AnnaBelle LaRoque has built a successful clothing line, known for clothing with vivid hues and striking patterns. When this busy entrepreneur and mother renovated a home for her family, her design sensibilities played out on this new canvas with a surprising twist.
“We painted the entire house, inside and out, trim, walls, cabinets, everything, one color — semi-gloss alabaster white.”
It’s exactly because AnnaBelle works surrounded by color that she wants less of it when she comes home. “I needed a resting place for my eyes,” she says.
The cottage she renovated provides not only a peaceful space, but it’s also a place where the art she’s collected can shine. “I believe a house filled with art sparks conversations you might not otherwise have. Our home has lots of art from the Southeast, and it brings me so much joy.”
A Unique Opportunity
AnnaBelle had been weighing whether to make changes at their old house when she learned that a house on the edge of the Heathwood neighborhood might be available. “I have always loved a cottage and had walked by this house several times over the years and thought about the potential it had.”
The cottage had been purchased by Sara Reed & Co. with plans to flip it. AnnaBelle saw a chance to collaborate on a renovation, live in her construction-dust-free home while the work was being done, and customize the design top to bottom. “I knew that I loved Sara’s style and would be able to make changes, opening up walls, adding lighting I wanted, while she managed the contractors.”
AnnaBelle was eager to preserve the best parts of the house’s history even as the two women rethought the layout, got rid of the red walls, and pulled up old carpet to reveal hardwoods beneath. The original four rooms of the house were divided two and two by a broad center hallway. An addition to the back included a 1970s era kitchen and a TV room.
The prior owner was an artist and created the stained glass windows that frame the front door as well as two stained glass pieces leading to the kitchen. He had made those in his studio, a small building that looks like a cupola plopped down in the backyard.
“The biggest challenge in renovating was wanting the house to be livable for modern families while also preserving its integrity. I wanted it to feel open but still cozy, like a cottage should,” says AnnaBelle. “We wanted a little house that lived big.”
That meant figuring out how to add a bathroom, laundry room, powder room, and closets without expanding the footprint. AnnaBelle and Sara drafted a plan that would reclaim some square footage from the central hall, preserving a hallway yet finding space for everything.
They moved the dining room to the front of the house where the original living room had been, opened up the kitchen, and made the old dining room the new living room. The former TV room became the master suite. The result of this shuffle is a three bedroom house with its three original fireplaces and stained glass windows intact, now with two-and-a-half baths and enough closet space for everyone.
The kitchen, with white subway tiles, marble countertops, white cabinets, and large island, looks like it’s all brand new. But with an eye toward preserving history and her budget, AnnaBelle was able to use the existing cabinets, replacing doors and hardware. “That’s the original lazy Susan in the corner,” she says.
Open shelves were added to hold AnnaBelle’s favorite dishes and vintage glasses. They also give her another place to display art — a treasured portrait of her mother, painted by her great-uncle in the 1960s. The kitchen range by Hallman, an Italian manufacturer, is stainless steel and brass. “I wanted a decorative element. The range was Sara’s idea,” AnnaBelle says. “She’d used them before, and it was surprisingly affordable.”
A Fashion Designer’s Touch
The pendant lights over the kitchen island are another decorative element that catches the eye. “Lighting can really transform a place, and with white walls everywhere, I wanted the lighting to be impactful. It’s like jewelry for a house,” says AnnaBelle.
“They’re like hair clips,” her 6-year-old daughter Emerson adds.
AnnaBelle looked to Circa Lighting, one of her favorite sources, for interior fixtures and chose pendant globes in white and gold for the kitchen, a dramatic contemporary chandelier by New Orleans designer Julie Neill for the dining room, as well as sconces for the hall and bathrooms. “If you care about clothing, you innately care about lighting, fabrics, and finishes,” she says.
Scale and proportion, a mix of high and low — these are part of the vernacular of fashion, too. AnnaBelle brings these same juxtapositions to her home. A rustic, round table nestled between two linen chairs was rescued from the curb by a friend. The gold-toned chandelier in the living room was a Wayfair purchase. AnnaBelle found the glass dining room table at an Anthropologie warehouse. However, many of the pieces are from Verve, AnnaBelle’s favorite interior design firm.
The white linen drapes throughout the house were made to match ones she used in her previous home, hemmed to fit their new windows. Using the same fabric keeps cohesion between the rooms with the exception of the pale pink in Emerson’s room.
“When the scale is right, when the form meets the function, it feels right,” AnnaBelle says. “I also like to add a little whimsy to every room.”
That whimsy can be seen in the placement of artwork, the use of pink in Emerson’s room and as an accent around the house, as well as in the paint color AnnaBelle chose for the cottage’s front door. “I wanted a soft color that wouldn’t take away from the architectural detail and symmetry of the house. And being from Charleston, I’ve always loved a pale pink front door.”
The Best Room in The House
That pale pink door is centered in what AnnaBelle says is her favorite room, the front porch, a space she’s appreciated even more since the pandemic began. It’s become a spot for socially distanced visits that keep friends and family in touch. The joggling board, from The Joggle Factory on Edisto Island, brings a little more Charleston flavor. The porch swing has a name — The Situation Swing — because that’s where friends take a seat when they have situations they need to unload.
Gas lanterns, another addition that makes AnnaBelle feel connected to Charleston, flank the doors and earn compliments from evening walkers passing by. Those lanterns were made in Cayce by Copper Lighting Company and purchased through their showroom, Lantern & Scroll.
The yard has also been completely redone, but AnnaBelle says that the work is still in progress. The picket fence has gone up and a backyard chicken coop has become an unexpected delight. Emerson collects eggs every day and keeps an eye on Henrietta, Dolly, Lucky, and Clucky — two Rhode Island Reds and two Americanas that joined the family just as the pandemic started.
The chickens and the thriving porch life also speak to the house’s past. The cottage was featured in Historic Columbia’s Renovation Rodeo in September. While participants toured the house via Zoom and asked AnnaBelle about the renovation, she gained more information about the history of her home. The house was built in 1908, and until 1940, it was the only one documented in the area. “I learned from Historic Columbia that this was probably a farmhouse when it was built, possibly part of Epworth,” she says.
These days, the porch, the cottage, and even the chickens make appearances on Instagram, which was not part of AnnaBelle’s original design. As home has become more important, she says it felt natural to give LaRoque’s customers a peek inside of hers. “I think people do crave personal connection. They want to see that there’s a real person and a real family behind the brand. Sharing a little bit of my personal life makes that connection.”