When Lori and Jamie Posnanski first see the house in Mount Pleasant, the outside is so overgrown they can barely find the door. Inside, the walls are dirty yellow and a varmint has taken up residence in the kitchen floor.
There are some seriously questionable architectural elements too: The powder room is smack in the middle of the entertaining space, and there is a weirdly labyrinthine master bath and a Brady Bunch-style open staircase. However, whatever the house lacks in cohesion and common sense it makes up for with a killer view.
From the upstairs balcony, the Posnanskis can see across the marsh all the way to the Intracoastal Waterway. This is the kind of expansive view that takes a deep, cleansing breath for you. In a leap of faith, they buy the house.
Enter interior designer Nicole Norris. Imagine her in a red cape, if you like; she has certainly earned it. When Norris sees the house for the first time, it is winter. The house is dark, dank and smells faintly of eau de marsh rat. She is not afraid.
The homeowners ask her for interiors that will support their three teenage sons and their entourages, two enthusiastic Portuguese water dogs, their life as a busy couple, and casual gatherings of friends and family. “This house is a revolving door,” Lori Posnanski says, and she wants it to revolve around the view.
After a knockout round with an arborist, the house emerges from the jungle. As the design lead, Norris works with builder Rob Chapman of Vintage Homes by the Charleston Group and his crew. The team gives the wide-open entryway welcoming structure. Norris directs them to relocate the powder room door, giving guests their dignity. She selects a cool gray paint palette and installs white shiplap. Custom floating shelves are built for the new TV and fireplace wall, and they replace every fan and light fixture in the house. They close in the stairs with storage drawers and clever display cubbies.
In the kitchen redesign, Norris swaps the half-moon island with crisp navy blue cabinetry and a sparkling quartz bar top. She asks the homeowners to trust her selections and has marble tile installed in a cheerful chevron pattern on the backsplash. She also relocates the sink and cooktop.
At this point Jamie Posnanski, a soccer and Guinness devotee, pipes up. He wants a kegerator (and who doesn’t?). Unfazed, Norris transforms a drop zone into a wee Irish pub, complete with kegerator, enough pint glasses for a village and a granite counter carefully selected to reflect the famous black-and-tan tones.
Upstairs, the cozy master bedroom has narrow prison-like windows facing the marsh. The design team replaces them with floor-to-ceiling windows that flood the room with a view that is, quite literally, breathtaking. “Instead of enlarging the bedroom, we enlarged the view,” Norris says. The room is simply adorned, because when it comes to accessorizing, you can’t really beat a flock of ibis or a full moon.
The master bath: Oy vey. The original bathroom was shoehorned in, almost as an afterthought. If two people were trying to get ready in the morning, there was no room to pass each other. This was Norris’ most significant challenge, and her greatest triumph. In her design, she straightens out the crooks, opens up the walls, and makes everything light, bright and sparkling. If pencils were broken or curse words were said in private, she never lets on. Norris isn’t just a creative; she’s a design warrior who takes great personal pride in triumphing over architectural and design challenges that are just a little bit impossible.
That, my friends, is an essential quality in a designer. Renovating is not for the fainthearted. You want a designer who won’t back down, who can be trusted when she asks you to trust her, and who will tell the contractors that those chunky mirrors absolutely can be hung on that wall. Norris is a creative for sure, but she’s also a strong and calm presence during the long and scary journey that is whole-house renovation.
The Posnanskis had to make two leaps of faith to get to their perfect home. They had to believe it could be great, and then they had to believe Nicole Norris and Vintage Homes could make it so. Judging by the happy energy that radiates from the house and its family, I’d say their faith was rewarded— and then some.
Robin Howard is a full-time freelance writer in Charleston. See more of her work at robinhowardwrites.com.