COTE DE TEXAS

CHARLESTON CHARM

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It’s that time again!  Bravo’s hit show – “Southern Charm” just started it’s fourth season and it continues to be one of their most watched reality shows.   Who can resist?   The houses that a few of its stars live in are so gorgeous, it’s hard to change the channel.

 

A few years ago I wrote a two part story about a few of the Southern Charm houses, including Patricia Altschul’s house, shown above.  She had moved to Charleston after she was widowed and brought Mario Buatta along with her to decorate her newly bought house.  Since I wrote that story, Architectural Digest featured her house and more recently, this month Charleston Home and Design put Patricia on their cover. 

 

 

This wasn’t the first time a home of Patricia’s had been featured in Architectural Digest, it’s her third go-round!   Before moving to Charleston, she had lived in a Fifth Avenue apartment and a 30 room country estate on Oyster Bay named Southerly, both designed by Mario Buatta – and both showcased in AD and in Mario’s book.

In my original story, I showed Patricia’s Charleston house and how it looked before she bought it and I also showed the Architectural Digest photoshoots of her Fifth Avenue apartment and her country estate.  Unfortunately, the new AD photoshoot of her Charleston house came out right AFTER my story, so it was never really complete, which always really bothered me.  Now, with yet another magazine feature, I thought I would visit her house again.  Her Charleston house is a dreamy confection of English fabrics and antiques and fine art – and I can’t get enough of it, which is one of the main reasons I tune in to watch “Southern Charm.”

 

Becoming a Reality-TV star in your golden years was, I’m sure, never a goal of Patricia’s.  Her only child, son Whitney Sudler-Smith, is the producer and developer of Bravo’s “Southern Charm.”  When he started the show, he asked his mother if she would like to guest on it – maybe five minutes here and there.  Thanks to her sharp wit and willingness to be brutally honest, Patricia became the break-out star of “Southern Charm” and this month she even released her first book – a primer on Southern manners and mannerisms.

 

“The Art of Southern Charm” – click on the photo to order her book.

I was surprised to read “The Art of Southern Charm” and learn that Patricia is much more than just a martini drinking widow that she pretends to be on the show.  She has a masters in Art History and Archeology(!) from George Washington University where she had graduated cum laude, quite a feat at GW, which is a very highly rated school.  After graduation, she worked as a college professor, lecturing on Art History.  Later she began her own company, buying art collections for wealthy clients, one of whom became her late husband.

Altschul’s book is filled with stories of her life, her parents, her son and her husbands (3).  If you are a fan, you will enjoy it.  I did.

 

When she and Arthur Altschul married,  they had several homes – one on Fifth Avenue where Sister Parish had once lived  and a large, 30 room, country estate on Long Island called “Southerly.”  After Mr. Altschul passed away, Patricia drove around, with her infamous butler Michael in tow, looking for a southern town to land in.  Charleston was it.   It all sounds so simple now, but the hunt for the perfect town and house took her three years. 

 

Patricia, her son Whitney on the far left, and the other male stars of “Southern Charm.” 

 

 

The story about her Charleston house is most interesting because Mario used her furniture from her other two New York houses  – just recovering and repurposing everything.   It all looks so fresh in her Charleston home.  Even the Zuber wallpaper in the dining room came from her country estate – it was pulled off the walls and reinstalled in Charleston.   I admit I’m a bit obsessed with her house.   I can’t help it!!

 

The Roman Revival house is known in Charleston as the Issac Jenkins Mikell House after the cotton planter who built it for his 4th out of five wives.  It was the town library from 1936 until 1960 when the building was going to be razed.  Luckily, it was sold and restored by a couple who then sold it to the Historic Charleston Foundation, who later sold it again.  When Patricia bought the house, some of its 10 bedrooms were being used for apartments.

 

The earliest view of the Mikell House in the 1850s before the stucco wall was built.  There does seem to be a wing on the right side of the house.

 

In the early 1930s, the main house was photographed.  To the right is the wing that houses the library, dining room, and butler’s pantry.

 

Here, is the kitchen wing, to the extreme right of the main house and its wing.   Through that door with the fan light – today, is a sitting room.  At some point, shutters were added to this wing, too.  Trees and shrubs have grown so large that now it’s hard to see this wing through the greenery.

 

In 1936 through 1960, the house was used as Charleston’s library.

 

 

 

Here is the aerial view of the Mikell house’s corner lot which is hidden behind a stucco wall on one side and an iron fence on the other side.   You can see the main house with the wing with the dining room & library at its side, along with the kitchen in the next wing with its lower roof.  The kitchen wing is hidden behind the trees and shrubs.   At the very right, across the driveway, is the old carriage house with its red tiled roof.   The front door to the house is located on the side street, at the side of the main house.

 

 

An early photo of the house with its large piazza.   A later owner painted the columns and today, the shutters are green.  I like the shutters painted the same color as the stucco as shown here.

 

BEFORE:  An early owner painted the base of the columns red and the tops brown – if you can believe it!  Patricia has kept the shutters green but she restored the columns to their original color.

 

TODAY:  Inside the house, a large double drawing room opens onto the large piazza.  Above, the master bedroom suite and guest suite open onto a balcony that overlooks the front lawn with its koi pond and swimming pool.  Patricia planted potted lemon trees on the piazza.

 

Close up of the shutters.  During Hurricanes, Patricia doesn’t have to evacuate.  She just closes her shutters and “hunkers down” as we say in the south!   The house has stood since 1853, unharmed, through all those many hurricanes and storms.

 

The front gate on the side street that leads to the front door.

 

Since moving in, screens have been added to the gates to give privacy to the estate.  Today, horse drawn carriages lead tourists past this now well-known house.

 

Patricia Altschul greets you at the front door.  She is usually wearing a caftan and at 5:00 pm, her butler Michael presents her with his perfect martini.

 

TODAY:  Inside the front door - and its fabulous foyer.  Mario Buatta painted the wood floors to brighten up the dark space.  To the left is the morning room.  The staircase is past the arches.

 

I love this oriental antique chest in the foyer next to two French chairs, covered in velvet.   The walls in the foyer, staircase, and landing have been marbleized, while the wood floors were painted.

 

BEFORE:   The front lobby before the floor was painted.  To the right is the Morning Room.  Originally, there were columns and a large opening to the Morning Room.  Patricia removed the columns.

 

TODAY:   The Morning Room.  This is where Patricia makes calls on the “house phone.”  The floor is covered in seagrass and the walls are wallpapered in a stripe.

 

Another view of the morning room.

 

From Charleston Magazine, a view of the fireplace.  Patricia collects French mantel clocks – there are enough for each fireplace. 

 

In the morning room is her large collection of pug dogs.

 

The bar is set up on this console.  There are three bars set around the house.

 

A close up of the Morning Room curtains with their gilt cornice.  These were originally at Southerly, in the living room.

 

Patricia on her “house phone” – making her morning calls.   I love her hair – it’s so flattering!

 

BEFORE:   The staircase with its stained dark banister.  I must say – I do love this antique light fixture.  I would have kept it myself!

 

TODAY:  The staircase hall is off the foyer.  In this view you can see the foyer at the left and the Morning Room entry, without the columns.  I adore this painted floor.  It is fabulous!   On the walls of the stairs is the silhouette collection that Patricia and two of her husbands collected with her.   The banister was painted white by Buatta – which I love.   Here you can see the antique light fixture that Patricia installed here.

 

The roundabout in dark pink.    Across from the stairs is the entrance to the double drawing room.

 

The view looking down at the stairs.  This is such a beautiful space.  The windows overlook the back side of the house.  The one thing I’m not crazy about in the house is the runner, but that’s personal.

 

Close up of the fabulous antique silhouette collection.  She owns one of George Washington and Robert E. Lee!!!

 


The only silhouette of George Washington that he sat for!  Amazing!!!!

 

 

BEFORE:  The double drawing room was actually originally set up to be a living room and dining room.

 

TODAY:  The Double Drawing Room is the highlight of this fabulous house.  The furniture is a combination of Patricia’s Fifth Avenue living room and Southerly’s living room.   Cream sofas combined with Lee Jofa chintz arm chairs.  Southerly’s one large rug was cut into two to fit these rooms.  I think the wall color is stunning – I wonder whose it is – is it custom?  It truly makes the room.   The Buatta décor is classic and timeless.    Gorgeous!!!!

 

The double drawing room is entered off the stairway hall, which you can see here.  The smaller drawing room on the right leads to the library, dining room, and the kitchen wing.

 

The smaller drawing room.  Instead of curtains, Buatta made fanciful shades.   The two chandeliers were removed – I wonder if they will be replaced?  On the mantel, an antique French clock.

 

From the NYC Fifth Avenue apartment, this chinoiserie desk is beautiful.

 

The large drawing room with the cream sofa.  Both rooms have fireplaces with matching mirrors that face each other at opposite ends of the rooms.  On the mantel, another antique French clock.

 

The other side of the larger drawing room.

 

Patricia in one of her signature caftans.

 

And sitting in the larger drawing room, wearing one of her animal caftans, which she now sells.  You send in a photo of your pet and it is printed on the fabric.  Those sconces are gorgeous!

 

In the smaller drawing room, Michael serves Patricia her daily, 5:00 pm martini.  She says he makes the perfect martini.

 

This view is of the balcony right outside the large drawing room.

 

I love the area between the two rooms where this console always has a beautiful flower arrangement.

 

And yet one more floral design.  Patricia is good friends with another new Charleston citizen, Carolyne Roehm.

 

BEFORE:   Southerly, the library.  Some of this furniture, and its curtains, was used in the Charleston library.

 

TODAY:   Across from the smaller drawing room is the second foyer that opens to the wing.  The library is off this second foyer.  Here, the walls look almost magenta, but they are a true red.

 

A nighttime view of the library with the fireplace going.  There are quite a few books and now knowing Patricia’s academic history, it makes perfect sense that she would have a large library.

 

Bar #2 is set up here in the library.  After-dinner drinks and cigars are served here.  It’s unusual to allow smoking inside these days, but Patricia does.

 

The bar and cigars!

 

And you can see here the painted floor from the second foyer that leads to the library.  Next to the library is the dining room.  Originally, this library was where the kitchen was, but Patricia reconfigured this part of the house and moved the kitchen to the second wing.

 

BEFORE:   The library was originally the kitchen!  Hard to believe.  You can see here what it once looked like.  What I can’t figure out is the mantel.  This mantel is now in the dining room and the mantel that was in the dining room is now in the library for some odd reason.

 

BEFORE:  Here is the dining room before Patricia bought the house.  This mantel is now in the library/kitchen and that mantel is now in the dining room.  Through the door, you can see what is today the butler’s pantry – which was once a sitting room.  Patricia moved the kitchen from this area to the wing off the butler’s pantry.

 

TODAY:  Next to the library is the dining room.  This room was first designed in Southerly and Buatta reused all the elements here in Charleston.  Although the curtains actually came from Patricia’s former Fifth Avenue apartment.  The Zuber paper is gorgeous – it was taken off the walls in Southerly and rehung here.    These ceilings are higher though, so to stretch the wallpaper, Buatta added a trim piece and then painted sky blue above it to mimic the sky in the wallpaper.  Very smart, Mario!!!   The room has four windows – two on each side.  These two windows face the front yard and open to the balcony.   The textured rug tones it all down – instead of being too dressy, the room looks warm and welcoming.   Another fabulous room, IMO.  I love this house!!!

 

Through this door you can see the second foyer where the library is.  To the left of the foyer is the small drawing room.

 

The view towards the other direction which faces the back of the house.  This side has two windows, but one is faux, it is actually a door.  Instead of panes there are mirrors. 

 

BEFORE:  Here is the Zuber wallpaper in the dining room at Southerly – you can see the ceiling is not as high as the Charleston house.   Buatta cleverly added the trim piece, then painted above it to make the paper “fit.”  Remember, Jackie Kennedy also painted above her own antique Zuber paper to make it fit the White House Diplomatic Room.

 

Patricia in her dining room.

 

Her blue and white corralled for a dinner party.

 

BEFORE:  The Butler’s Pantry was once a sitting room with stairs that lead up to the second floor in the wing.  Patricia closed off the small door and added built ins on each wall to hold her extensive plate collection.

 

TODAY:   The butler’s pantry connects to the new kitchen in the far right wing.  The pantry is a large bar/staging area.   The kitchen is past the doggie gate at the very right.

 

Another view of the Butler’s Pantry – with Cameran, one of the stars of “Southern Charm.”

 

Michael preparing for a dinner party.  The French doors leads out to the front balcony and yard.

 

The view from the outside – the right wing with the library and dining room and butler’s pantry.  Whitney and Shep, another star of “Southern Charm” stand on the balcony off the butler’s pantry.  Seen here at the very right, are the two windows from the kitchen building.

 

The kitchen is a large, charming country style room with two farm sinks and a fireplace!  Mostly all the dogs stay in here.  The island’s top is made of copper, as is the stove’s hood.  Love the ceiling.   The door opens to the driveway and the carriage house.

 

The kitchen’s fireplace is surrounded by blue and white tiles.  To the left is the door that leads to the breakfast room and sitting room.

 

Another view of the kitchen – when it’s not styled for a photoshoot. I love how this is a brand new kitchen, but it looks decades old.  Amazing!  The cabinet doors under the sinks add to the charm, as do all the sconces around the room.  I also love how low the sconces were hung.

 

The breakfast room off the kitchen has its own brick fireplace.

 

BEFORE:  The sitting room was dark with mirrored walls on one side!  Mirrors?!

 

TODAY:   The room looks totally different, painted white and bright with the mirrors removed.  The sitting room is off the driveway court, next to the kitchen entrance.  Outside the French door is the old Carriage House.   Much of this furniture came from Southerly’s sitting room.

Patricia and Whitney share appetizers.  Up the stairs is the kitchen, where Michael is headed.  Up the higher level is the breakfast room.

 

Southerly:  Buatta was able to reuse much of this in Charleston.

 

BEFORE:  The second floor landing off the main staircase.  Patricia kept the arched trim work at the end of the landing.

 

TODAY:    Here you can see how Patricia utilized the arched trim work upstairs.   To create some architectural interest, she added a faux mirrored French door.

 

Further down the long hall, the walls are papered.  I love those sconces!

 

The landing – shelves were added for even more books.

        

BEFORE:  In the main house, above the double drawing rooms are two bedroom suites.  First is the guest room, seen here, before.

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Today:   The guest room.  This furniture was moved from New York – where it was Patricia’s master bedroom furniture.  The room leads out to the front balcony.  Just beautiful.   This photograph by AD is so pretty!!

 

Above the desk is a needlework from Jackie Kennedy that was once in the White House.

 

The view into the guest room from the landing.  The wood -floors are painted white.

 

Patricia calls this the Dog Room because of the paintings.  Notice the ceiling is pink.  Photograph by Charleston Magazine.

 

FIFTH AVENUE:   Here is the same furniture, as it was in Patricia’s Fifth Avenue apartment.  Buatta was able to reuse it all!

 

The guest bathroom.  Sweet.

 

BEFORE:   Over the larger side of the double drawing room is the master suite, shown as it was, before.

 

TODAY:   Patricia’s master bedroom is a copy of her Southerly bedroom – the same furniture and fabric was used, just refreshed.  The bedroom opens up to the front balcony.  The room sits on top of the double drawing room.  I have to say this is such a pretty bedroom – a classic and one of Mario’s best rooms!!!  I had been a fan of the Southerly bedroom for years before I ever heard of its owners.  I bet you were too.

 

From Charleston Home Magazine.  The floor is painted white wood.  It’s so interesting to see how the photographers from Architectural Digest take such gorgeous photos while Charleston Home’s photos are just photos.  The AD photos are by Scott Frances and he is unbelievably talented.  Incredibly so.  Just compare the AD marked photos with similar ones of the same room and you will appreciate how gifted Frances truly is.    For instance – compare the beautiful, fragile linen lampshades in each photo.  In AD’s  photos – you can see each one in detail, in the other photo, they disappear.  Notice the sun’s dappled light in AD’s photo.  Frances waited for the exact right time to take that photo.  Not sure how he even finessed that?

 

This is an antique dog bed!  Adorable!

 

 

While packing for a trip to NYC, you can see the landing at the right door, with the crystal chandelier from the Fifth Avenue apartment.  Through the left door is the bathroom.

 

BEFORE:  The master bedroom.  Through the left door is the bathroom.  Through the right down is the stair landing.

 

BEFORE:   The master bathroom.  Patricia removed the cabinetry and cleared out the room to completely renovate it for her bathroom.  This tub was reused in the guest bathroom.  The mantel stayed put, although the stone surround was changed.

 

TODAY:   The bathroom with its cabinet where the heated toilet is concealed.  The floor is painted here again. A fireplace in the bathroom!!   Is this the prettiest bathroom, ever?  The walls are mirrored strips.  Just gorgeous!

Gorgeous!!!  What I would give for this bathroom!  That mirror!!!

 

SOUTHERLY:  Patricia’s bedroom on Oyster Bay.  The main difference is there is no canopy here!

 

BEFORE:  Southerly – the other side of the bedroom.

 

 

Here are the Architectural Digest photographs from Patricia’s Southerly and Fifth Avenue living rooms so you can see how Mario Buatta used their previous decor:

 

Southerly:  The same rug was used, as were the sofas and chintz chairs.  The ottoman was also reused, as was this French checked chair.

 

Southerly:  The other side of the room.  This was all reused in Charleston.  The curtains were put in the Morning Room.

 

Fifth Avenue.  The cream sofas were used in Charleston.  The curtains were reused in Charleston’s dining room.  This red desk was also used.  The crystal chandelier is now on the second floor landing, right outside Patricia’s bedroom suite.

 

Another view of this apartment which was once Sister Parish’s.  The velvet chairs, tables, lamps, stools – were all reused in Charleston, thanks to Mario Buatta.

 

This room is just incredible – three photos in AD!  The mirror above the fireplace ended up in the Charleston library.  The screen?  I don’t think that was reused.  In Charleston, the antique oval mirror is in the second foyer, outside the dining room.   But that desk!!!  Gorgeous!!!

 

Want a caftan with your pet’s photo on it?  Go HERE.

Books to go with this story – click on the photo to order:

SHOP THIS COLLECTION & TONS MORE OF EUROPEAN ANTIQUES:    HERE