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In South Carolina’s most historic city, artful tensions are alive and well in Ceara Donnelley’s 18th-century mansion, from the sun-drenched breakfast room to the gilded bedroom that deftly intermixes the past and present.

Ceara Donnelley
Ceara Donnelley and her children. Photography by Brie Williams; Styled by Dakota Willimon

The  languid coastal waterways and salt marshes that criss-cross South Carolina’s Low Country offer a peaceful refuge for interior designer Ceara Donnelley’s home, an opus to new Southern style housed in a circa 1740 mansion. This Charleston treasure makes an artform out of juxtaposition, with its clever mix of old and new, classic materials and contemporary accents, and a respect for the past with astute splashes of modern styling. 

Photography by Brie Williams; Styled by Dakota Willimon

“Design is, for me, a deeply felt and intuitive process, and I cannot always say exactly why something speaks to me,” Donnelley says. “I collect pieces across a wide range of genres and periods. The common denominators, however, tend to be craftsmanship, originality, and a certain kind of whimsy.” This sense of artistic delight can be spotted everywhere in the home: the mid-century Austrian lantern by J.T. Kalmar that hangs in the entryway; the japanned cabinet in the living room; the delectable custom upholstery; the bespoke rugs

Ceara Donnelley
Photography by Brie Williams; Styled by Dakota Willimon

Never forgetting her surroundings, Donnelley paid as much attention to the outdoors as she did to the interiors, letting the character of Charleston—and its climate—infuse the home with charm. “With the exception of steamy summer months, life is best lived outdoors, or with doors and windows flung open,” she says. “I was intent on integrating indoors and out as much as I could, from installing new doors overlooking the pool and garden to ingenious bifolds in the breakfast room.” 

Ceara Donnelley
Photography by Brie Williams; Styled by Dakota Willimon

These are far from the only renovations made to this 18th-century home—which hadn’t been refreshed in decades, mind you. Donnelley reimagined the existing layout, such as the old kitchen house, which now houses a modern kitchen and family room on the first floor and the primary bath and dressing room on the second. But even while pushing the home into the present, she held on to her passion for the classics.

“Spaces that contain only new things—even if they are the most beautifully crafted and designed pieces—feel soulless to me,” Donnelley says. “Similarly, rooms that are exclusively filled with antiques tend to lack a current, a dynamism I want to feel.” One tour of this stunning Southern gem makes it clear that Donnelley found this spirit in spades.

Shop the full curation of pieces inspired by Ceara Donnelley’s home from the latest issue of our print publication, Magazinish. To read all of Magazinishclick here.

Lead image: Photography by Brie Williams; Styled by Dakota Willimon

January 23, 2023

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