On the wall of Brenda Bowen’s dining room hangs an imposing canvas giclée print titled Journey to the Unknown by Ferdos Maleki. Chosen by designer Terri Veitinger, it is a modern swirl of teal and gray and white, with a splash of metallic gold in the middle. Brenda, whose fine art collection consists mainly of originals by local artists and her mother’s talented aunt, was reticent about adding an unfamiliar, modern abstract into the mix. “This was my biggest struggle because it’s different for me.”
However, Brenda has decided that the print not only fits in with her other pieces, it serves as a metaphor for her entire home renovation project.
Having remodeled many houses, Brenda has moved often — seven times in seven years at one point — so when she purchased this house on the corner of Saluda Avenue and Heyward Street, she wanted it to be her permanent home. She served as her own general contractor, reconfiguring the floor plan over the course of three years to incorporate windows and doors that she had saved for just such a project.
“I gutted it and went down to the studs,” Brenda says. “I didn’t realize I was going to do that, but once I started, I decided, ‘Yes, I’ve got to do it.’ And then I thought I should go ahead and redo all the plumbing, all the electrical, the heating, and air.”
Even though she wanted this to be her personal, permanent home, Brenda tried to make choices that would benefit a family who might eventually buy the property from her, such as high-efficiency plumbing and heating units and two walk-in closets in the master bedroom. Converting an upstairs bath into a laundry room, she took care to add a washer and dryer connection to a downstairs butler’s pantry as well, leaving space for an additional laundry room. Near the butler’s pantry and expansive kitchen, Brenda thoughtfully designed a full bathroom, in case her downstairs office ever needs to be converted to a bedroom.
After she finished the renovation, Brenda filled the house with a variety of furniture that had been passed down from family members. “I had all this stuff,” she says. “I’m an accountant by trade so spending a lot of money is not really my forte unless it’s wine and dinner. I kept telling my friends, ‘I’m just not feeling connected to anything. It’s not me.’” That situation was about to change.
Brenda remembered that her mother, who died in 2017, had gone to Ethan Allen when she needed furniture back in 2005. She drove to Harbison Boulevard to look for a sofa and a bed at Ethan Allen. There she met designer Terri Veitinger, who quickly became a friend.
Terri answered her questions and helped Brenda choose the two pieces she needed. As Brenda talked further with Terri about her renovation project, she decided that it was best not to decorate around pieces of furniture that no longer serve her needs.
“Holding onto memories attached to something tangible can prevent you from creating new memories,” Brenda says. “I ended up taking pictures of some of the old items, so I could still have the memory but now have a style that’s mine.”
Terri moved to the Midlands from Ohio and quickly discovered, after meeting Brenda, how interconnected life in Columbia can be. Another client she was working with at Ethan Allen mentioned living on Saluda. When Terri said she was helping a client redoing an entire house on the same street, it turned out the client had grown up in Brenda’s new home.
Brenda began working with Terri, walking through the renovated space to see what she truly wanted it to look like. She ultimately furnished the entire house in Ethan Allen furniture, including rugs, bedding, and window treatments — even the shower curtains and porch furnishings were part of Terri’s design.
They set ground rules up front, though they agreed not to have a specific time frame or budget. Periodically, they walked through the house and decided what each room should look like.
In the dining room, the Maleki giclée overlooks a round, gray dining table with eight upholstered chairs and a quatrefoil mirror, and a Greek key design graces both a demilune chest and a custom-made, square rug. Underneath a staircase that Brenda designed, having razed the old one, a welcoming space features a custom-made settee. Ironwork on the stairs was custom-made, designed by Southern Staircase and built by Tom Lee of Superior Stair.
Brenda had a runner installed on the staircase before she met Terri, who told Brenda she could work with that. “She said it in the nicest way,” Brenda recalls, “but as we completed the rooms upstairs, it just felt too heavy.” They decided to install a lighter, ikat runner to match runners in the well-furnished upstairs hall.
Guests in the dining room will enjoy viewing original watercolors by Brenda’s great-aunt, Frances Alexander (1911-1990); a painting in the den of Brenda’s late mother, Carolyn, wearing a yellow dress; and another of her father, Jack, with Carolyn, shortly after they met in 1952. They were married for 64 years. The sentimental, fine art is a welcoming touch in a room Brenda made especially for her father to occupy whenever he wishes.
A favorite painting by Columbia artist Gilmer Petroff (1913-1990), a friend of Brenda’s great-aunt, serves as the focal point of the living room. Terri took this and the other pieces in Brenda’s collection to Ramco Framing & Design in Irmo to update the frames.
“She kept saying that she wanted her home to be a party house, warm and inviting, but you could tell that she wanted this to be ‘the good room.’ She wanted a formal living room,” Terri says.
Terri grouped a Shelton sofa, upholstered in a pearl chenille fabric, with a pair of Caden wing chairs covered in a deep teal velvet in the center of the room. Light, custom silk draperies, edged in a Greek key pattern, complement the sea glass, navy, and cream colors of a wool, Persian-style rug. A Bodhi sculpture, designed in aluminum to mimic bronze, is one of Brenda’s favorite touches in the room.
The blue and gray tones of the living room draw the eye toward the blue slate on the front porch, and the continuity throughout the house evokes a sense of calm. “In every room there’s just a little nod into the next room,” Terri says.
Brenda also likes the functionality of Terri’s design. Stools tucked underneath a console table can travel from room to room as needed. The console table itself, especially when it holds a bouquet of flowers, serves as a distraction from the interior window that remains from home additions. Terri installed a shutter on the windows and flanked it with étagères, dressing the window so that the feature looks intentional. Contiguous to the living room, Brenda’s office features work by local artist Susan Lenz. Terri changed its orientation to fit the space, making it seem more abstract.
Both front and back porches are furnished with Nod Hill sofas with decorative metal backs, motion chairs, and coffee tables atop outdoor rugs in a soft gray to coordinate with the gray fabric on the furniture. Brenda’s design for the back porch features a stained, vaulted ceiling with a striking cast-iron caged chandelier from The Nest on Gadsden Street. Hay Hill Services landscaped the backyard with privacy hedges and a large fountain. There are back-to-back fireplaces so that Brenda can enjoy the stucco one on the porch or the stone one in the new den.
Brenda wanted a stone fireplace in the den that could be seen from the home’s entrance because it evokes feelings of family and comfort for her. Terri selected an open-end sectional in a shade called “Ash,” draping its end with a mohair throw, and then she placed two gray, leather Turner swivel chairs in front of the fireplace, which can be turned toward the fireplace to create an intimate space. “I never would have thought of doing this, but you can have a glass of wine and talk about your day,” says Brenda, whose close circle of friends and some family members visit often.
Brenda converted a bedroom upstairs to a luxurious master bathroom with marble from Palmetto Tile and reconfigured the hallway. A king-sized upholstered bed is swathed in a white channel quilt and embellished with pillows that pick up the rich, teal shades found in a pair of nudes painted by her great-aunt. A sizeable teal velvet bench sits at the foot of the bed, and smoky teal lamps are placed on a Daryn chest in brownstone and an antique black Leah spiral pedestal accent table used as a nightstand. Gold satin draperies provide privacy from the Heyward Street balcony, where a teak Bridgewater Cove chair and ottoman offer a comfortable place for morning coffee or a nightcap. “I get to see a lot of people pass by — friends, people I know,” Brenda says. A crape myrtle bends over the outdoor space, and a cachepot filled with cacti provides interest on a side table.
Not only was the porch a surprise during Brenda’s construction project — the framer, Lee Goodwin, told her about the unexpected flat roof outside the master bedroom — Brenda also made the spacious master suite even more airy by vaulting the ceiling. Taking care to satisfy the requirements of her historic district, Brenda made up some of these details as she went along. “I did use licensed people, but I needed people who would work with me when there wasn’t a plan,” she says. “I wanted people to be part of the art process.” She initially found the decorating stage of the project to be more challenging than the construction.
“It truly was a journey to the unknown because I didn’t know Ethan Allen did all of this,” Brenda says. “I really needed help, and I prayed about it, and there she came.”
Terri’s design, inspired by Brenda’s art collection, has lent a sense of calm to the entire home. “Aqua, to me, is kind of like a swirl of emotion that moves me,” Brenda shares.
“Upstairs,” Terri says, “she had a room that she wanted to be her meditation space, but now she says her whole house is a meditation space. This whole project has been more about how it feels than how it looks. There has been a lot of emotion and passion involved.”