Lifestyle

HANDPICKED DIAMONDS

Amidst the medieval streets and Renaissance monuments dominating the centuries-old city of Antwerp, Belgium, lies a single square mile of mostly nondescript-looking 20thcentury structures. Remarkably, the $54 billion annual business that lies within those few city blocks places Antwerp at the heart of the world’s trade for one specific product: diamonds.

A CULTURAL TREASURE

This fall is a great time to check out the exhibits and activities at Charleston’s Halsey Institute, for many years one of the city’s great cultural venues.

HAVEN FOR THE ARTS

Big news this season is the opening of Charleston’s re-envisioned Gaillard Center, a $143.5 million LEED-certified building that has transformed an outdated, ’60s-vintage building into a performance hall with state-of-the-art acoustics and an interior reminiscent of a European opera house.

COFFEE ALERT

If you’re a coffee enthusiast, you’ll be excited to know that Counter Culture Coffee (CCC), the Durham, North Carolina-based coffee roaster, recently opened a Charleston Training Center on Spring Street.

TRADITIONAL WITH FLAIR

Looking for the perfect holiday gift for a friend with a passion for interior design? Then pick up a copy of Traditional Interiors, by Brian D. Coleman, a new book that showcases the work of Leta Austin Foster, hailed by House Beautiful as one of the 20th century’s most influential interior designers.

A LOWCOUNTRY CHRISTMAS

Let’s face it: We need more than sticks, twigs, berries and fluffy stuff to make our Christmas memorable. We need to jazz up our decorations to reflect the season’s joyous mood. Too often, however, desperation leads to disaster: artificial garlands, red plastic bows and perhaps the greatest lily gilder of all time—glitter-sprayed poinsettias.

MAKING HISTORY COME ALIVE

Suzanne Findlen Hood is the curator of ceramics and glass at Colonial Williamsburg. She is co-author, with Janine Skerry, of Salt-Glazed Stoneware in Early America, winner of the American Ceramic Circle Book Award for 2009. Her most recent exhibition, China of the Most Fashionable Sort: Chinese Export Porcelain in Colonial America, is currently on view at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum in Colonial Williamsburg. Hood’s presentation of the same title will be part of the Drayton Hall Distinguished Speakers Series at South Carolina Society Hall on October 15.

TRANSFORMATIVE TRAVEL

Some people are born with wanderlust, and I’m one of them. From an early age, a curiosity about the world and yearning for the exotic compelled me to read travel books: Thor Heyerdahl’s Kon-Tiki, Freya Stark’s The Southern Gates of Arabia and more.

RELAX AND REPAIR

Kimberly Powell, owner of the spacious 9,000-square-foot Woodhouse Day Spa, thinks she knows a couple of girls who can help fix those pesky wintertime skin concerns. Their names are Wonder Woman and Miss America, and they aren’t actually people at all. They are the endearing names for Woodhouse Day Spa’s two HydraFacial machines, aka the “Ferrari of facials.”

A LIVELY ENSEMBLE

It’s a cliché born of a dozen movies. Formally dressed dinner guests, having finished a sumptuous repast, settle into a drawing room with their brandies and liqueurs to enjoy the evening’s entertainment: live classical chamber music. Within minutes, eyelids heavy, they are nodding off. This popular image distorts the reality of a musical form that can be vibrant and invigorating. “It scares people away in some cases. They’re not sure how they are supposed to act or what they are going to hear,” says Sandra Nikolajevs, president and artistic director of Chamber Music Charleston (chambermusiccharleston.com), now in its ninth season.

RESETTING YOUR METABOLISM

You’ve tried them all. When it comes to weight loss programs, you know the ins and outs. Sure, you’ve lost weight with them, but it crept back on (probably with some extra thrown in for not-so-good measure). Frustration, disappointment and a sense of failure add up almost as quickly as the pounds.

OBJECTS OF DESIRE

With one quick glance through the storefront window, an unwitting passerby might surmise that they happened upon the hottest new deli in town. It’s lunchtime at Charleston Gold & Diamond Exchange, but sodas and sandwiches are definitely not on the menu of this bustling business located in Mount Pleasant’s Belle Hall Shopping Center

THE KEYS TO CHARLESTON

If you were asked to imagine the perfect real estate agent, you might start with someone who has lived in Charleston her whole life. Better yet, you’d want a team—two people raised here, so each could bring a different perspective to each sale. This team would have a deep understanding of the area and would have lived through the ups and downs of the real estate market. Each would be distinguished as a Realtor and a Charleston Area Top Producer. To make this duo really special you’d add expertise in another field, like social work and interior design. Put all these attributes together and you have Keys To Charleston Real Estate, the combined efforts of Saida Russell and Caroline Ragsdale, a team that works for the downtown real estate firm of Disher, Hamrick and Myers.

INSPIRING WONDER

Whether you’re an experienced parent of four or someone who has to buy the occasional birthday present for a friend’s kid, chances are you’ve been in a Wonder Works toy store.

CHARLESTON IS HER PASSION

Beatty Martin is having fun. As a Realtor for Handsome Properties, she spends most days taking her clients through beautiful Charleston properties from the Battery to the beaches. She calls this “treasure hunting.”

DO IT YOUR WAY

What if there were no fashion trends and you could wear comfortable clothes that make you feel beautiful? What if you could get rid of all the things in your closet that you are supposed to like, but don’t? What if you were free to create your own unique style? For women especially, this would be a revolution, and there’s no better person than Sarah Berrard, owner of Mount Pleasant’s 7 Gypsy boutique, to start it.

DON’T STICK YOUR HEAD IN A HINGE

You have heard the saying, “Don’t bury your head in the sand like an ostrich.” In fact, ostriches don’t bury their heads. They lay them on the ground to swallow sand when they feed.

DOROTHEA BENTON FRANK: THE NOVELIST AT EASE

On a sun-splashed day in her new Sullivan’s Island home, Dorothea Benton Frank nibbles on a piece of cake from the Peninsula Grill, sips a cool glass of ice tea and muses on the fates that have brought her, the Bard of the Beach, to this pass, a New York Times best-selling author whose 16th novel, All the Single Ladies, debuts this summer.

CHARLESTON’S FIRST ART HOTEL

This spring we stopped by The Vendue (formerly The Vendue Inn), a boutique hotel that, in 2014, completed a multimillion- dollar renovation.

WHERE CUISINE AND HISTORY MEET

Guilds Hollowell, a partner in Charleston Culinary Tours (CCT), offers an amazing fact about the rate at which new restaurants have opened on Upper King Street.