Twelve years ago, Sarah Walker told her husband, Oscar, she wanted to move. As the sales manager at S.C. Real Estate Exchange and a licensed real estate agent since 1978, he was the perfect person with whom to discuss it.
“I finally decided to show her this home to spite her,” Oscar says. “I didn’t think she would like it.” Women — and men — everywhere would have taken one look at the stately home sitting on a large, wooded lot and advised Oscar to spite Sarah some other way. She saw it, with its beautiful kitchens, spacious living areas, multiple bedrooms and bathrooms, and a large deck, all set on an idyllic pond, and liked it very much.
Moving into the home, Sarah’s first call was to contact Joan Goodwin of Verandah Interior Design, who had helped Sarah with her previous house. “It’s such a big home and there was so much to do, but Sarah had a vision of what she wanted,” says Joan. The women have worked together since 1995. “Sarah has great taste and loves beautiful things.”
Joan advised Sarah on the Walker’s furniture that would work well in the new home and the pieces they should give family members or donate. The Walkers ended up replacing quite a bit. Joan helped them find a new dining room table, a china cabinet, and a few other pieces as well. In the dining room, foyer, and meditation room, Joan mixed in chinoiserie chests, flowerpots, ginger jars, tables, as well as contemporary pieces. The result is a pleasant mix of old styles and new.
In the home’s entrance foyer, a beautiful black chinoiserie chest is topped with a pair of black buffet lamps decorated with brass palm fronds dripping with crystals before an ornate gold-toned mirror. The large dining room on the left has seating for eight. Host and hostess chairs upholstered in ginger and orange on cream sit at either end of the table over a ginger-accented rug. A black iron and crystal chandelier sparkles at the ceiling. On the right side, a wide china cabinet keeps several sets of china and crystal ready for the Walkers’ next dinner party. On the opposite wall, on either side of the window, are mirrored shelves displaying teacups and saucers that once belonged to Oscar’s mother, Willie Mae Gunn. The displays serve as a conversation starter the Walkers use to share stories about Willie Mae.
The entrance foyer leads to a round center hallway the Walkers call their rotunda. Set with a round oriental rug, the space also sports a crystal chandelier that sparkles on the whimsical starburst prisms on the left wall. The room branches one way to a powder room and hallway and also straight through to the back of the home and to the room Sarah calls her meditation room. The sunken room is wide and long, with coffered ceilings overhead. It overlooks the Walkers’ deck and the pond behind the home. A tan sofa faces the back windows and two large, contemporary chairs upholstered in cream, black, and gold. On the right wall is an ornate stone mantel Oscar installed himself. To its right is Sarah’s meditation chair, a beautiful, unassuming piece she bought in 1970. It is here that she comes in the late afternoon and sits under photographs of Jermaine, the couple’s son, who lives in Charlotte.
“It is quiet and serene,” says Sarah of the room. “It gives me a feeling of tranquility to sit here and be at peace with my thoughts.” Between this room and the dinette where the Walkers eat most meals is a double settee that begs for an afternoon nap or a good book.
Stepping up out of the meditation room, a visitor passes the Walkers’ kitchen table and tan upholstered chairs and, on the right, a beautiful sunroom that the Walkers added to the home. Furnished with comfortable wicker seating and overlooking the pond and the deck, the room holds many plants that Sarah and Oscar both enjoy tending.
The kitchen is large, with dark walnut cabinetry, countertops of warm Venetian brown granite, and stainless appliances. Across the counter-height kitchen countertop, the cook — Sarah is quick to say the cook is Oscar — is able to converse with guests in the “keep” room. Matching chocolate brown sofas face each other on a black and cream animal print rug. Oscar created an accent wall by painting the one opposite the kitchen, Sarah’s favorite ginger color, a color featured throughout the home. Another fireplace sits below a large flat-screen television, giving the Walkers a comfortable place to watch their favorite Gamecock sports.
A staircase decorated with stunning contemporary art takes one to the lower level. The bottom of the staircase and the lower-level foyer are decorated with scores of family photographs artfully framed and arranged. For the Walkers, this is another space that begs conversation. “Rather than have our photographs stuck in a book no one ever looks at, these are displayed so that we can keep our stories alive,” says Oscar.
The display includes a collection taken when Sarah and Oscar married, including photographs of all their attendants. Also included are two photographs hung as a pair, one depicting Oscar at 4 years old and the other showing Jermaine at 3. Jermaine, who is a teacher and coach, once ate contaminated sushi that led to him developing Guillain-Barré Syndrome. He spent months in a rehabilitation hospital learning to walk again. A photograph commemorates his triumphant return to work. Another is an impressive sketch of Oscar done by his artist/cousin Geraldine Arnold. Across the foyer is a place of honor for photographs of Oscar’s mother, Willie Mae, and his grandparents, Mattie and Eugene Longshore, who raised him. To their right, a contemporary piece by Herbert Gentry blends with the pieces on the staircase.
Under the painting is a gray chest topped by a black and dark gray striped ginger jar and a brass and crystal ball sculpture. A large rectangular bench upholstered in cream and black over a gold-toned rug blends with the brass chandelier, planter, and art objects. The staircase faces doors leading to a covered and an uncovered patio, with a large grill and a dining table topped with a ginger umbrella. Through the trees, down by the pond, one can see a table and chairs where Oscar enjoys sitting and watching wildlife. “I enjoy watching the squirrels and the birds,” he says.
“Between the pandemic and retirement, we are more in touch with nature than ever before,” says Sarah.
The lower level was unfinished when the Walkers purchased the home. Joan helped with every aspect of its design.
To the left of the staircase is the family room with cheery yellow walls and ash plank flooring that covers the lower level. The room has a large dark gray upholstered couch facing two comfortable armchairs upholstered in tan stripes. A geometric black and cream rug covers the floor in front of the sofa and is topped by a round glass coffee table. The windows are covered with tan and dark gray ikat Roman shades with a Greek key trim. Between the chairs is a built-in chest that previously housed a computer armoire for Jermaine. Now that devices are wireless, the Walkers use it as their bar. Behind the bar and television, the plank flooring extends to the ceiling, creating an eye-catching accent wall. On this side of the lower level is one of the home’s half-baths. To the right and left, large pieces of contemporary art are centered on the walls. At the back wall, a mirrored console table and matching mirror bounce light into the room.
A large kitchen and entertainment area are on the other side of the staircase. This area boasts more interesting contemporary art and family photographs. A black striped sofa sits over a zebra print rug, along with a glass and brass coffee table. The sofa and a nearby matching chair once belonged to Oscar’s mother, another way the Walkers keep her memory alive. At the far end is a full kitchen with Uba Tuba granite countertops and a cream, gray, and brass chevron backsplash set uniquely on the vertical. “The backsplash was a splurge,” says Joan. “One thing I like about Sarah: if I show her something, and she loves it, she’ll make it happen. Oscar might suggest something less expensive, and she’ll say, ‘Oscar! I love it.’” Sarah got her backsplash.
A counter-height island with roomy black leather chairs seats three. To the right of the kitchen cabinets is a set of ceramic, hand-painted plates commemorating seven years of after-school programs organized by Sarah. One of the home’s bedrooms is found here, along with a full bath. The Walkers created the bathroom with a large walk-in shower framed by large brown subway tile that matches the bathroom floor. A marble-topped vanity over dark brown cabinetry finishes the room. Just outside the door is a small seating area, with a striped chair to match the sofa across the room and a brass floor lamp. On the wall above is an appealing charcoal sketch of a little boy and girl holding hands, done by Michael Wolff. This is a sentimental reminder of Sarah’s 50 years as a teacher, mostly in Richland District One schools. Across the room is yet more seating — a round glass cafe table and chairs. The entire downstairs is the perfect place for entertaining friends.
Oscar, who is a retired Sergeant Major in the U.S. Army Reserves, enjoys tackling projects around the house, such as painting accent walls and working in the immaculate yard. “It’s my pastime, the time I spend with God and feel an appreciation of all He’s given me,” Oscar says.
Sarah and Oscar’s house is for living in and for entertaining. Sarah, who is one of 10 children, enjoys using the entire house to host large family gatherings. However, even when it is just the two of them and their son, Sarah and Oscar enjoy being able to choose among rooms for conversation and fellowship. “We like to use the entire house,” says Sarah. While Oscar may not have expected Sarah to like the home in the beginning, they both clearly love it now.