Jan Clouse, president and founder of Carolina Lanterns & Lighting in Mount Pleasant, is not your typical Southern belle. Actually, you could call her a modern Southern dynamo. Clouse, a slight, gracious hummingbird of a woman, is whip smart, hardworking and fearlessly innovative. To wit: In 1999 she desired a traditional gas lantern for her home. When the lighting store told her it would cost thousands of dollars, she did what any of us would do when faced with lighting extortion— she went straight to the artisan, then started selling lanterns out of the trunk of her car.
When the demand for custom-made lanterns outgrew her trunk, Clouse did the next logical thing: She bought the old Napa Auto Parts building on Chuck Dawley Boulevard, renovated it from stem to stern, and opened a custom lantern and lighting store. Clouse admits she learned the lighting business on the fly. “I used to tag along on installs,” Clouse says. “I had the contractors teach me everything.” Indeed, she is now an expert on liquid propane, natural gas, T-fittings and getting her hands dirty.
Charleston is a small city, and you’d be hard-pressed to find many people who don’t know Clouse, or at least haven’t been shopping in her glittering, friendly store. As a board member of the Home Builders Association of Charleston, the Executives Association of Greater Charleston, and the Custom Residential Architects Network, Clouse is busy and industrious for most of her waking hours. Therefore, most people only know her as a businessperson. However, there’s more to this spirited entrepreneur than meets the eye. Under that executive exterior is a domestic creature who lives for entertaining and the comforts of home. And what a home it is.
Clouse has just finished renovating her 15th house (yes, she’s lived in each of them), the latest in a quiet Mount Pleasant neighborhood with peaceful views of the marsh. Outside, the newly renovated cottage-style house has colorful flowerbeds and window boxes, traditional Charleston shutters on the windows and front door, and custom gas lanterns. Inside, the cottage unfolds to an expansive 3,800-square-foot manse with a backyard full of ancient live oaks and a view of Hobcaw Creek.
Though the renovation only took a year, the property’s transformation is nothing short of unbelievable. What was a bland family home is now a showstopper of a Lowcountry palace with a perfect balance of masculine and feminine, traditional and contemporary.
To make the transition Clouse added contrast, subtle color and her enviable collection of art and heirlooms. In the living room the large mirror over the fireplace was saved from the St. Charles Hotel in New Orleans. Antique cabinets hold rows of delicate china and crystal, and every wall is adorned with vibrant art by local artists, among them Steven Jordan and Elizabeth O’Neill Verner.
Then, of course, there is the lighting. Two sparkling Schonbek chandeliers grace the formal dining room, where the table is always set for dinner. Schonbek chandeliers are hand cut and finished. Considered the finest of crystal light fixtures, they can be found in Buckingham Palace and the White House.
In the kitchen Clouse replaced pendant lights over the bar with a contemporary horizontal fixture. And she replaced all of the recessed lights in the home with flat LED fixtures that blend into the ceiling. Lighting levels can be adjusted via a Lutron system that can also be accessed by a smartphone app.
The dream kitchen isn’t just for looks, either. Clouse says she cooks a large dinner from scratch almost every night of the week. And she loves to bake cookies and can tomatoes with her girlfriends. She catches crabs off the end of her dock and, should her guests want to go fishing, she has an impressive tackle box at the ready.
In many ways this bright Mount Pleasant house is a perfect reflection of its owner: hardworking and practical but as friendly and welcoming as a traditional Charleston home should be.
Robin Howard is a full-time freelance writer in Charleston. See more of her work at robinhowardwrites.com.