The Wicklewood Blog
- 01 Nov 2019
- HOUSE GUEST
House Guest: Ceara Donnelley
‘I grew up in beautiful, unique family homes,’ says Ceara Donnelley, ‘the idea of home was rooted in me from an early age’. The lawyer-turned-interior designer grew up in a brownstone on the Upper West Side of Manhattan with four sisters, a philosopher father and a mother who ‘cooked wonderful dinners every night’; this combination of careful thoughtful and homely shines through in the beguiling, effortless interiors Donnelley creates.
WW: How would you describe your interiors style?
CD: I was an artistic kid. I bought a poster of a Henri Rousseau painting - jungly green and exotic animals - when I was ten, and marvel that my aesthetic hasn't changed - I still love anything wild and surreal. Charleston is known for stunning architecture and old-world, European feel. Living here has pushed me to be more modern - I love playing with new shapes and combinations against the historical fabric, creating a conversation with the past.
I draw from different styles, eras and traditions to create balance and tension that feels familiar and new, comforting and exciting. I return to geometric floors, statement lighting via offbeat chandeliers and wall lights, and deep, saturated colour. Architectural elements - a moulding profile, millwork or floor material - are vital.
WW: Tell us about your home?
CD: When my husband and I moved to Charleston, I oversaw the renovation of our beautiful pink house near the Battery. It’s classic Charleston; a 1740 Georgian single house, one room wide with a side porch to catch the breeze and original cypress panelling. It had barely been touched since the 1930s and needed real imagination to reinvent. We created a sophisticated, urban feel, softened by upholstery, colour, unusual lighting, and carefully chosen vintage and antique pieces. I have a weakness for the natural world - a home decor zoo, as well as our three cats and two dogs!
I spend my happiest moments in our library - I’m still adding layers to make it the most enveloping, cocooning space - and, in the hotter months, our pool house - an oasis inspired by Moroccan architecture and my grandparents’ 1970s pool house.
WW: How do you use colour and pattern?
CD: Colour is where I begin any project. I subscribe to Carlos Mota’s motto - ‘beige is not a colour’. I’m designing our master bedroom as a study in yellow - from an electric highlighter hue to a deep, lush ochre, with many shades between. I love unusual colour combinations — I spend my life combining red and green in a way that doesn’t scream Christmas (but is also perfect at that favourite time of year!). Second only to colour, is pattern - when I use it, I go big; upholstering a sofa in something bold, or layering many different scales.
WW: What projects do you have coming up?
CD: For three years I’ve been working on a reimagination of my family’s colonial-era farmhouse in the Berkshires. Beyond personal meaning, it’s a different feel to other projects - rustic, an opportunity to explore an American version of the English country house. And I’m excited about the gift shop at the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston. It’s my first commercial project and incorporates lots of colour. It’ll be a boundary-pushing backdrop for the store’s unique inventory of works by local artists - it’s been fun to think about how the general public will interact with, and react to, my design.
Charleston in 60 seconds…
...spot for a drink? Bin 152 on lower King Street is my tried and true spot for a glass of wine with friends
...restaurant? My latest favorite is Melfi’s on Upper King an old school Italian vibe and the food is as good as the décor.
...place for culture? The Gibbes Museum on Meeting Street is a Charleston institution: great art housed in a beautiful, recently-restored Beaux Arts building and a great gift shop...
...hidden gem? Wynsum Antiques on Upper King is full of treasures - your eye is pulled in a dozen directions.
...knock-out interior? Score an invitation to the Gatewood House on Legare Street - architect Gil Schafer and colour maestro Eve Ashcraft collaborated on this incredible mid-19th century Greek Revival mansion; period perfection.
...place to get outside? My favorite place in the world is the ACE Basin, a protected area of about 350,000 acres south of Charleston; one of the largest undeveloped estuaries on the east coast - a tapestry of marshes, swamps, rivers, and forests, home to abundant wildlife—alligators, shore birds, waterfowl and more.