What began as a clash of styles between husband and wife—his love of all things traditional versus her preference for touches of glamour—came to a happy, amicable conclusion. The savvy mediator was interior designer Lorraine G. Vale, who willingly accepted this opportunity to give one Daniel Island couple everything they wanted in their new home. Her challenge: to combine two distinctive tastes into one unified expression of their lives together.
“The home’s unassuming exterior doesn’t prepare you for the ‘WOW’ that greets you as you step inside,” says Vale, who opened her interior design firm on Daniel Island, Charleston’s exclusive island community, in 2003. “It’s an unexpected surprise when you enter the home. First, you focus on the dramatic double-story foyer as the stairway draws your eye upward. Then, you look ahead through the interior to expansive views of the golf course.”
A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, Vale began her studies in architecture with a focus in furniture design. She says, “Studying scale and proportion, space planning, lighting, and traffic flow informed my approach to design today.”
After moving to Charleston with her husband in 1999, Vale started her interior design firm, parlaying her design background into her next career. A member of ASID, she has earned numerous Excellence In Design Awards in recognition of her residential and commercial work.
In addition to custom interior design, Vale has distinguished herself in the industry as a “selections expert” for new construction projects. “Working closely with my clients, I walk them through the initial design concept, then on to materials and furnishings. Following this process guarantees an integrated approach,” says Vale.
She starts with a pre-construction study of the architecture, inside and out, then turns her experienced eye to function and aesthetics.
“For me, interior design isn’t just about ‘decorating,’” says Vale. “It’s about analyzing spaces and how they relate to one another. Permanent selections, such as tile and countertop material, play an important role in visual flow. Furniture placement is key, too, keeping in mind comfort and lifestyle. It’s all about avoiding mistakes and saving time and money.”
Vale says her clients’ traditional home, with its “cottage” references, features a front porch with a herringbone brick pattern and wrought-iron railings. “Charleston landscape architect Robert Chesnut did the exterior spaces,” notes Vale. “It’s beautifully tailored with an understated elegance.”
Despite the couple’s style differences, Vale says that they were in complete agreement on a major feature of their new home: They wanted to add drama to their two-story foyer. Vale knew just what it needed and offered her expert advice. “The entry is where first impressions are made,” she explains. “Reconfiguring the stairway, I pulled it away from the wall and added a dramatic curve. We painted the handrail a dark charcoal to emphasize the curve and take your eye upward toward the graceful lines of the chandelier.”
Stepping through the custom mahogany front door, visitors notice the beautiful grain in the walnut floors that run throughout the home. “The homeowners wanted the stain to highlight the natural grain, not hide it,” says Vale.
Deep coffered ceilings define the primary living spaces, united by matching chandeliers. Vale used furnishings to divide the large space into three distinct areas—living room, lounge and dining room.
As building progressed, Vale suggested innovative modifications to other areas. “By moving a closet to the end of the hall, we were able to add a custom-designed dry bar,” she explains. “It features mirrored antiqued tiles and a countertop of the same marble as the living room’s fireplace surround.”
Vale confides that working with the couple was “a wonderful experience,” despite their initial divergent visions. In the end, good taste and a shared understanding of design brought them all together.
“For me,” says Vale, “interior design is an exciting and rewarding process, especially when things come together like they did in this home.”
Patra Taylor is a full-time freelance writer living in Mount Pleasant.