Known unofficially in the neighborhood as “the Father of the Bride house,” after the green-shuttered, white clapboard-style house in the 1991 movie Father of the Bride, Karen and David Dukes’ Colonial Revival home on Canterbury Road in Columbia’s Forest Hills is anything but a remake.
Inside and out, this home is a pure original.
Built in 1932, the house was designed by the Lafaye & Lafaye architectural firm and built for Paul Anderson Cooper (1889-1956), who served as a Columbia city attorney for 23 years, and his wife, Margaret (1893-1986). Along with its signature green shutters, the house features a side-gabled roof and a symmetrical design that has remained largely intact over the years.
The neighborhood was recognized as the Forest Hills Historic District by the National Register of Historic Places in 2007. Records indicate that in 1925, Columbia developer Joseph Walker acquired a “large body of wooded land” — known then as Abney Park — for a residential development of about 285 homes. With its street names inspired by English counties and its planned triangular green spaces of native plants, this subdivision was designed by landscape architect, planner, and conservationist Harlan P. Kelsey of Salem, Massachusetts. Today, his vision is fully realized within the neighborhood’s winding roads, rolling hills, and mature live oak, magnolia, hickory, cedar, and dogwood trees.
The Heart of a Home
The Dukes have called Canterbury Road their home since 1999. The timeless and stately design of their classic house — with its central hall and staircase flanked by a formal living and dining room on either side — allows them to artfully link the past and the present. And with its four bedrooms, three and a half baths, and ample backyard, it was an ideal space to raise their three now-grown children, David, Jr.; Bailey; and Will.
Karen and David met at Clemson University in the 1980s, where he was studying finance and she was studying architecture.
“I’ve always liked to draw,” says Karen. “I took an independent class for mechanical drawing in high school and I just loved it. I chose Clemson because of its architectural program.”
Karen went on to work as an architect with Stevens and Wilkinson before she turned her focus towards raising their three children; David is an attorney with Nelson Mullins and now serves on the board of trustees for Clemson.
When their children were school-aged, the rooms immediately off the kitchen functioned as an area of the house for watching TV, reading books, and doing homework while Karen made dinner.
“I definitely like to cook,” says Karen, pointing to a wall of cookbooks. “I think that’s where my creative juices went after I left architecture.”
Their kitchen was designed with an accomplished cook’s needs in mind but also as a space to enjoy meals as a family. In fact, the kitchen table is paired with an antique church pew from David’s hometown of Johnston, South Carolina, that allows for plenty of flexibility to gather around and eat together.
Karen describes the now open area adjoining their kitchen as formerly a double den with two rooms divided down the middle by a wall with a fireplace and built-in bookcases on either side of the center wall. That living space, which had been added by the previous owners in the 1980s, mirrored the also added-on master suite at the opposite side of the house, maintaining the classic symmetry of the original structure.
Updating a Classic
Once their kids were grown, Karen had the vision to update their double den into a large and open space.
“We renovated the den space about five years ago, breaking through the wall and removing the fireplace,” she says. “Now when the kids are all home, we’re not squeezed into this space or that space. And now when we host book club or other gatherings, people have room to sit and be comfortable.”
With a deep understanding of the architectural integrity of their house, Karen has not made any changes to the footprint of the structure. Instead, her creativity is largely expressed in the furnishings and artwork throughout the home.
Karen’s aesthetic has evolved over the years, and she has lightened and brightened their home to accommodate their ever-growing and changing collection of artwork and books.
For example, in the kitchen, she decided to switch out the former black Uba Tuba granite countertops with all-white marble.
“After a while, I said, ‘This has to go.’ Having dark countertops just divided the room visually,” she says. “This area is a busy space. You’ve got so much visual activity with the art and the books and the green of the yard coming in through the windows that the white just works for me.”
Around the corner from their all-white kitchen is the Dukes’ formal dining room. And while the dining room is, indeed, formal in some regards, its verdant spring-green walls make the room feel anything but stuffy. With its mix of traditional and modern accents and its round table filling the square space, the room is somehow the perfect setting for both casual get-togethers and more formal tea parties.
With the exception of their green-walled dining room, the rest of the walls in the house are white, providing a neutral backdrop for the varying color palettes found in their ever-changing collection of books and art.
“We have to cull our books all the time because my husband reads a lot, and I read a lot,” she says, gesturing towards a wall of built-in shelves in the den. “For instance, those are all of my cookbooks, and those are all of my book club books, and those are mostly his books — we are all out of space for books now. They are all over the house,” she says. Indeed, stacks of books adorn almost every room. Their colorful jackets add a layer of visual interest to the home’s decor, but the books are also ready to be picked up and consulted at any moment.
“The white walls create a space for your eye to rest and so it’s not chaotic,” Karen says. “I like a mix of things — of old and new. My taste is very eclectic. I love an antique bow-front chest intermixed with more modern pieces. I realized a long time ago that if you buy things that you love and that make you happy, you can make it all work together.”
Unofficial Decor Advisor
In addition to trusting her own personal aesthetic and well-honed design instincts, Karen enjoys the many benefits of a long-term friendship with Pamela Plowden Rawson. Pam is a designer with Columbia’s Pulliam Morris Interiors. A professional member of the American Society of Interior Designers for more than 30 years, Pam is best known for interiors that are tailored and architectural, yet lovely and livable — a perfect description of Karen’s home.
“I’m very decisive about things,” says Karen. “Instead of me going to Pam and saying, ‘I don’t know what to do with this room — decorate it for me,’ Pam is great about my saying to her, ‘Here’s what my vision is,’ and her responding, ‘Well, here’s your source for that.’ For instance, in the den, I knew what I wanted furniture-wise, so I told her what I was looking for and she helped me find those things. In other cases, I can say, ‘I found this, what do you think?’ And she tells me.”
Thanks to the longevity of their friendship, Pam knows Karen’s taste and how it has evolved over the years, which means she is a valued sounding board who provides an honest opinion – “that sometimes I override,” says Karen with a laugh.
The Art of Changing
Art is everywhere in Karen’s home, and she not only has an eye for collecting it but also creating it.
When asked about the large piece above her kitchen table, she responds casually, “That big one? Oh, I did that. But I’m not an artist.”
“I try different things and then paint over them,” she says. “Every now and then I’ll pick up a paintbrush and do some kind of art and then I won’t do it for, like, six more years.”
Along the staircase in their central hall, Karen has hung a series of canvases she created on the fly that are textured color studies made with strips of paper. She explains that the space needed it and so she simply made them.
As life has evolved and changed with time, Karen’s home decor and art have changed alongside it with the security of someone who knows herself.
In the privacy of their master bedroom hangs a series of three silhouette-style collage portraits, one for each of her grown children, made from pieces and parts of the many snapshots taken of them over the years. The effect is deeply touching, yet it is also very representative of Karen’s unique gift for creating spaces that artfully assemble the ever-changing colors of their lives. And that gift can be spotted in every corner of her home.