Symmetry is commonly defined as the beauty of form arising from balanced proportions, which alone elicits a sense of harmony and peace. However, symmetry is more than an element of design — it is a predictable structure that carefully contains the chaos of life. It brings order to change and promotes equality and unity, harmony, and peace.
Symmetry was the element that resonated with Gus Herlong when he first laid eyes on his colonial-style Forest Acres house. Not only was the structure perfectly symmetrical with its towering columns and expansive windows, but its style mirrored his childhood home. Gus knew he could both celebrate his past and envision his future in this nostalgic place.
Symmetry may have also been what appealed to Gus when he first met Charlotte. The two share striking similarities. Both of their fathers attended Presbyterian College and joined the same fraternity. Subsequently, they enjoyed mutual friends, vacation spots, and, eventually, a hometown. Their orbit grew closer in college and finally intersected at a mutual friend’s wedding. Gus made his move, got her number, and set the future in motion. In May 2017, Charlotte and Gus went on their first date to a Kentucky Derby party. The following year, the couple was headed to a football game when Gus answered the phone and made his final offer on the place they would later share as their forever home.
The warm wooden floors throughout the house were milled from the Bunches’ 200-year-old farmhouse in Edgefield, as were the bookcases and crown molding. The wood still shows evidence of original nails and pegs used in the 1800s. The painting above the sofa is a treasure of the Herlongs, as the landscape depicts the path around Bass Lake in Blowing Rock where Gus and his maternal grandmother used to walk.
The Preservation of the Past
As the couple stands on their newly landscaped lawn, shadows from old oak and magnolia trees spread across the circular driveway. Each end of the drive is flanked by newly erected pillars and copper gas lanterns that flicker as the sun sets over Forest Acres. Brand new boxwoods and hollies are planted along the home’s perimeter, promising growth and pointing to the perfectly symmetrical entrance.
Just as Charlotte and Gus have deep Southern roots, their home has rich South Carolina history hidden in every corner. The warm wooden floors throughout the house were milled from a 200-year-old farmhouse in Edgefield, as were the bookcases and crown molding. The wood still shows evidence of original nails and pegs used in the 1800s. Additionally, the bricks used to build the home’s exterior and the fireplace were acquired from the 1940s Carolina Theater before it was demolished in 1983 on Main Street. Although Charlotte and Gus have updated the home, these historic features remain untouched. Instead, each renovation has carefully preserved the past.
Every room contains pieces of furniture from Charlotte’s and Gus’ families. The dining room features Gus’ great-grandmother’s buffet, dining table, and silver chest. Oriental rugs passed down for generations extend from one room to the next as framed Audubon Havell edition prints from his family perch in pictures on the walls. The formal living room is a celebration of symmetry, as each piece sits across from its pair.
Wide stairs with white spindles extend to the second floor, leading to the master suite, three additional bedrooms, and a playroom staged for guests until the day it is filled with little Herlongs. Each piece of furniture has a story, and each person who gave it is dear to Charlotte and Gus.
The Promise of Progress
The Herlongs are quick to invite guests into their favorite room in the house — the den. The room revolves around the brick fireplace and a giant wooden hippo named Happy. Charlotte and Gus exchange broad smiles as they recall a trip to Debordieu Island, where they discovered the massive wood carving in a local shop within the Georgetown Historic District. “I love home decor,” says Charlotte. “I don’t want exactly what everyone else has. I like to add something different.” Gus made a special trip to and from the beach to bring Happy home. And although Charlotte isn’t confident the den is where Happy will stay, Gus is sure he is heavy enough to remain there for the foreseeable future.
In addition to Happy, the den features a bar, a basket wall, and two identical burnt orange chairs representative of Gus’ favorite college football team. A clawfoot breakfast table that once belonged to Gus’ great-great-grandparents is in the corner next to a built-in bookcase. The room is the heart of the home, where conversations are shared and dreams are formed.
“The den is where we spend all our time,” says Charlotte. “But I think the patio will end up being our favorite spot in the house.” Their most extensive renovation to date, an expansive covered patio through the den’s French doors invites conversations to continue outside under the Carolina sky. Guests can sit or swing around an outdoor fire while taking in the aroma of whatever Gus grills for dinner in his Big Green Egg.
The patio was designed around Charlotte’s desire for a Charleston-style swing from Nate & Lane and a permanent place for Gus’ grill. But the most striking feature is a massive 109-inch table constructed from an old water oak removed from the Governor’s Mansion grounds. The couple imagines entertaining family and friends for generations, making memories over meals on this monumental piece. It’s an extraordinary example of the Herlongs’ appreciation for the past partnered with their plans for the future.
Long timelines seem to be a hallmark of any house project, and the patio renovation took considerably longer than anticipated — a year and a half. But the Herlongs admit that it was worth the wait. Charlotte can enjoy the fireflies in the evening from her Charleston swing just in time for summer.
The First Project
If the den is the heart of the home, then the master suite is the soul. It is the space where Charlotte and Gus explored their style and began their first renovation. The master bedroom’s centerpiece is a king-size four-poster bed that the couple purchased from Verve in Columbia. “It’s got our own flair,” says Gus.
Cream and white neutrals are intentionally interrupted by green and blue fabrics on the bed. A golden chaise lounge resides in the corner of the room. “Our house has a lot of dark furniture,” says Charlotte. “So, I added pops of color to brighten it up.”
Charlotte beams as she approaches the master bath. It was their first project and the greatest infusion of her personality in the home. “People thought we were a little crazy when we decided to renovate the master bath right after we first married,” says Charlotte. Practically everything was gutted and given new life. The wall separating the bedroom and the bathroom was extended by several feet, opening possibilities and potential. A porcelain pedestal tub sits beside a custom floral tile wall while a crystal light fixture hangs above the entryway, mimicking the floral tiles. His and hers walk-in showers were installed on either end of the bathroom, and built-in cabinets surround his and hers sinks, providing ample storage above marble countertops.
Golden flower sconces illuminate the space and shine with Charlotte’s personality. “We wanted some fun lighting,” she says. “Once I saw them, we knew they had to go in the bathroom.” The symmetrical design in this renovation was no accident. “I love symmetry,” says Charlotte. “I think it’s because I like structure and things to be organized.”
The Way of Renovation
The process of renovation brings Charlotte and Gus a satisfying sense of partnership. “We like projects, and I love design,” says Charlotte. Gus quickly agrees. “Taking something old that has good bones and making it something new is pretty cool to see unfold.”
Completing the master bathroom gave them the courage to begin reconstructing the patio. Next, the couple aspires to update the kitchen. First, however, they both admit they would appreciate a break. And although they acknowledge that renovations are not for everyone, the process has given them the ability to preserve the past and celebrate the future in their own unique ways.
The Herlongs have discovered that renovation is more than a project — it is a posture toward potential. It has allowed them to appreciate the past and prepare for the future in practical ways. Although the timeline may face challenge along the way, the chaos can be contained as long as they share peace in their partnership and consistent promotion of unity. The Herlongs know that a bit of symmetry goes a long way.