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A Conversation on Preservation

Every Spring, the Historic Charleston Foundation hosts the Charleston Antiques Show, a four-day event showcasing English, European and American furnishings from the 17th- to mid-20th Century, decorative and fine art, architectural elements, garden furniture, vintage jewelry, silver and more. The show is a premier destination for collectors and enthusiasts who enjoy seeing and learning about incorporating antiques into modern-day decor. 

As the presenting sponsor of the show, we hosted a panel discussion last Thursday, March 5, at our own historic building—Building 45, the newest addition to the Urban Electric campus inside of the old naval base in North Charleston. The theme of the discussion was Preservation by Location, a topic that not only picked up a thread we began to unravel during last year’s panel but that also gave voice to some of our favorite experts in the field who will be featured in the upcoming edition of The Current, our annual publication. Interior Designers Madeline Stuart, Tim Campbell and Ceara Donnelley shared their perspectives on the places that have come to shape their approaches to preservation, while Historic Charleston Foundation President Winslow Hastie weighed in on the civic and cultural complexities that come with working within protected and/or historically significant spaces. 

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The conversation was lively and nuanced. After all, when it comes to preservation, it’s all about location—a crucial and central factor that impacts everything. Local architecture and design traditions must be considered. City-specific ordinances and legal guidelines can directly affect (and in some cases predetermine) a project’s scope and scale. Environmental protection, changing landscapes, property-specific requirements and historic designations present additional levels of oversight. Even the act of preservation itself is subject to whichever approach prevails in a given destination. Beyond that, there are the less defined elements that vary by designer and project—the historic and cultural significance of a structure, for instance, or community backlash. In other words, though the location of a preservation project may be fixed, the design experience is anything but, something our panelists had more than their allotted hour’s worth of time to discuss.

Whether it was Madeline, a native of Los Angeles, lamenting the considerable loss of Bel Air and Beverly Hills’ 1930s and 40s architecture, Tim sharing his joy at reimagining a portion of Ernest Hemingway’s final home as a modern-day artist retreat, Ceara reflecting on her family’s legacy of conservation and aesthetic vision or Winslow bringing home the larger debates raging in the world of historic preservation from an advocacy perspective, the connective tissue was deep passion and a level of insight that will no doubt inform and inspire next year’s panel.

Click here to watch the full panel on IGTV.