Published in Coastal Condo Living 2003
Photography: I. Wilson Baker
Charleston has a wonderful reputation for safeguarding its treasured historic buildings. While in many cases these structures are still being used as originally intended, others have been creatively remodeled and now serve an entirely different purpose.
Such is the case with the circa 1947 Edwards Department Store building located on Upper King St. Now being marketed as the King Street Lofts, this post World War II building offers discriminating residents an uptown, big city experience. Conveniently located within walking distance of up-and-coming restaurants, pubs, and shops, King Street Lofts has allowed their owners the opportunity to customize each unit to their individual tastes.
In the case of owner Lee Richardson, this has translated into a very clean, contemporary and minimalistic three-level residence complete with a one-of-a-kind rooftop garden and pool area. “We were going for a very Manhattan look,” says interior designer Sissy Bradham, owner of Bradham Interiors. “What Lee has is absolutely fabulous and something not seen in Charleston,” continued Bradham.
One of 14 units, contemporary lofts in downtown Charleston are the exception rather than the rule for Lowcountry architectural style. “Lee knew the spaces and the look he wanted when we began the project,” says T. Doggett, owner of T.O. Doggett Architect and Planner Inc.
Incorporating, rather than concealing many of the prominent features already in place, Doggett created faux-finish marble columns to surround and camouflage existing steel support columns. Covering the original concrete flooring in the main living areas is white oak with a natural matte finish. The gourmet kitchen is raised, making it the focal point for the entire level. Tajah Malabar tile surrounds steamed European beech cabinetry, Cambrian Black granite countertops and stainless steel appliances. John Cook, owner of The Mill, the company responsible for all cabinetry and millwork says, “Use of the black accents really helps to set off the clean lines.”
Flanking one end of this level are twin guest bedroom suites. Creative use of all space is showcased underneath the free-flowing cantilevered staircase. This is the place Coco and Smokey, Richardson’s two British shorthair/Abyssinian mix cats call home when not checking out the rest of the 5,300 square foot loft.
Creating multi-level spaces instead of a traditional upstairs/downstairs floor plan, the next level includes Richardson’s home office, media room and climate control wine room. General contractor David Crawford, owner of Seaside Construction says, “This was a very challenging and complex project.”
The wine room, located off the second floor staircase landing was obviously designed by a wine connoisseur. The 120- square-foot space, with Giallo Reale tile flooring, has custom redwood racks, Volga Blue granite topped pouring station, and is enclosed with a smoked glass front.
Handcrafted specifically for the office is a maple desk and built-ins. Creating an interesting look, all the pieces have been painted creme and then finished with a hand-applied Van Dyke Brown glaze.
As owner of Atlantic Electric, Richardson’s home is a Mecca for all that is new and cutting edge in the lighting business. Radio control switches power all lighting, with certain switches controlling banks of lights. Plus, with only a touch, lighting moods can be set. “Richardson’s use of low voltage lighting is both striking and efficient,” continues Crawford.
The penthouse level is home to the spectacular master suite complete with home gym, tanning area and sauna. At the entrance is a custom bar built of New South Wales lace wood. Highlighted with ebonized beech, the bar was also designed and manufactured by The Mill.
In the master suite the futuristic rimless soaker tub has Kohler fixtures, including a faucet recessed into the ceiling, which when turned on, flows down in a vertical column. Side jets eddy the water up and over the side of the tub and flows to drains placed underneath.
The master bedroom is minimalistic, with only the essentials of a bed and nightstands. The oversized closet/dressing area is complete with built-ins, eliminating the need for traditional bedroom furniture.
Probably the most challenging facet of the entire project was the revamping of the penthouse veranda. Richardson wanted to take advantage of the almost 5,000 square feet of roof space in spite of structural concerns.”Tremendous engineering details were involved because of all the rooftop changes,” notes Crawford. “We had to place five 18×26 beams just for the pool support.”
Ipe decking, a Brazilian hardwood, was used over the entire roof area. In addition to the infinity lap pool there are also fountains, gazebos, planters and a hot tub. The green metal gazebos, built by John Johnson of Precision Metal Fabricators, were designed with palm tree cutouts lending a tropical feel and will one day be covered in Carolina jessamine.
Lush deck landscaping has been created in spite of obvious limitations. Andrew Hargett of T. Hunter McEaddy says, “In planning we had to be constantly aware of weight restrictions.”
Since everything had to be set in pots and planters there was also the added challenge of creating a more sophisticated irrigation system. Richardson’s unit faces south so Hargett had to make sure all plantings were heat and wind resistant. “Shade became an important element, along with making sure we chose plantings which would retain their lushness in spite of the heat and wind,” Hargett says. “Plus, Lee wanted everything to be easy maintenance.”
While this was a project that included a bit of trial and error simply because of its uniqueness, by surrounding himself with visionaries Richardson now has a home unlike anything else found in downtown Charleston.
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Thank you Lee Ann!
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