Designer Feature: Lisa Hilderbrand’s Charleston Project

When I saw this stunning kitchen in Traditional Home last month I had to know more. Designed by Lisa Hilderbrand of Welhil Interiors (and sister-in- law of famed Nantucket writer Elin Hilderbrand), this was a second project for the designer and client Sarah Hamlin after they moved from Connecticut to Charleston (which I’m considering right now with this winter weather.)  It’s such a compliment when I client hires you for a second home, and I loved to learn that the family brought many of the items Lisa purchased for their previous home with them!  This space is a great study in combining various styles, time periods and textures.

But first, let’s all have a moment of silence for this Lindsay Adelman chandelier in the kitchen.

And that window, that deserves some respectful silence as well…


Texture, color and a mix of styles makes this area really successful.


I love the elements in the hallways space


The dining room employs a bevy od silk drapes and a fantastic light fixture.



“We had been looking for antique garden statuary to act as supports for a glass-top table, but nothing was just right (too expensive, too far away, too scary).  The client found these at local antique place in Charleston, and we loaded them into the back of her husband’s pick up truck.  They worked perfectly, and even better, we didn’t have permanent back injuries!”


A large abstract work by Elyssa Rundle above a traditional antique table.


This gilt mirror was from their old home, and I love the wallpaper and painted trim.


Three pieces in this study were rough condition vintage finds in antique shop basements and on eBay!

” We found this Milo Baughmann coffee table frame in the dark basement of a mid century / antiques store in the Hamptons.  Cracked, bleached, veneer peeling — I had it repaired, stained it dark, had a leather top made. The mid century lounge chair and footstool were also in rough shape — filthy, damaged and wobbly, but with great lines.  It is very comfortable, but isn’t bulky, so it was perfect.  After some TLC and reupholstery in gorgeous Jasper leather (also from Rosselli), it was transformed.  The real jackpot, which I found on ebay — is a Paul Frankl D-chair (this is the original sidewalk photo posted with the online listing).”


Here are the original photos!

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The master bedroom features gorgeous lamps previously used in a guest bedroom in their former home. I am loving the gallery wall and the light fixture!

“The client has a great eye for art and has been collecting for many years.  From flea markets to art galleries in NYC, she has amassed a wonderful and ever changing collection.  It’s always fun to see what she’s found and where things can be moved around.  The neutral palette and great natural light of this house is really the perfect backdrop.”



A gorgeous light filled master bathroom.


A guest room and guest bath anyone would be happy to wake up in.



Some details.


The front of this house is simply to die for.


The incredible landscaping and yard of the house.


I’m DYING over the poolhouse.


Such a wonderful shot! The door color, urns and of course, puppy, make for such a warm and welcoming image.


I wanted to do a little Q&A with Lisa and she shared some really awesome suggestions and tips!

Favorite paint color/s?
So many!  Farrow & Ball Hague Blue is a perennial favorite.  I am using it high-gloss on a dining room ceiling right now, just painted doors this color, have used it in a billiards room eight years ago, a walnut library.  It can go navy or sapphire or teal, depending on light and sheen.  It is beautiful with glossy black, rich antiques, giltwood, polished nickel…
My sister will kill me for saying this, but I love Benjamin Moore’s Revere Pewter.  I know, it’s not a secret, everyone loves a nice pale, warm grey, especially these days.  I first used it throughout my house 10 years ago, and it’s still wonderful.  Soft white trim, black doors, dark wood floors, so pretty.  Grey has been all the rage, but classics are classics.
Favorite online source for furniture/accessories?
1stdibs and ebay.  I am constantly combing both for everything for an important 18th century mirror to retro barware.  The key with each is to filter your searches to weed out  what you don’t want.
Any tips on how to search eBay well? The volume of items is so intimidating!
Ebay can be like looking for a needle in a haystack, or a needle in a barrel of needles… I sometimes start with a broad term, then see what comes up, and weed out from there.  I’m working on a vacation home in Palm Beach, so I need some bamboo lamps for a bedroom.  The lamps I want won’t necessarily be made of bamboo, but searching “bamboo-form” is probably too specific.  Searching “bamboo lamps” gives me over 1000 results.  To narrow this down, I look at what is cluttering up my search:  floor lamps, so I include “-floor” in the next one; now I have fewer than 100 to search through.  Better to subtract a term than to add one (like adding “table” might be too specific.)
Also look at the category you want and those you don’t want.  I was looking for mercury glass things, and hundreds of rear view mirrors for Mercury vehicles cluttered my search.  By specifying my category, I narrowed my search.
Antique carpets are tricky, especially on ebay.  Almost every low-mid level dealer will include every possible search term in his description, so that no matter what you are looking his rugs will pop up.  If I am looking for an antique Kazak rug, I will start with that search, but it gives me over 3000 results, 2500 of which I definitely don’t want.  I have to subtract the kinds of rugs I don’t want: “-new, -persian, -heriz, -serapi,” which takes me down to under 500, which is manageable when I’m searching for the right little rug.  No self-respecting rug dealer would call a Kazak a Heriz.  When looking for antique rugs on ebay, caveat emptor.  I’ve found great things, but some not-so-great.  Unless I am very confident, I will only deal with a dealer who has a return policy.  When searching for something like a Chinese art deco carpet, I start with “chinese rug,” (“rug” casts a wider net than “carpet), then modify by adding “-round, -oval, -runner,” which eliminates thousands.  Scroll through and see if there are any pieces which seem to clutter it up (like dollhouse rugs!) or Aubusson rugs (which might be Chinese in ebay, but not what you want if you are looking for a Chinese deco rug)… Beware adding specific terms like “deco” to your search, because many sellers don’t know what this is and might not include it in their description.  Scroll through a page of results with and without descriptives and make sure you haven’t eliminated what you are looking for.  It’s still hit and miss.
Sounds obvious, but always read description and dimensions carefully.  Always have things insured.  For big furniture items, always consider shipping method, and try an advanced search to see if something can be found within 100-200 miles before you fall in love with something on the opposite coast.
Favorite fabric/s?
My #1 personal favorite is Michael Smith’s Templeton River Velvet.  I had a custom sofa made for my library in “fern,” which is the most gorgeous rich emerald green.  The cushion is full down, extra deep, and the library is in a far corner of the house, so I can sneak in there and hide… It was a splurge.  Carolina Irving and Peter Dunham are also fantastic lines.  I buy hundreds of yards of Kravet and Duralee velvets and linens too.  No need to break the bank when you need lots of plain yardage.  I like to save $$ and spend where it really counts.
Favorite light fixture?

I just installed the most gorgeous light in a client’s kitchen in Texas.  It’s called Le Pentagone from Jonathan Browning, and yes, it is as sexy as it sounds.

Favorite artist?
Mark Rothko.  I interned at Pace Wildenstein before my last year of college.  In addition to filing 10,000 slides and transparencies, I sat in the gallery when they had a Rothko show on view.  Transcendent.  DaVinci for literal genius, drawings especially.  Henry Moore for form.  Van Gogh for intensity.  Lautrec for personality.  LaTour and Vermeer for light.  Frankenthaler for color.
Best tip for a kitchen renovation?
Function function function.  To me, a kitchen needs to work before it looks pretty.  It still needs to look good though.
Best tip for antiquing?
When you’re shopping for “good” things, know your stuff, or shop with someone who does.  If you’re shopping for decorative things, buy what you love.  Get to know dealers, who can have a wealth of knowledge and they can keep an eye out for things you’re looking for.  Ask questions.
Best tip for furniture layout?
Like the kitchen, start with function — picture yourself in it.  Who is going to use it, how many, what are they going to be doing?
Best design horror story (we all have them…) :)
I’m living this now.  Really nice kitchen in Texas.  White marble counters, wall, backsplashes, waterfall bar with backsplashes.  We needed quite a few slabs, which have to work together with color, veining, etc.  Stone guy is lovely and thought he’d surprise us by getting the kids’ vanities done.  He did them first, then discovered he left us short a slab (a few inches might as well be a few feet), then the island slab broke during installation, then one the three wall slabs was cut 1/2″ short.  So… as you read this, I’m on site in Texas.  Watch for it on instagram ( @lisa_hilderbrand).  You will either find pictures of a gleaming kitchen or an empty pitcher of margaritas.  Hopefully margaritas in the gleaming kitchen!
Favorite project ever?
Which child do I like better?  My own of course.  I could take more risks, buy odd items and find homes for them later, experiment, buy something extravagant and know I’d have to make up for it later with tricks and good luck.  I took a crowbar to a ceiling to expose original beams, stained my kitchen floors myself, learned by trial, error and doing.  I love a good before/after, and I feel like I rescued a great but sad old house and made it happy again!


Architecture:  Bobby McAlpine & David Baker — McAlpine Tankersley Architecture
Landscape Architecture:  Mike Kaiser — Kaiser Trabue
Photo credits for the TH article:  John Bessler
Other photo credits: John Bessler,  John Gruen & Lisa Hilderbrand



  1. Erin, I would LOVE to see some of your drawings/sketches on your post. I understand about confidentiality of private residences/projects, but I am sure you could snap shot some to make them obscure? just a thought/desire to see your process work :)

  2. I had no idea you could subtract terms from ebay. So now I’ve learned something! This is actually kind of life-changing. Does it work on etsy too?

  3. Great post. Thank you for sharing such an amazing talent. I especially loved seeing the “before” pictures of her pieces in that beautiful den.

  4. I love the glass top side table in the master bedroom. I’ve seen then everywhere, but I don’t know what they are called. Can you help me?

    1. Hi Christina, This table was designed by William Platner for Knoll in the ’60s. My collaborator-client (also a designer) bought it. It has been copied and reproduced in many forms. You can find them everywhere from Design Within Reach to ebay [our source ;) ] with varying degrees of quality. If you want the look, ebay all the way; vintage/real deal try 1stdibs; new/real deal DWR. Good luck! – Lisa

  5. I love the balance between bold spaces and clean, neutral spaces in this home. They did a great job of incorporating both looks while maintaining a consistent style for the home. Thats not easy to pull off.

  6. Wonderful post, Erin! And you’re right; that poolhouse is to die for (I can easily imagine C.Z. Guest emerging from it).

    Love the eBay tips, too. I’m going to try them today! :)

  7. So many favorite things to choose from but I must admit the draperies that will close off the dining room from the foyer is such a great idea…makes the room cozy when opened and so romantic and dreamy when closed!

    1. Thanks Deb — I must admit that the draped wall in the dining room was not my idea (although I embraced it!). I’ve done more draped walls in bedrooms (see master BR here too). You are probably already familiar with Bobby McAlpine of McAlpine Tankersley Architecture. They are truly the masterminds behind this house. A decorator can use every trick in the book, but if the house itself is wrong, there is a lot to overcome. This was like dressing a supermodel. Check out the work of McAlpine Booth Ferrier (their decorating firm) — they use draped walls frequently, sometimes in place of solid walls altogether. We gave it a twist by using crisp platinum colored silk, which has a much more glamorous effect. You can’t see it here, but the drapes are also trimmed with a teeny 1/4″ goldenrod yellow flange with little pleated corners. It is a tiny tiny detail, but it sets the drapes off, and in person, is one of those details that I really love… – Lisa

  8. Could this home be any more sophisticated?? So over-the-top gorgeous down to every last accessory. I love that she shops on eBay and 1stdibs too! You just would never know it. Thanks for sharing this,

  9. Are the lamps that are in the guest bedroom Barbara Cosgrove? I have been looking for something similar and that is the closest I can find. Thanks!

  10. Wow. I am a little behind on my blog reading…so a little late to this party… but WOW! I love, love, love that home! Droolicious (and, yes, I did just invent that word) design everywhere and I just can’t get over how much I just want to BE THERE! : ) Thanks Erin… now I have another designer at whose work I can gawk! Maybe I missed it but were there any sharable color details on that kitchen? I am trying to repaint my kitch and have been looking at similar color combos (F&B Elephants Breath, Charleston Gray and a tbd white). Love the way those work together and would love to know!

    1. Hi Kat,
      Most of the whites in this house are Sherwin Williams Palais. The grey here is Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter (shocking, given my favorite colors listed above…). It is the perfect warm malleable grey. I’ve also used F&B Elephant’s Breath and Charleston Gray — both beautiful warm greys. It’s very important to look at them in your space (of course). Warm grey can go purple sometimes.

      1. Hi Lisa, Thank you sooooo much for your reply!! : ) Such wonderful, wonderful work you do! (my words do not do it justice) I will def. keep in mind the potential for purple with the FB colors… thank you for the tip. I love Revere Pewter myself…my friend has it in her bedroom and the color is just yummy in there. In my kitchen and it’s nighttime lighting, it shows too much green for what I like, sadly! After this, I will give it another look though…just in case! Many thanks again for sharing the color detail, I really appreciate it! Can’t wait to see what you do next! : )

  11. I am freakin DYING over the marble island in the kitchen. What I wouldn’t give to eat off that every morning. Sadly, the home we just bought doesn’t have room for an island, but I am thinking of re-creating the look in the living/dining room with a large marble dining table. The floors will be super dark- any ideas of tables you have seen recently?


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