The sublime interiors of Charleston, South Carolina designer Amelia T. Handegan offer rich lessons on how to design glamorous rooms with oriental rugs and antique furniture. The play of light on Handegan’s lusciously colored walls, weathered antiques and subtle oriental rugs remind me of Vermeer paintings. Here are five key lessons:
Enhance antique furniture by pairing it with the right oriental rug
Add energy and movement with one or two accent colors that create pop
Create a young look by juxtaposing fresh and antique colors
Unify the room and pull together all the elements with a well-chosen oriental rugs
Create a collected, not decorated look by avoiding color matching
1. “I was playing with blocks of color, pulling the bronze gold-green out of the rug and putting it on the walls,” Amelia Handegan told House Beautiful, “The dark Jamaican furniture looks good against the green and makes my Low Country plantation-style house feel like it’s in Barbados. But it wouldn’t have worked without the blocks of deep, rosy pink on the chairs. They energize the room.”
Valencia Oriental Rug 6024GD has a gold, yellow, white and taupe damask pattern inspired by an 17th-century Spanish rug. Rug Design © Asmara, Inc.
2. In the large central hall Handegan painted the walls yellowish-green to bring out the beauty of 19th century French lithographs and a painting of Rio de Janiero harbor. Handegan chose a greenish-brown and cream damask rug to ground the 18th-century Italian bench and added contrast with white wainscoting, trim and ceiling. Gold pillows create pop.
3. In Rose Hill, a historic Virginia estate, Handegan created a serene and stately library with creams, beiges and golds and pops of red for energy and warmth. The antique Ghiordes oriental rug contains all the colors used on the walls and fabrics and unifies the entire scheme.
3a. A fuller view of the library shows how Handegan added warmth and energy by distribiting red accents throughout the room. Red books, pillows and chair seats resonate with the red accents in the Oriental rug. Handegan designed the shelves which hold books that have belonged to Rose Hill for nearly two centuries.
4. Handegan created a light filled center hall in Rose Hill by painting the walls a golden-beige and adding contrast with white wood trim and ceiling and anchoring everything with a cream Oushak rug with beige and gold accents.
5. Handegan created a sunny and elegant guest room in Rose Hill guest room with creamy-yellow walls and a large scenic 19th-century French gouache placed at the head of an 1830’s mahogany four-poster bed. The beige, taupe and slate Oriental rug resonates with the taupe bed skirt and bench.
6. Rose Hill’s entry makes an elegant impression with dark toned antique furniture set against golden-green walls. A pale Oushak rug, white wainscoting and white ceiling create a light-filled look.
7. Juxtaposing red upholstery against deep honey colored wood panels creates a warm club-like atmosphere in the living room of a 1750’s Charleston house. Blue pillows add pop and a red and blue Heriz Oriental rug unifies the whole scheme.
8. The master bedroom in the 1750’s Charleston house is given a warm and stately look with wood paneled walls complemented by red silk drapes and red and pale blue Oushak rug. Cream, yellow and gold accents create a sunny glow.
9. A living room in a mountain retreat feels both sophisticated and rustic because the oriental rugs are placed on a rough sisal rug. A 19th-century French gouache landscape is juxtaposed with a rustic ceiling. Green walls highlight the dark antique furniture. Red and yellow accents create pop.
10. An entry hall and stairs in a Kiawah Island, South Carolina home show how to pair mismatched
Oriental rugs and create a sophisticated un-decorated look.
11. The play of light and sophisticated colors of this Kiawah Island bedroom reminds us of a Vermeer painting. Handegan achieved a painterly look by juxtaposing fresh and antique colors and pulling them together with a pale rose and cream Oushak rug.
12. A gold and brown oriental rug placed on top of a sisal rug anchors an Empire daybed. Red and yellow fabrics create pop in a sitting room in the Kiawah Island home.
13. A bath in the Kiawah Island home.
14. A red and brown antique oriental rug placed on top of a plain cream rug pulls together red antique bed throw, white upholstered chair and an 18th-century painted drop-front desk which shows centuries of wear.
15. The living room’s yellow walls reminiscent of Nancy Lancaster and John Fowler frame the foyer’s black and white marble floors. A gold Oushak rug sits on top of a plain cream rug and provides the perfect backdrop for a black and gold Chinoiserie bureau and chair. The red chair seat adds pop.
16. Handegan created a sublime living room with cream, rose, peach and pale yellow in a 1796 Charleston home. Two large dark brown pillows resonate with a Elizabethan portrait and blue upholstered stools add pop. A cream and beige Oushak rug pulls everything together.
17. Handegan’s cool and chic bedroom in the 1796 Charleston house relies on the contrast between pale lavender walls and peach silk pillows and bed cover. A blue and white pillow pops against a white sofa and cream rug. White bookcases provide a calm backdrop.
18. In a Kiawah Island river house a green and red Directoire Aubusson rug on top of a cream rug anchors a rose upholstered chair, black four poster bed and a 19th-century French screen with gouache panels. White bed linen and white ceilings add crispness and cream wall add to the layered effect.
19. The Guitar Player by Johannes Vermeer, Oil on canvas c. 1670-1672
Images courtesy of Architectural Digest, Amelia T. Handegan, House Beautiful and Kenwood House English Heritage.