Cortney Bishop’s design philosophy can best be described as incredibly holistic. She embarks on each project for her eponymous interiors firm with four main considerations: “the location, the lifestyle of the family, the architecture, and the view.” When it came to her own family’s home in Charleston, South Carolina, her approach was no different. “We live at the beach, we have a young family, and we love to have people over for pool parties,” she says. These factors pointed her in the direction of creating the ultimate “beach casual but romantic bohemian” oasis.
The revamp of her 19th century home began slowly at first, “pulling apart one room at a time,” Cortney says. “Then you’re like, okay are we going for it or not?” She decided to take the plunge and the results are stunning. Cortney recently invited us to this Southern sanctuary, which is perfectly layered with vintage finds and unique artisanal pieces. See below for the full tour and discover all of Cortney’s favorites, including the best chicken wings in Charleston!
First Things First
Before you start knocking down walls or applying fresh coats of paint, Cortney recommends deciding on an overall vision for your home. For her, this starts with “a color scheme and a vibe.” She found inspiration for her redo particularly from the setting and her home’s exterior. “I like a black, white, and cream palette and then I layer on a color that feels natural to the exterior of the home, which for me is all of the blues,” she says. “The outside of my home is white with these beautiful grey-blue almost antique looking shutters.” She also took into account what was just outside the window. “There’s usually some landscaping outside that you want to pay attention to in terms of colors and deciding how you want to bring that inside.” Once she had the palette down, Cortney was free to mix, match, and iterate on those colors room by room.
A Sweet Escape
In her master bedroom, Cortney immediately stripped off the floral wallpaper but took a pause before deciding what to do next. “I lived with the white room for probably two years before I did anything,” she says. That time helped her see the possibilities in some of the pieces she already had. “I just recovered them!” For the bed, she found new headboard fabric and new pillows to change up the look. She then incorporated plenty of vintage: “Almost everything in my room I found at a vintage market or at Chairish,” says Cortney. “The desk is a vintage find, the side chests are antiques that we inherited from my in-laws, the bed was a gift, and almost all of the art was found at markets. So really, I just started to put together everything that I already loved.”
Viva La Vintage
For Cortney’s work as a designer, vintage pieces aren’t just something that’s nice to have. “I don’t feel like the home is complete until you incorporate vintage,” she says. Naturally her own home was no different. As an avid shopper with “four storage units full of finds,” she had a bounty of treasures to choose from, but what proved most important for giving her rooms a sense of character was more than just aesthetic appeal. She credits her home’s soulfulness to an array of “interesting storytelling pieces. The story that I’m telling in my house is about the places we’ve been, the people we’ve met, and the family that passed these pieces along to us.” These treasures take the form of paintings, sculpture, and plush Moroccan and Persian rugs.
Lighten and Brighten
Cortney says the real “point of contention” of her home redo was a wall of tall, sleek, black bookcases. As a focal point of her dining room, the floor to ceiling shelving felt disconnected from her quest for a “beach romantic vibe” and certainly fell far outside her neutral palette of woods, creams, blues, and golds. This sent Cortney off in search of the perfect new color. “Going through the paint deck and landing on that blue I think was the hardest thing for me but it turned out really great,” she says. “The real challenge in that room was to lighten and brighten everything up.” To that end, she finished her dining table with “this incredible bleached maple finish from Black Creek Mercantile, which I’m obsessed with.” The new look helped to soften what was originally a heavy piece. The room was not yet complete without a sideboard Cortney spotted during High Point market this past fall. “It’s this gorgeous burl wood piece that I immediately bought right when we saw it,” she confesses. “It really pulled everything together.”
The Kids Are Alright
Cortney has a straightforward approach to designing kids’ rooms: “Don’t shop at children’s stores.” She urges avoiding the kiddo sections of major home retailers and instead shifting your focus to quality, color, and vintage! “You can find really unique pieces that your child can have forever if you just start looking into vintage,” she advises. “You don’t have to pay a fortune for it, just start looking for unique pieces and make it special.” She cites Chairish as her go-to for the best rugs, side tables, and headboards. (Thanks Cortney!)
Go Your Own Way
Cortney describes the atmosphere of Charleston as a hotbed for creativity and originality. “It’s really relaxed living but it’s still got a lot of thoughtful style.” It’s this mindset that keeps her far away from big box stores. “We’re not trying to be like our neighbors and we don’t want to have the same things,” she says. Cortney takes this into account for every space she designs, not just in her own home. She credits the vibrancy and energetic lifestyle of the city as the inspiration for designing homes that possess a kind of “heirloom quality.” For Cortney, a truly successful interior is one where “stories can take place and memories can be made in a unique environment.” Here, here!
Cortney’s Charleston Favorites:
“This is one of the last of the old guard of Mom and Pop stores on the old side of King Street. Their eye is so good and they still are looking for handmade quality. They do an incredible job of bringing in clothing, home goods, scents and even Christmas ornaments.”
“It’s like a mini-design center but it’s so much cooler. Sarah-Hamlin Hastings is incredibly talented and curates the booths very closely. She brings in designers from all over to do pop up boutiques and give talks.”
“I’m an Italian foodie and this has always been our Christmas party spot here at the studio. It’s the best Italian food in my opinion. The chef always comes out and serves us a special dinner for Christmas. It’s probably my favorite Italian restaurant.”
Home Team BBQ
“If you just want some good old fashioned wings, I send everyone here. For great music and great wings.”
“This is the arts and community fair that we do every year from the last week of May through the first week of June. You should try to get tickets to one of the events whether it’s music, a play, a ballet, or the opera. They bring in people from all over the world. It’s always really well done.”
Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art
“They showcase up and coming artists or artists who have not been fully discovered. Mark Sloan does an incredible job of putting the spotlight on the creative process for these artists. It’s also connected to the College of Charleston but it’s really its own institution.”