The McGuckins transform a Georgian beauty
At the crest of a hill in the Wales Garden neighborhood behind Five Points sits a Georgian style home with large Grecian columns. The outward appearance might lead a passerby to believe it to be an old Columbia home with an interior filled with traditional features and furnishings. The decor, in fact, fulfilled that assumption — before Sandy and Sam McGuckin moved into the house in November 2017. Since then, the 1991 house, built to look like an old neighborhood fixture, has undergone a remarkable transformation that reflects the McGuckins’ distinct contemporary style.
Sandy had not considered moving from their previous home on Heyward Street, but Sam, who is more than 6 feet tall, felt a bit cramped. “I prefer big, open rooms, and our previous house, which was originally built in the 1920s, had 10-foot ceilings and smaller rooms,” he says. So he broached the idea with Sandy about finding a new home. She agreed, even noting that since she had picked out their two previous homes, he could have a turn at choosing the next.
“I did all the research and found a great home on Lake Murray,” Sam recalls. But when he took Sandy to look, she quickly added one caveat — their new house would have to be within a four-block radius of where they currently lived. It was back to the drawing board.
Sam soon discovered the nearly 5,300-square-foot Georgian-style home on the market, and, while Sandy was not initially enamored, the spaciousness of the rooms greatly appealed to Sam. With 12-foot ceilings downstairs and 10-foot ceilings upstairs, he felt as if he could live much more comfortably.
Both Sandy and Sam realized, however, that the traditional interior had a somber tone that would require a complete overhaul to fit their taste. “The house originally had heavy velvet drapes and gold gilding on much of the trim,” he says.
Sandy had seen Linda Burnside’s work and had told herself that she would seek Linda out should she ever have a need. Now was the time. “My original intent was to consult with Linda on colors for this house,” she says, “but it turned out that I needed her for much more than that.” Linda, of LGB Interiors, became an integral player in the six-month project of redesigning their new home.
Entering the home through the grand foyer with its onyx floor and expansive staircase, guests immediately know they are walking into a unique environment. Walls that were once covered in hunter green with gilt trim now exude a softer feel in Benjamin Moore’s “Ivory White.” To the right, guests enter the living room, which also serves as the game room. “Growing up, living rooms were to be seen and not touched, especially by kids,” Sam recalls. “We really wanted it to be something that would be used.”
Sam did not provide much input into the interior design of their previous homes, but that changed with this house. “Sandy has an eye for design, and I don’t,” he says. “But our past homes had more collectibles and knick knacks throughout, and I’m the polar opposite of that.” To help Sam have a better vision of her suggestions, Linda created a 3-D rendering of the game room before they moved forward with the actual work.
“We were able to collaborate together and make sure everyone was happy with all the choices,” says Sandy. “Linda helped us find some amazing pieces and at the same time showed us how to incorporate and repurpose some of our existing ones.”
Bathed in a soft gray color, the game room is expansive enough for a pool table, a sitting area before a custom marble mantle, and a poker table. In keeping with the more masculine feel of the room, Linda suggested wallpaper that has the look and texture of a man’s suit, enhanced by a light gray trim. The 4:1 windows, with four panes on the top and one on the bottom, allow plenty of natural light. “The aim was to create a relaxing, tone-on-tone, soft feel for the room,” Linda says.
The most interesting features of this room hang from the walls. Both Sandy and Sam are music lovers and music, usually rock, is normally playing throughout the house. Two collectible guitars are mounted in lit glass display cases; one is signed by Eddie Van Halen. “In 2007, I took my son, Chase, to Philly to see Van Halen,” Sam says. “This past year, I was working with a client who brokers guitars and told him I was looking for a guitar from Van Halen. Turned out that the guitar he found for me was the same one that Eddie Van Halen played on stage the night we went to his concert!” When Eddie found out that the purchasers had been to that concert, he also included an autographed photo from that night.
Sandy is also an art lover and has beautiful pieces throughout the house. Yet she will quickly inform guests that her favorite pieces of art (besides several pieces by best friend and local artist Kirkland Smith) are the light fixtures above the pool and gaming tables. “I’ll just go ahead and say it. They’re cool!” she says. “They put just the right amount of light over the tables.” The myriad of pendants of blown-glass globes with silver caps and LED bulbs is suspended at varying lengths to create its own unique art form.
However, these are not the only show stopping light fixtures in the home. The magnificent chandelier hanging over the large, round dining room table resembles tree branches with more than 100 glass prisms dripping like rain falling from the sky. In fact, the ceiling is wallpapered with a pale shimmering textured off-white to complete the natural effect. Many of the furnishings are of organic design, such as an alabaster bowl and a buffet that gives an impression of driftwood across the front. The dining room also demonstrates Sandy’s love for local art; it includes a table centerpiece by Virginia Scotchie and wall art by Craig Houston and Eileen Blyth. “With such beautiful works of art, you really end up designing the room around the pieces,” says Linda.
Toward the rear of the house, guests will want to wander from the living room toward the “Scotch Room.” With walls covered in large mahogany panels and the room outfitted with leather sofas and armchairs, as well as a fully stocked wet bar, this is definitely a man’s man room. Built-in shelving and cabinetry, also in matching mahogany, provide plenty of display space for signature collectibles from the couple’s many travels.
The kitchen was completely gutted and renovated to suit their love of cooking and entertaining. Two focal points include the French professional grade stove by La Cornue, which combines both gas and electric cooking capabilities with six gas eyes, a griddle, an electric oven, and a second oven that is electric, steam, and convection. A friend of Sandy’s designed a custom-made pot rack, the second focal point, to hang above the center island, which is covered with a leather-marbled countertop. A tray ceiling provides the needed height for the pot rack.
To brighten the kitchen, Sandy chose to replace the original dark cabinetry with lighter hues. Glass display cabinets with lighting run around the perimeter of the cabinetry, while large windows provide a view to the backyard pool. The breakfast area features banquet seating around a large table created from a solid piece of black walnut.
Even the laundry room presents some unique features. With the high ceilings, Sandy was able to install a pulley system for her laundry drying racks. “This is used a great deal in England,” she explains. The pulleys lower and raise the racks to allow clothes to dry while suspended above, a wonderful space saver.
Sandy brought several pieces from their former home with them. The counter in the laundry room is constructed from two pieces of wood from the coal chute in their old house. Her office desk also holds great meaning to her as her late son, Trey, built the desk from wood that came from inside their prior home as well. “This wood is more than 100 years old,” she says.
Upstairs in her office are hints regarding Sandy’s adventures and Alaskan heritage. A large display case holds collectibles from around the world. One of her most cherished pieces is a model of an Alaskan cache made by her stepfather. “A cache is made to store food but keep the bears out,” Sandy explains, “and this model is made from the natural materials that would be used to build the full-size cache.” The walls of the office present a vast collection of masks from around the world, including Alaska, New Zealand, India, and England.
Overnight guests will find beautifully appointed guest rooms with a Jack-and-Jill bathroom. Silk shades, a French-style armoire, a hand-forged gilded poster bed, and a private balcony overlooking the backyard pool are just a few of the features. Several antique rugs imported from Iran are used in the bedrooms and throughout the house, blending perfectly with their contemporary surroundings.
Sandy and Sam each have their own master bathrooms, along with his-and-her closets. “We basically did a complete facelift and gutted everything except the cabinetry,” explains Sandy. They upfitted all closets with shelving and drawers. Each bathroom has its own large walk-in shower, and Sandy’s includes a separate make-up vanity. “Separate bathrooms are the best thing for a marriage!” she says with a laugh.
The master bedroom truly gives the feel of a sanctuary with walls painted “Silver Sage” by Restoration Hardware. Continuing with the organic design, slices of agate fashion the unique wall sconces at the doorway. Large windows allow plenty of natural light and a view of Capstone on the University of South Carolina campus. A king bed at one end of the room is balanced by the full sitting area with sofa and arm chairs next to the windows, providing even more room to relax and enjoy a good book.
For a breath of fresh air, three sets of French doors from Sandy’s office, the hallway, and the master bedroom lead onto the upper terrace. Ceiling fans keep the air moving over sitting areas, creating the ideal space to unwind with a glass of wine at the end of the day.
The house has a third floor that will one day be a music room with guitar amps and drums. “We want to make it into a real jam room,” says Sandy.
When Sandy and Sam bought the house, their plan was to move in after the renovations were completed. However, the couple who bought their former house wanted to move in quickly, and the McGuckins agreed. “There are good parts and bad parts to living in a house that is being renovated,” says Sandy. “There’s so much dust!”
Yet she and Sam found great advantage in being around while the work was underway. “You really get to know the people working on your house,” Sandy says. “That’s the great part of living through it.”
And they both recognize the artistry of each person. “Our contractor, Ron Finney, brought in all these amazing professionals, and Linda connected us with people who are artisans in their own right,” adds Sam.
The end result is a transformed home that Sandy and Sam will enjoy for many years to come.