Downtown Columbia

Where the living is easy

By Margaret Gregory

Photography by Robert Clark

“I’ve got the Southern accent, but I’m wired like a New Yorker!” That describes the chaotic, non-stop, let’s-get-it-done attitude of Lou Kennedy. Following their donation of $30 million to the University of South Carolina College of Pharmacy to create the Kennedy Pharmacy Innovation Center, Lou and Bill, her husband, are now expanding their pharmaceutical company, Nephron, with construction of a new plant in Lexington.

The Kennedys are both USC grads – Bill from the College of Pharmacy and Lou from the School of Journalism. They met at a Carolina football game in 2000, and life hasn’t slowed down since. Lou was the marketing force behind the growth of Nephron, and the Kennedys are thrilled to be adding a second plant in the Midlands in addition to the company’s main plant in Orlando, Fla.

With an increase in travel between here and the Sunshine State, the Kennedys decided that they needed a base in Columbia, one that would offer convenience and comfort for a hectic pace of meetings, strategy sessions and, of course, Carolina football. They chose Adesso, a 110-luxury condominium complex at the corner of Blossom and Main streets in downtown Columbia.

“With construction underway for the new plant, as well as meetings with the pharmacy school and the committee I serve on for a new building for the journalism school, it just made sense to have a place here,” says Lou. “Adesso was the perfect location. Everything is so convenient.”

Convenience is something most residents are looking for, according to Rosemary Bryant, director of sales for Adesso. She likens Adesso to an in-town neighborhood. “It’s a great location right in the heart of everything,” she says. “People are busy, and their time is increasingly valuable. For those who have jobs downtown and for students, it’s a location that has a great deal to offer.”

Once the Kennedys made the decision to purchase one of the eight remaining floor plans available, Lou then had to make a decision about the interior design for the 1,782-square-foot condo with three bedrooms and three baths. Fortunately, she knew a designer who could keep up with her hectic pace: Linda Burnside of LGB Interiors. “I remember meeting Linda for the first time at JB White,” recalls Lou, “when we served on the teen fashion board together.”

“We have been friends for many years, and we worked together at Round Robin during college, too,” says Linda.

Lou also remembered that she and Linda shared a similar type of drive. “I knew she could keep up with me,” Lou laughs. Linda would only have about a month to complete the design, and she welcomed the challenge. “One of my favorite things is to have someone draw a line in the sand,” Linda says. “I work better with my hair on fire.”

Lou also knew that Linda would be able to work with her vision for the condo. “She can listen to what someone likes,” Lou explains, “without pushing her own vision or personal tastes on you. My question to Linda was, ‘If I tell you the colors I like, can we use your resources to pull this off?’”

Lou’s vision was to create a calm retreat, somewhere she could change out of her business suit and be comfortable. It also was her chance to craft what she calls her “Lowcountry meets Columbia” look. “Bill was born in Charleston, and this is my Southern home away from home,” Lou says as she motions around with her arm.

“I chose a gray palette of colors. I wanted it to be calm because my world is fast and furious,” Lou says. “It’s very relaxing here.” Linda suggested Graphite from Restoration Hardware as the wall color for the living and dining areas and an accent wall of Black Fox from Sherwin Williams, which also is used for the millwork doors and crown moulding.

The splash of color in the turquoise glass lamps offers a contrast to the neutral shades of the off-white linen sofa and hide-covered side chairs. Touches of the Lowcountry are found in the oyster shell chandelier, the sea grass rug and a Savannah print in the dining room. With six windows on a rounded wall facing west, solar shades help keep the heat out but allow the perfect amount of light to fill the room.

 

The dining room features touches of the Lowcountry, a nod to Bill’s Charleston roots.

The condo also serves a second purpose – daughter Xanna, a sophomore following in her mother’s footsteps as a journalism major at USC, lives in the condo year round. “With a college student living here, we wanted it to be nice but also knew we needed to be practical,” Lou says. Hence, Linda chose easy care, durable fabrics for much of the furniture.

“Because we’re only here a couple nights a month, we didn’t want to spend a tremendous amount of money on the décor,” Lou says. “Through Linda’s resources and talent, we were able to create something comfortable for us and sensible for Xanna.”

 

 For the bar area in the kitchen, interior designer Linda Burnside created a leather-covered panel with a design done in nail heads and added matching bar stools and glass pendant lights.

The kitchen took a bit more work to meet Lou’s expectations. “When we first bought the unit, the cabinetry was dark,” she remembers. “I changed it to a much lighter shade, and then glazed the color for a distressed look.” To help protect the bar wall from footprints and shoe scuffs, Linda created a leather-covered panel with a design done in nail heads. Matching bar stools offer seating, and glass pendant lights hang over the bar.

Lou used the same glaze treatment found in the kitchen for the cabinetry in the master bath. To lighten the walls, Linda created a subtle contrast by painting the top third in alternating horizontal stripes of flat and semi-gloss paint.

The master bedroom features a four-poster bed with a linen coverlet, alabaster lamps and simple window dressing. “I really don’t like things overdone,” says Lou. “I like clean, neat panels.” Original nude drawings from Phoenix Art Group bring life to the walls, which are painted the color Stone from Restoration Hardware.

 

The master bedroom features a four-poster bed with a linen coverlet, alabaster lamps and simple window dressing, in keeping with Lou’s preference for clean lines. 

One piece of which the Kennedys are particularly proud is the Gamecock stool in their bedroom, a gift from USC President Harris Pastides. Lou and Bill are ardent supporters of their alma mater through their financial generosity and their spirit. “It’s hard to be a Gamecock in Gator Country,” Lou says of their home in Florida, “but it is a great time to be Gamecock!”

The guest room would be welcoming for any company staying the night. Mounted on walls painted a silver sage color, the art and sconces are reminiscent of French décor.
Artwork serves as a key component of the condo. “We have a family friend who is a photographer, and we have two of her pieces here,” says Lou. Knowing Lou’s love for all things unique, Linda suggested two pieces of artwork that she knew Lou would fall for – ink washes on rice paper from Linda’s recent trip to Beijing. “I saw them and just had to have them,” Lou says.

 

 The guest room, with walls painted a silver sage color and art and sconces reminiscent of French décor, would be welcoming for any company staying the night. 

Returning to Columbia has brought much joy to the Kennedys. “I grew up here,” Lou says. “My dad worked for Eastman Kodak, and my mom was a teacher at Seven Oaks Elementary School. It’s been wonderful to reconnect with people from my past.”

The Kennedys also are glad to bring their company to the Lexington area. The first phase of the plant at half a million square feet will initially employ from 300 to 500 people. “We want Nephron and the new plant to be part of the fabric of the community,” Lou says.

Lou is reluctant to think how she might have pulled off such a quick interior design project without reconnecting with her friend, Linda. “I never let anybody help me,” she says. “I do interior design as a hobby, so for me to relinquish control was a big step. But I am a busy mom who is running a company, so it turned out to be a great thing.”

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