COTE DE TEXAS: Carolyne in Charleston

Carolyne in Charleston


Today is the final chapter in the Charleston Series of beautiful houses.  A few years ago I showcased Carolyne Roehm’s latest book that corresponded with her visit to the Skirted Roundtable HERE.  We were surprised by Roehm.  We didn’t know what to expect and what we got was a vivacious, fun woman who was very warm and friendly and intelligent.

I have long been in awe of this brilliantly talented person – is there anything she can’t do?  Seriously?   What would it be?  She was a successful dress designer, even had her own label which is not an easy feat.  She is an interior designer.  A master gardener.  A writer with many books under her wings (I think she’s written 14.)  An incredible photographer. 

And then there was this.  An announcement that she was now an artist.  A watercolorist. 


Can you just decide to become an artist and then be BRILLIANT at it????!?!??

Only if you are Carolyne Roehm.

Have you seen her work?  I was stunned.


  Here is a  sample of Carolyne’s watercolors which are now available on her web site!

I ask again, is there anything this woman can not do?

Carolyne writes a beautiful blog where her photography is showcased to perfection.  She wrote about being obsessed with 18th century France and wanting to buy a house there.  Over the years, she found four houses that she loved and longed to bring back to life.  But, in the end, it wasn’t to be.

Instead, she decided to stay here in America where she lives in her NYC apartment, her Connecticut farmhouse and her Aspen house.

She dreamed of a place in the sun,  where she could grow the southern flowers that have alluded her in Connecticut:  camellias, magnolias,  and gardenias. And of course, she found the perfect place in Charleston. 

She has spent the past few years renovating her house, room by room.  It is now completed and she has posted photos of it on her blog.

Sigh.  It’s impossible to have a favorite room.  Impossible.  You just can’t say which room is your favorite because each is so special!!

Of course the house has a name.  It has for all its many years: 

“Chisholm House” 

If you read her blog, then you have been following the renovation, but I realized this week that I have missed a few updates – and thought maybe you might have too.  So, here is a recap of Carolyne’s Chisholm House – all in one.   I’m hoping that her next book will be the story of this house, her own “An Affair With A House.”  Please!!!


The History:

The earliest view of Chisholm House in 1865 – a torpedo boat the “Little David” was beached in front of the house.  The area where the house was built was actually a marsh – that was eventually filled in.  It is located just a few blocks from the waterfront. 


Here, an early view when the house was owned by Dr. Rowland Alston. 

Chisolm House is a Greek Revival, built in 1836 and designed by Prussian-trained Charles Reichardt, the architect of the original Charleston Hotel and the Milford Plantation. 


1977 View.

The house has what is described as a flying staircase, flanked by double drawing rooms.  There is also a dining room and a family room.  Upstairs there are three bedrooms ensuite.  The property sits behind a privacy wall.


1977.  From the side – the house sits on a corner.


It was rumored that Carolyne was going to remove this upper balcony and build a larger one that stretched the length of the house, but that hasn’t proven true.  And, I can’t see her changing this.


A close of the beautiful capital.

When Roehm bought the house,  it had been owned by Stephanie Saunders, daughter of Cliff Robertson who had once been married to Mar A Lago’s Marjorie Merriweather Post’s daughter Dina.  The house is 5,800 sq.ft. with 4 bedrooms, and 4.5 baths.  The swimming pool was one of the first things that Carolyne had removed.  In fact, she also removed all the landscaping – it was most important that she design her new garden from the ground up, so to speak.


The large expanse of concrete in the back of the house was removed – in order to make room for the garden along the side street. 



The house, when it was sold to Carolyne.


Before:   When Carolyn bought the house, the renovation of the gardens was one of the first things she undertook.  The swimming pool was taken out to make room for the garden.  At the fence is a row of ten 16’ tall holly trees that will act as screen to hide neighbors and telephone wires.  Remember at the Ravenel house how the electrical wires were so overwhelming?  Here, a few blocks away, it’s the same story.  Apparently the city is slowly burying all the electrical wires but it’s a long, slow process.  Also bought early on, were 80 camellia bushes.  In the front yard, she planted 2 huge, old live oaks to create shade. 


The back of the house completely cleared out – no sign of the pool was left.

I wish there were more photographs of the garden, but there have been a few natural disasters.   Last year,  there was a hurricane which was fatal for the landscaping.


The problems started with the torrential storm of 2015.  Here you can see the water in the bowl – how deep it was.  Still, look how beautifully Carolyne has laid out her garden, with the blue & white as focal points.  Last year, more troubles came with Hurricane Matthew.


At first, Carolyne was hoping she had avoided disaster with Hurricane Matthew.  She planted these bright mums to liven up the beds, but two weeks later, the salt water turned it all brown and the entire garden of boxwoods had to be thrown away and replanted.  Today, it’s hard to believe she went through this.  And it’s even harder to believe her gardens are just three years old! 

Notice, the wonderful design with the center fountain and the brick walkway.  A year later and Carolyne is entertaining outside again.

INSPIRATION:  I love mums, especially pink ones.  But, I never plant them anymore because they don’t last that long in Houston.  Still – seeing these, used as a filler, it makes me realize that mums can be so useful.  Think party.   When you need to freshen up the garden and make it look wonderful – immediately – plant mums!


Martha Stewart visited before Hurricane Matthew.  Here is the blue and white garden – with the gate opening to the front lawn.


And the pineapple fountain.  It’s truly hard to believe the garden was planted just a few years ago!

Here, the steps leads down to the back side of the house where tables and chairs are set out for entertaining.  Martha Stewart photo.


Recently, Carolyne entertained in her garden.



Another photo.


And this week, Susanna Salk visited – filming Chisholm House for her video blog.   Link at the end of the story. 

Can’t wait to see her video on the house!!!

And wow!  I love the house with the blue and white urns and the topiary!!


The front door photographed by Susanna.   


BEFORE:   The entry, as it was when Carolyne bought the house – pine floors that had an orange-tined stain.  The floors were damaged and had been patched over the decades.  Instead of removing them, Carolyne chose to paint them – which I love!


BEFORE:   The entry hall with the “flying staircase.”


TODAY:  The floors are painted to mimic marble and the walls are papered in Farrow and Ball.  A collection of coral sits on the console – this is a beach house, don’t forget!


Another earlier styling.


Looking down at the fabulous floor!


Black and white chair with red.


The console!  Just gorgeous.  Carolyne is a master at styling and at photography.  Together, her houses are her laboratory where she experiments with different looks. 

Flanking the entry hall are two parlors.  On the left is the Chinoiserie Room and on the right is the Bird Room. 


And now this is the time you get to decide which is your favorite room!   Good luck with that!

First, on the left side is the

The  Chinoiserie Room:

BEFORE:  The room used to have two entrances on each side of the fireplace, but one was closed off.  In order to fit her furniture in the room, Carolyne had the other entrance blocked off – so now, the only door to the room is off the entrance hall.


Here is the room, readied for the renovation.  The two openings (to the Media Room) will be closed off.   And, there was the matter of the fireplace.   Victorian mantels had been installed in all the rooms – but they didn’t match the age or style of the house.  Carolyne chose to remove and replace them (not repeal & replace!!)  The paint is Farrow & Ball’s  Chalke Green.  Be sure to read her blog story about the details of the renovation. 


Here is the room in candlelight- when it looks its prettiest, I think.  The floor is a different pattern than the entry – here it is a faux marble with faux cabochon insets.  Two settees face each other here.


A view of the front windows.  This room is like candy – it’s so delicious!   The color of green was taken from the Green Salon at Drottningholm Palace.   Carolyne has said that her love of all things chinoiserie started when she was a child and her grandmother gave her a piece of Blue Willow china.


These statues were painted green and gold.


The mirror was designed by Carolyne using a door surround from Clayden House as inspiration. 


Subtle damask pattern on the fabrics.  I love the hot pink pillows that will dictate the color of the flowers.  Perfection!


Chinoiserie table.  Wow.  Gorgeousness.


18th century desk – was obtained for this room.


This 18th century desk is incredibly beautiful.  


This is a view not seen before – a screen sits behind the settee.


Another photo of the desk – love the pink shades on the lamps.


Is there a prettier room?  Well, maybe!  Just walk across the entry hall to...

The Bird Room:

On the right side of the foyer is the Bird Room. Seen here, is how the previous owners decorated it.


And here is the Bird Room, cleared out for the renovation.  The Victorian coal burning fireplace and its mantel was removed, as these were a later addition to the house.  Additionally, the doorway on the right of the mantel was opened up – to the Library.   This room became the blue and white Bird Room, inspired by a 17th century painting bought in France.


And here is the room – an early version.   The mirror was made for the house, the chairs are Syrie Maugham, the fabric is Quadrille.  Crystal chandelier and painted floor.


The inspiration for the Bird Room came from this 17th century painting that Carolyne spotted while bicycling in the France – of course!   Carolyne has had a long love of birds in painting and this room is the perfect manifestation of that love.


The view from the Entry Hall into the Bird Room.


The table – the view is of the corner of the two streets that the house sits on.


Seriously?  This German clock is so gorgeous I could cry.  It’s absolutely beautiful.  And I love the birds flanking it.  Carolyne writes that the clock was in her Aspen house but she moved it here where she felt it belonged.  Yes.  I agree!!

Seriously though.  This room is gorgeous – I could cry!  OK, I won’t cry, but it’s just so beautiful to me – probably because I’m a cool color person.  Blues just appeal to me.  While I love the Chinoiserie Room – I probably am drawn more to this decor.

Which room do you prefer so far?


The fireplace with the mirror that Carolyne had made for this space.  Notice through the newly opened door is the Library.


Old plates that feature birds are set for a dinner in the Bird Room.


Another view of the Gustavian sofa and the inspiration painting.


The watercolor is by Scott Kelly.  Carolyne writes that besides the antique painting from France, her biggest extravagance in the Bird Room was the pair of tole pineapples by Carmen Almon.   When Carolyne wrote her stories on the Bird Room she was debating whether she should get curtains for this room.   I think she would be happy without curtains – she obviously loves a less textured look without rugs and layers.   But, the room is exposed to the street, so privacy is an issue.


Recently Carolyne posted a video that showed the Bird Room with curtains – pretty white curtains with blue trim.   When the 2015 storm hit, she also posted a few pictures of the curtains on that night  - pulled up to avoid dampness leaking through the windows.  (Glad to know I’m not the only person who has to do that!)


So pretty!  Waiting for the book to properly see the room with all the curtains!  Hint Hint.


The Library

Past the door in the Blue Room is the Library.  On her blog Carolyne has said several times that she is going to discuss this room in detail – but she hasn’t yet.  I tired to find as many photos of the library that I could, but there aren’t that many.


The library was actually the dining room.  Here is the Before photo.


Carolyne posted this painting and said it was going in the Library.


This chandelier was in storage – and is now in the Library. 


The Library – with dark, dark brown walls that read almost black.  The dining table is white.


A dinner party – with views of the bookcases that were built on both long walls.


The place settings and flowers for the dinner party.


In this view – you can see a bit of the architecture of the Library with the medallions above the shelving – which I LOVE!!  You can see a bit of the red chandelier in this picture. Through the door is the hall off the entry.  

Until Carolyne posts about the Library, we will just have to wait for proper photos!


In this photo, you can see how the table is set up daily – like a Library table – with books and lamps.


Another dinner table set with the lamps and red roses.  Gorgeous.


Another table setting – with red apples.  Are those lamps or candelabras???  How are they lit?

And the same table at night – here you can see the gold votives lit up.  Those are really pretty votives. 


And yet, another table setting.  Makes me want to have a dinner party!!!


The stools in the library.

One thing I don’t see is the painting that Carolyne said was going in the Library.  We’ll have to wait for Susanna’s video on Friday!


Moving to the Media Room!

Before:  The Media Room had more of the orange stained floor.  It is located behind the Chinoiserie Room.


BEFORE:  Here is the room ready to be renovated.  The Victorian fireplace is to be replaced and more substantial crown molding is added.

The inspiration for the room came when Carolyne saw four large paintings on canvas at Christie’s.  She believes they may have been made for the stage.  The 18th century French panels are 12’ tall x 9.5’ wide and depict the four seasons.  She bought the panels, had them framed and shipped them down to Charleston to be hung in the Media Room.

The problem though was the large flatscreen TV and how to hide it.  The panels took up so much of the wallspace, there wasn’t a place for a TV that was large enough.  In the end, she and her partner Simon came up with a solution for the flatscreen.


To give you an idea of how large the framed panels are – here is one of them waiting in the kitchen before it was hung!!


But first, the gorgeous Media Room:

The panels set the color scheme and tone for the room – soft and romantic.  A beautiful crystal chandelier hangs over the room, which is toned down with a Starke rug.



Against this wall is a chest that sits in front of one of the panels.


This panel was set over the fireplace. There is a table for small meals.  Through the doors is the foyer’s main hall.  Across the hall is the library.


Carolyne decorated the room with seafans and coral since this house is so close to the beach.


The fabric is Bennison.  Love!!!   The panels are so beautiful – aren’t they?  I told you it’s hard to decide which room is the prettiest!!!  My first favorite is the Bird Room and then maybe this room – or maybe the Chinoiserie then the Media.  But maybe the Media Room first!  ahahahah

Can I just buy the house, furnished?


Now – how about the TV? 

At a recent dinner party, the guests had no idea there was a flatscreen in the room.  Notice the mural that is on an easel in the corner?  That’s the flatscreen!


When Carolyne watches it, she just removes the mural and flips the TV to the horizontal position.  Ingenious!


Viola – the TV is gone!!!



Here is the beautiful table setting in the Media Room during a recent party.


The Kitchen:

The entry hall leads into the kitchen – with the twin columns that mark the space.  Today – there is a French Door at the end - that lets in light.


Before:  The kitchen is a long room – here with the columns that lead into the hall.


And the breakfast room side of the kitchen.


As with all the other rooms – it was renovated – to become the vision that Carolyne had.


Here – the kitchen with its classic black and white floors and white marble.  Her small flower sink is in between the two windows.



The room is bright and light with green walls that mimics the green from the gardens.  At the left not seen is the French door that opens to the back garden.


Across from the kitchen table is the large storage for Carolyne’s collection of plates and glassware.


Two of Carolyne’s watercolors hang in the kitchen.



She sets the prettiest tables.  Variegated camellias! 

Inspiration:  Concentrate on the napkins!


There are two rooms that are just hinted at on Carolyne’s instagram.  First, her powder room fashioned out of the broom closet!  An Oriental blue and white bowl becomes the sink.  So beautiful.


With her signature “CR” written over this photo, there is this small picture of her bedroom in lilac.  OMG – dying to see  more  of this bedroom!!!!!  Apparently the bedroom is covered in a Quadrille fabric.  Those silk curtains!!!

I just hope she is writing a book about this house.  Until then, don’t forget to watch Susanna Salk’s video of the house this Friday!!  HERE.


Be sure to visit Carolyne’s beautiful blog for her in depth writing and photographs of her life, her houses, and her art.  HERE. 

To listen to Carolyne on the Skirted Roundtable, go HERE.

To see all of her prints that you can purchase – go HERE.

Carolyne’s two latest books.  Click on the cover to order.



  1. I love her house, her style, her blog (it was fun watching the lead-up to the Venetian ball, with her two dresses, and then the other costumes). You have added value here, as usual, pointing out details and complex connections (the former owner's link to Mar-a-Lago!) and the historic photos. Great job! You're right--it's impossible to pick a favorite. But there are lots of ideas to try out.

  2. Unbelievable & your post highlights so many of the areas I couldn't find pics of-Thank You. I have all of her books and have visited her home in Sharon and Carolyne to me is the most talented woman of our age. I always enjoyed your Charleston Series of lovely homes. Thanks for all of your time in creating these posts. Sherrill

  3. Deeply appreciate understanding a bit, via your pics/captions, how Carolyne thinks about a new space. Her parameters beyond most of us, hence pure joy watching her 'play' with her muse.

    Would be fascinating to have an interior decorator shark tank type of show. Carolyne on the panel, obviously. Talented young designers on various budget scales approach with their ideas.

    Yet, I know Carolyn's talent is for every price point. She's that good.

    Carolyne's Garden Design wildly historic with pops of pure FRESH !

    You neglected the double axis with the pair of green/gold statues on plinths at the windows inside. That little trick is done for views while in the garden too. Goes back centuries.

    Garden & Be Well, XO T

  4. Joni, you are the Ted Williams of design blogs- yet another home run. It is as though we are treated to guest lectures in art, architecture and design. Everything Carolyne Roehm touches is perfection. Her taste and talent are inspirational. Thank you again for the feast of things beautiful.

  5. So so pretty! Can't wait to see more of her beautiful home. Thank you for sharing her home with us, along with the additional links. Happy Cinco de Mayo! ~ Miranda

  6. Joni, you are such a delight. I love your enthusiasm. Carolyne really is the crème de la crème, is she not? As to your caption under the photo: "Another table setting – with red apples. Are those lamps or candelabras??? How are they lit?" Those are bouillotte lamps. They are a type of candelabra lamp with a tôle shade that adjusts via the little arrow at the top. They are from the late 18th/early 19th century, and were used during the game of bouillotte. The game was played around a round or square bouillotte table, and the lamp was placed in the center. The game chips were kept in the little cupped area around the base of the lamp. The tôle shade was lowered as the game went on and the candles burnt down, so that the flames of the candles wouldn't glare in the faces of the players. I have several bouillotte lamps in my home and have always loved them. But you are right - how are hers illuminated? They have electric bulbs, so there must be a power source, but no cords are visible in the photos, and I can't imagine that she drilled holes in that lovely table to run a cord. It's a mystery to me. My bouillottes have both real candles and electric bulbs in them, so that I can illuminate them as originally designed, or with brighter electric light. Thanks for another great post! It's a grey day here in upstate New York, and you made it a little sunnier.

    1. Love your comment about the lamps!! maybe she will say something in the video about them?

    2. The card game is belote, still beloved of retirees to this day. It has references in daily life: when you have to start something over from square 1, you say "allez, rebelote!"
      A bouillotte is a hot-water bottle that you use to warm up a bed.
      You sound like a francophile, so I figure you would want to be alerted to the difference.
      Bonne journée!

  7. great posting as always! Can you imagine with her collections having a day to just go through her kitchen cabinets? I wuld die!!! One of these days I'll get to Charleston............
    As to the lamps on the table -i bet there are small holes drilled in the table and table cloth to allow for the lamps. Since it always has a tablecloth on i bet it's a 'nothing' sort of table- you know? not a priceless antique.

    1. i thought about the holes and the battery lights - i''m thinking its the battery lights, like the faux candles. Still, are those the most gorgeous lamps and shades you have ever seen??!?!?!?

  8. Such a great post on one of my inspirations! Carolyne has an unwavering sense of style, doesn't she? It seems everything she does is brilliant, and top class. Thank you Joni, for another tour-de-force.

  9. Thank you for spending what must have been a great deal of time compiling this post. You are right, Roehm is a genius as well as the pinnacle of taste. I appreciate the link to purchase the prints, at least one of which I must possess. Please, I beg of you, tell us the paint color of the Bird Room. I would love to know the china pattern as well. Finally, is it possible for an average-sized human being to walk upright under the flying staircase into the adjoining hall? Perhaps it is a trick of photography, but I just don't see how you could get through there without stooping. Oh, and I bet the lamps are lit with rechargeable "candles." I have some short ones that look like candles that can be recharged and "burn" for hours.

    1. The ceilings are 13' tall - so under the stairs is probably 9'???

  10. Wouldn't it be awesome to have Carolyne Roehm's talent and bank account. I can look at pictures of her homes and gardens for hours on end. I planted a boxwood bed that was inspired by the ones at her Charleston home but it doesn't look anything like hers--LOL!

    Nancy W.

    1. Just realized my typo...left the question mark off the first sentence. Thank goodness the week is almost over!

  11. It's beautiful for me because it's traditional, and also because it's not the same thing you see everywhere. (Except the blue and white Chinese stuff, but she probably had that before it was everywhere.) Also because she copied my black-and-white striped floor with the striped wallpaper...ha!
    The only really weird thing for me is having to remove picture from front of t.v. and then turning it sideways; you must be kidding, right? Maybe she only watches t.v. once a year or something.

    1. Meant to say checked floor.

    2. I don't think she sits around watching much tv at all. When would she have the time?

  12. Beautiful. But I'm not a fan of symmetry or formality. I find it hard to believe that a lot of those rooms are lived in. I like asymmetric and only having what you need need and use. I am now 70 years old and into minimalist industrial chic. Works for me. A smaller carbon footprint.

  13. Well...I COULD CRY...THIS is a no other. The thought-process is just...marvelous. What an absolute treat to read and admire over and over. franki

  14. Great post Joni! Just FYI -- the dinner party was in honor of Julian Fellowes (he's seated by Caroline). Julian's wife is sitting on opposite side with the wrap-around scarf on her head.

    Sometimes Carolyne's decorating is too much for me (gilded, Roccoco (sp?)-style...) but I love her use of color and she's got the perfect eye for placement. Having an unlimited budget helps too, I bet.

    Gina from The Midwest

  15. I DO follow her...............and YES it makes you want to have a dinner party!
    I have a signed book from her that I cherish with more THAN a signature...........
    A beautiful HOME indeed!

  16. The thing that stikes me most is how fresh she makes everything look . Very symmetrical , elegant and chic , yet not overly feminine . And very good in strong focal points .
    Pupil of Oscar de la Renta , she used her eyes and distilled her very own unique style .
    She is a master of detail and exactly knows how to add drama .
    And besides in interviews she is nice , down to earth and fun .

    Note : I don't like her flatscreen solution so much , an antique mirrored folding screen would do the job . F

  17. The lit candle conumdrum. Perhaps the faux candle sick with the dripping wax is an LED powered by a battery item. Your readers are so knowledgeable and generous the gaming candle, what a neat trivia note. Gee, I wonder if I walked by that house. It really is helpful if one reads up about the history of Charleston because there are hidden everyday gems. The College of Charleston has an Art gallery, a natural history museum, The city Gallery has a fantastic view of the waterfront park, The library, Normandy farms the energy in the city is so wonderful. A instagram poster Laurensouthdown may give your readers a sense of the everyday charleston as she is willing to share her home life and work life and don't be offended by her individual take on her "What fresh Hell is this!"

  18. Well, it's Sunday and Susanna's video is not up yet. I'm not sure why I was convinced it would be up on Friday? I've checked every day - a few time at that, probably driving their numbers up through the roof by how much I've clicked on the blog!!! lol. I am just dying to see it!!!!

  19. Hi Joni - LOL - thanks for stopping by so frequently! I just shot the video last week when Susanna and I visited Carolyne. It will be featured on my blog in the fall. In the meantime, we will be featuring Carolyne in a new series Susanna and I just debuted, Setting the Table with. The first episode was with Marian McEvoy a couple weeks ago. If you want to help me with the video editing, I can move along a little faster ;-) Best, Stacey

  20. HI Joni, omgosh this was great. I was just there two weeks ago. I am friends with Carolyne. My husband and I went to Kiawah Island and I sent her a message that we would be in town hoping I could see it first hand. She was flying to NY on the same day that I contacted her. We were coming home too but driving home. So I went to the house and walked around to see and took some photos. It was lovely. But your documentation gave me points of view I could not see, like the amazing backyard. Beautiful. I also asked Susan Salk to post her visit. She said that would be a while. Darn it! Love her little videos. Once again thank you for this. Love it. I always love your large amazing photos on your blog. It is magnificient.
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