When Karen told us about her home's feature in Charleston Mag we swooned, but not just for the usual reasons. Her home is a 1,600 sq.ft. masterpiece brimming with color, order, and a strong sense of hope. Hope because Karen's idea of a brand new kid-friendly house isn't a soulless McMansion, life with kids doesn't equal hoards of unruly plastic toys, leaving the big city for a small town life didn't necessitate downsizing style, but perhaps most hopeful because a family tragedy led her to a new kind of family dream...
Before designing her home in McClellanville, South Carolina, Karen Kearns and her husband, John, were living the big city life just outside Manhattan and planning a trans-Atlantic move to Barcelona. However, two months into their planning, John tragically passed away, leaving Karen to completely reassess her situation and her plans for life with two young children, ages 2 and 4. Ultimately, she decided to forgo Spain and move South where she had family and friends, and where she had previously been a student at the College of Charleston. Drawing inspiration from her worldwide travels and her life with John, Karen devoted herself to creating a home that was both functional and fun. She designed the initial plans herself, and then worked with local builders to see her plan come to fruition.
• 1. The crisp white walls and blond wood create a peaceful backdrop for the rush of colors and patterns that make the home lively, livable, and kid-friendly. I don't think I could choose a favorite architectural element if I had to— barn doors, cypress beams, and vaulted ceilings!
• 2. One of our favorite parts of the extensive storage system running almost the entire length of the house are the children's cubbies personalized with an enlarged photograph of each rather than the usual name tag or monogram.
• 3. Clever storage and space saving barn doors are key to maximizing the functionality and style factor of Karen's kid-friendly home. Karen commissioned an artist to top an old table with tiles she and her family had collected over the years.
• 4. The kids' rooms are connected by a shared bathroom that's as functional and stylish for a preschooler as it is for an adult.
• 5. Karen used decorative tile throughout her home to give bursts of color and pattern to the all white interior.
Second Row:• 6.
The salvaged New York school building doorknobs are a nod to John, Karen's husband, a born and raised New Yorker. • 7.
A lot of activity takes place on the screened porch, from relaxing and daydreaming in the bathtub-turned-lounge chair, to painting on the easel, or playing at the craft table. • 8, 9, 10.
The master bath is Karen's favorite room in her colorful home. Like the rest of the house, the walls are white — in this case white tile— and color and pattern are infused through decorative touches like the mismatched tiles covering the bathroom floor.
Check out Charleston Mag's complete article on the Kearns' home here, and read on for our interview with Karen.
Apartment Therapy: How long did it take to build from start to finish?
Karen: It was about a year from the planning stage to the actually move-in date. We started actual construction on the 15th of September and moved in on May 2nd.
Apartment Therapy:Were you able to incorporate furnishings for previous homes, or was the majority acquired for this specific home?
Karen:The sofa was recovered. That sofa was the first couch I ever bought back when I was in college (thank you, North Carolina Furniture Market!!). It has great bones and history, so I decided to re-upholster, as oppose to buy new. The dining room table and chairs were also brought along from our old home. The table is from Spain and is amazingly old. I decided to tile it once I found the incredible artist who made the tiles...she worked with me on customizing the tiles to fit the table. The chairs were dark wood, I painted them white when we moved into this house, as I felt white worked much better with this space.
Apartment Therapy:We love your use of pattern on the furniture, do you have advice for people looking to bring color and pattern into a new space?
Karen: Have no fear!! I was very concerned, at first, that the chair wouldn't "match" the couch...but heck, the couch matches EVERYTHING, that's the beauty of a "lotsa color" color scheme :-) Also: research, research, research...and listen to your body, mind and spirit...it will react and let you know what speaks to you.
Apartment Therapy: Do you have any words of wisdom for people attempting to build a home from scratch?
Karen: Ask around and get references on builders. Interview them, look at their work, ask questions. My builders were incredibly competent, experienced, sensitive, flexible, and talented. I believe the end product would have been very different (and much more stressful) if I had gone with someone else. I felt an instant "simpatico" once I first spoke with them on the phone and I believe that matters too. Also, if your builders are experienced, don't be afraid to question their advice---but take it anyway (or not!).... there are elements in the house that my builders felt very strongly about (powder room, incorporating a "pantry" into the laundry room, among others..). I was resistant at first to some of the enhancements they suggested, but now am very content that I listened to their wisdom. I'm just saying--be somewhat flexible, but don't lose YOUR vision of what you want in your home. Also, research as much as you can...find design elements you like and while you may not have the budget for a house with ALL the elements you want, choose the ones that are most meaningful to you and work those into your home. For me it was important that everything had a purpose in this house, especially since I was going with quality and not volume when it came to square footage.
Apartment Therapy: Did you encounter any challenges during the construction that forced you to rework some of the design elements?
Karen: The biggest change, in my mind, was having to stop the "wall of storage" where the living room meets the hall (that goes to the children's rooms)....when drawing up the plans, we did not allow adequate space in the hallway to accommodate the depth of the bookshelves, as planned. We could have put them in there, but it would have made for a VERY narrow hallway. However,I did not want to give up on the idea that there would be bookshelves running the entire length of the house. Here's where the builders came in and helped. They devised and built custom (not as deep) bookshelves to house shelves for the children which not only supported their bedroom doors and barn door hardware, but also gave them their own, separate cases in which to put THEIR things. In the end, I am happier with the builders' design than I would have been with my original plan!!! And yet, while it was somewhat of a departure from my initial design, ultimately it adhered to the vision I had for the house and works great!
Thank you for the inspiration Karen!
(Images: 1-6:Brie Williams for Charleston Mag, 7-10: Karen Cornett Kearns)