bedrooms, Keenan wanted to fill the spaces with life, color, and all of the things they love. In Jay's room, this meant lots of bright blues and reds.
"I wanted the house to have a playful, colorful, and slightly whimsical feel for our young family," says Keenan. While she didn't want anything to feel too serious, she wanted a more grown-up feel than their previous homes. "We also needed more space, so the kids each needed their own room."
The children's bathroom was covered in a world map wallpaper by Christian Lacroix, white subway tile, and a stainless steel sink requested by the boy.
The kids also got their own study, a nook created in a corner of the family room. Schoolhouse-style items were acquired from eBay and local vintage stores.
In the guest room, Keenan used a mix of light turquoise and canary-yellow tones to create a lively retreat. "Somewhere along the way, I scored a vintage pair of yellow lamps, which really set the tone for the guest room," she says.
In Lily's room, the ceiling was covered in an Osborne & Little starry wallpaper. True to the little girl's taste, the space was filled with butterflies and flowers.
In the primary bedroom, a calming vibe reigns supreme, away from the vibrant chaotic family life. "Our Murano glass lamps set the tone for a more romantic feel in the primary bedroom," says Keenan. She opted for a feminine pink grasscloth wallpaper and muted tones to soften the space.
The term "Primary Bedroom" is now widely used to describe the largest bedroom in the home, as it better reflects the space’s purpose. Many realtors, architects, interior designers, and the Real Estate Standards Association have recognized the potentially discriminatory connotations in the term "Master." Read more about our Diversity and Inclusion Pledge.
While the young mom wanted her home to feel colorful and lived in, she opted for a more classic approach to their primary bath. "Right now, I am loving color for many reasons," she says—"mostly because having young children makes me want to be fun and not too severe. We have a playful, busy lifestyle and color fits the bill." While this rings true throughout the house, the Carrara marble bathroom served as a departure from the family's busy lifestyle.
An oversize soak tub was the perfect finishing touch to her primary retreat—and the final item on her dream wish list. "Being in the [interior design] business is a blessing and a curse," she says. "Seeing so many amazing products and projects brought me constant inspiration, but in the end, we had to stay cost-effective."