Like all good treasure troves, the outer hall of Belinda and George Matthews’s West Columbia condominium offers barely a hint of what lies beyond the entranceway. The polished metallic surfaces of a chest and mirror give off a soft gleam. On the front door, the ribbons attached to a decorative wreath shimmer in the dim lighting.
But enter the foyer, and the scene transforms from gentle glimmer to flat-out glamour. Mirrored walls reflect gold leaf, the dazzle of crystal chandeliers and a kaleidoscope of color from hundreds of objets d’art. There’s a silver and gold embossed Erté work on a wall covered in Erté wallpaper, a chic pair of chairs from Gianni Versace, Fabergé eggs and decorative pieces from Chanel and Dolce & Gabbana. Vintage perfume bottles in jewel tones of emerald, ruby, turquoise and sapphire sparkle from their mirrored trays, while life-sized African statues take in the scene.
Although the Matthewses moved into the penthouse apartment in September, the couple has had plenty of time to think about their decorating scheme: Katherine Matthews, George’s mother, purchased the condo in 2001 and filled it with treasures she and her husband collected over the years. Although she planned to one day make it her permanent home, in the end, Mrs. Matthews just couldn’t leave the Lake Katherine house where she and her husband lived for 50 years and raised their son George — or, as he’s known to his friends, Turk. “My mother bought this place because she thought she would feel more secure staying here alone after my father died,” says Turk. “But she never did, and this became a party house of sorts. She held all sorts of events and fundraisers here over the years, but she never spent a single night.”
Belinda and Turk’s move to the penthouse was never part of their long-term plan. The couple had finally gotten their home exactly the way they wanted it and planned to stay. But the unoccupied residence, with its stunning views of downtown Columbia, Williams-Brice Stadium and the Congaree River, continued to beckon. When they also discovered that recreating some of the personal touches they loved about their former residence would be much easier than they had originally thought, the deal was sealed.
Although Belinda and Turk both adore his mother’s ornate style of decorating – which favors extravagantly carved, heavily gilded Louis XIV furnishings, art deco glass, rich tapestry fabrics and mirrors – they wanted to add a bit of their own taste. “One of my favorite memories is visiting the Palace of Versailles in France with Mrs. Matthews,” recalls Belinda. “I couldn’t believe the Hall of Mirrors. It was so beautiful. I decided that we could use a lot of those elements here, especially the gold. I’d make everything gold if I could.”
To help with the design, Belinda and Turk enlisted Paul Sloan, owner of Paul D. Sloan Interiors in the Vista. Paul was an obvious choice for the couple. Not only had he helped them create the look in their previous home, but he and Mrs. Matthews also had a long, successful decorating history together. “Mrs. Matthews and I worked on this condo for a dozen years, so I know it well,” he says. “When Belinda and Turk decided to move in last year, I knew there would be very little we’d have to purchase in the way of furnishings because their tastes are very similar. The real work would be the renovations.”
At the top of the list was Belinda’s closet, which she’d had designed and built in the previous home to precise specifications and wanted to recreate exactly. Searching through her future home for a place to hang her clothes, Belinda and Paul found an unused first-floor storeroom that could be transformed into a closet with the addition of a staircase — and, in an ode to Belinda’s favorite designer, a Chanel logo painted on the wall above the door. “It’s my little piece of Chanel heaven,” she says with a smile. A pair of doors inset with custom-made etched mirrors leads from the landing of the main staircase into the new space. “I have to go into the hall and down the stairs to get there, but it is worth it,” she says.
The floors and stairs in the public areas were relieved of their old carpeting and re-clad in brilliant white marble. Taking a page from Versailles, the couple had gold leaf hand-applied to balustrades and handrails on the staircase and the mouldings that run along the open upper floor hallway. “We originally had just a bit of gold leaf, but when we saw how dramatic it looked, we added more,” says Paul. “With the crystal chandelier and the mirrors that surround the landing, it has that bling that Belinda loves. If you’re going to go over the top, I say go way over!”
In the bathrooms, the Matthewses took an equally all-in approach. Tucked into the space that once housed a closet in the master bath, Belinda’s mirrored dressing vanity holds her extensive collection of vintage Chanel vanity pieces, glassware and ceramics. Glass shelves that reach to the high ceiling hold even more of the collection, each piece carefully placed and free of even the slightest speck of dust. A thick slab of copper and white-veined black marble decorates the sink area, offering a stunning contrast to the white marble floor. The sink itself is painted in gold filigree; the substantial faucet and handles are also gold, as is the textured, crackled wallpaper. The guest bath also features a gold and white sink, this one rimmed with a wide band of luster and set into a honey onyx countertop. The walls are covered in trendy cork, but with a difference — the cork’s gold wash has given it a subtle shimmer. Pops of color come from more of the crystal perfume bottles, which both of the Matthews women collect.
It’s in the living room where the two decorating styles collide the most beautifully. Against the white marble floors, Mrs. Matthews’s black grand piano, which was a gift from her husband, gleams in imposing contrast. “My mother loves the arts and supports them generously,” says Turk. “This piano means so much to her.” To the existing gilt settee and chairs, Belinda added her own matching settee, turning what was an open arrangement into a quiet spot for conversation. “I like the intimacy it creates,” she says. “I just want to curl up and have a chat or read a book.” Many of Mrs. Matthews’s signature pieces, including an inlaid vitrine, a French commode, a mosaic-topped coffee table, a bar cabinet filled with aubergine-colored cut glass and red and gold silk draperies hung from a swooping cornice, are as in style today as when they were purchased. Belinda Matthews isn’t surprised. “Mrs. Matthews has fabulous taste and has taught me so much about decorating. I think she could have been a decorator herself!”