Tradition with a Pop

The McCains’ step-by-step renovation



Robert Clark

In 2012, Muffet and Josh McCain pulled up stakes in Charleston and moved to Columbia. Neither of them had ever lived in the area, so they considered renting for a while to get a feel for the city. But they were spared the double move with three children under the age of 4 when they spotted their soon-to-be home in Kings Grant. “We were blown away when we saw this neighborhood and decided it was exactly what we were looking for,” Josh says.

A Charleston friend of Muffet’s encouraged her to look up her friend Darby Schroder in Columbia. Muffet was thankful for the contact and intended to follow up as soon as she was able. However, serendipity stepped in. During the house hunting process, the McCains were especially fond of the decor in one of the homes for sale. Muffet remarked that she would love to use the same decorator for their future house. The realtor told her the house was owned and decorated by none other than Darby, of Darby Interior Design. Muffet said, “It couldn’t be! That’s the one person I’m supposed to look up. A fated meeting.”

Muffet and Darby became fast friends. Muffet told her that when the time was right, she wanted Darby to transform and update the McCain’s new Kings Grant home, which was built in 2000. About a year later in August 2013, the McCains gave Darby the green light to start remodeling the breakfast nook. The McCains enjoyed their new family space, and about six months later, they turned their focus to the two front rooms that flank the front hallway.

Muffet and Josh brought only a few treasures from Charleston. These included two upholstered chairs, a Persian rug, and an upright piano, which was a gift from Muffet’s mother and a reminder of Muffet’s childhood home. Darby grouped those items in the 12-foot by 14-foot front room that has now become Muffet’s favorite place to enjoy quiet time. At first, Muffet did not think she could relish the space because of the placement of the two windows. “Because I love symmetry, it bothered me that the windows are not centered with the room,” says Muffet. Darby took the focus away from the windows by layering the Persian rug over a new seagrass rug and placing two small Lucite tables on top of it. The tables seem to float and pull your eye to the center medallion in the rug. Everything comes together with serene balance.

Darby adds, “There are always things you just have to work with and make the most of.” For this room — to which the McCains refer interchangeably as the piano room, the living room, and the parlor — Darby chose Thibaut faux wood wallpaper. This paper resembles wood cut in horizontal planks. “This decision made me nervous because I had never seen it in a room, but I trusted Darby, and now I absolutely love it. Sometimes I just want to touch it because of its textured look,” says Muffet.

The dining room, also a 12-foot by 14-foot space located across the entrance hall, was updated in 2014 with fresh paint on the trim, chair rail, and molding. Above the chair rail, Darby chose a Thibaut paper with a mid-scale geometric trellis design in soft blue and cream. Those colors are echoed in the floor-length window treatment trim, chair slipcovers, and the Chobi Peshawar Oriental rug. Muffet wanted some antique pieces in this room because she likes a mix of traditional and modern. At Camden Antiques, Darby found the perfect sideboard and china cabinet that offered space to serve, display, and store as needed; she also found an oval table that would not interrupt the flow of traffic in the home. The McCains use the dining room for birthdays, holidays, and other special activities.

In 2015, Muffet and Josh looked again to Darby for attractive and practical updates to the den. The couple did not want the television over the mantle to be the focal point of the room. Muffet saw a television display idea on Pinterest and showed it to Darby, who responded, “That is good, but I can top that.” Darby found two antique library panels at Scott’s Antique Show in Atlanta, and local builder Harry Turner retrofitted them above the mantle so that they slide smoothly along an iron rail to open and close in front of the television. A sleek, narrow, vertical tile frames the fireplace, and inlaid parquet flooring extends a foot from the wall to meet the traditional hardwood floors. All of this was painted in a warm gray to create a nicely scaled focal point for the room. Later, in 2017, when the kitchen was being renovated, Darby made sure that the same v-grooved wood design and color palette under the mantle was repeated underneath the kitchen island to further tie those two areas together.

“The primary reason we wanted the television covered is that we didn’t want it to dominate our family life,” Muffet says. “We are a family of readers, and it is also easier to focus on the art around us when the television is hidden.” So the hunt was on for beautiful, eye-catching art.

Darby told Columbia art dealer Meredith Christenberry, of Christenberry Collection, that she was looking for art for a client. Meredith soon called her with the exciting news that new original art by Amy Dixon had come in. When Darby saw it, she knew it would work for the McCain home. Today, two beautiful pieces of modern art, titled “Beach Vision I” and “Beach Vision II,” flank the fireplace.

Back in the dreaming stage before any construction began, Darby showed Muffet a picture of a beautiful seafoam green oven. “Darby knows how much I love to cook and entertain, and she told me, ‘One day this oven will be the focal point of your kitchen.’” Three years later in 2017, when the McCains were set to start the kitchen remodel, that particular stove did not have excellent reviews. Darby had an answer for that, as well as for the overall plan for the kitchen. She estimated the work would be finished in six weeks, and it was. Muffet says, “Between Darby’s good relationship with so many people in the building and design field, and the fact that she was here just about every day, the kitchen remodel went amazingly fast.”

They proceeded by removing the L-shaped island, which had a higher area for tall bar stools that was not conducive to a young family. They replaced it with an impressive 9-foot rectangular quartz slab, called “Manhattan Calcutta,” from Micalline Products. Muffet loves that it is large enough for spreading everything out for cooking and art projects. Instead of facing the adjacent den, the new sink is oriented toward the breakfast area and the windows overlooking the backyard.

For the oven, Darby presented Muffet with another possibility: a La Cornue range in a soft, seafoam blue color called “Mist.” It is indeed the focal point of the kitchen. “This stove is like jewelry to me,” says Muffet. “I often cook one casserole dish in each oven simultaneously, but each oven is capable of accommodating two or three casseroles at a time. Medium-sized cookie sheets can also be stacked as many as three at a time in each oven. The bottom is a shelf for storage.” Above the range, Darby designed the space for a seamless quartz warming shelf. Muffet loves that feature and the flexibility to be able to cook a meal and have it stay warm until Josh gets home from work.

Quartz counters and backsplash run all the way up the wall to meet the cabinets in this most-used area. The team from Micalline Products expertly laid out all the countertop and backsplash pieces while centering the heaviest gray vein behind the oven. Darby worked closely with Hafele Electric Supply to create a full, low voltage LED under cabinet lighting plan. They chose recessed puck lights and hid all electrical boxes in the base of the upper cabinets so the bold effect of the backsplash would be uninterrupted.

The McCains stressed the need for functional light in the space, so the lighting plan was carefully considered. Between the new ceiling cans, the Hafele system, and the two lanterns above the island from The Copper Lighting Company, the space is now well lit.

On the other side of the kitchen, a desk area that tended to collect clutter was transformed into a bar with back-lit glass cabinets, adding even more ambiance. The soft color scheme is echoed in the bar wall tile, Walker Zanger’s “Shingle” in the color “Horizon,” which adds a shimmering touch.

The downstairs bedroom, a few steps from the kitchen, could one day function as a second master, but it did not have an adequate, private adjoining closet space. For resale purposes — and so the McCains could enjoy a walk-in pantry — Darby reconfigured the closet within the bedroom and a linen closet in the bathroom. Muffet keeps appliances, such as the toaster and Crock-Pot, on the pantry counter space for easy, hidden access, and she stores large platters in the oversized drawers. The custom-designed coffee area, however, is back in the kitchen, right by the garage door where Muffet and Josh can grab a refill on the way out.

Together, after four years and much collaboration, Muffet and Darby now describe the home’s look as “livable, young, classic, and traditional, with a fresh pop.” The McCains are delighted with their beautiful, updated home, which they open to friends old and new. Muffet says, “We love having friends over, and we always have. Until now, the space hasn’t been all that it could be, but that doesn’t matter because guests are there to see you, not to critique every component of a home. If they see something beautiful, they appreciate it.”

And there is, indeed, beauty and functionality in every room of the McCain home to be appreciated by the owners and guests alike.