They didn’t want another ‘project’. Then they saw the Charleston House.

For years, Julie and Rowan Taylor dreamed of what it would be like to live in Charleston, SC. to live

“We first came in 2005 – long weekend, no kids,” said Mr. Taylor, 54, the managing partner of a private equity firm. “And fell in love.”

After that, they frequented the city from their home in New Canaan, Conn., and their admiration for the beautifully weathered buildings, towering palms, and sprawling oak trees—as well as the thumping urban heart—only grew.

Credit…Hunter McRae for The New York Times

But Mr. Taylor worked for a company in New York City, and the couple had three daughters who had their own friends and routines, so a move didn’t seem realistic.

As the years passed, their daughters moved and Mr. Taylor started his own company, so the idea started to feel less far-fetched. They’d welcomed a fourth daughter into their family in the meantime — Pippa, now 10 — but a move still seemed manageable. So in 2016, on a flight to Charleston, Mr. Taylor to search real estate on his iPad.

“He leaned over on the plane and said, ‘Look at this house,’” said Ms. Taylor, 54. “I said, ‘We’ve never been to a house like this. Would you like to go and see?’”

He did. And after touring a few houses, Mr. Taylor raised the bar. “He said, ‘Which one do you like best?'” said Mrs. Taylor. “He called my bluff.”

They chose a home, made an offer, and began to envision life in their new home—until the deal fell apart. But then it was too late to return.

“Over the next few months, we made this decision that, you know what, we’re going to do this,” said Ms. Taylor.

They looked at more houses as they consulted with Eddie Fava, of the Charleston firm of EE Fava Architects. Ms. Taylor was a game for buying a home in need of some cosmetic updates, though after a full renovation in Connecticut, she set a guiding principle for their search: “I didn’t want a project,” she said.

But that was before Mr. Taylor fell for a stately 1788 federal home in the South of Broad borough. The house was 8,130 square feet, with expansive rooms and a private walled yard. But it needed a thorough restoration and modernization, which they wanted to avoid. Still, Mr. Taylor couldn’t get the house out of his head, so he asked Mr. Fava to take a look.

Mr. Fava returned with a glowing report: “I said, ‘It’s everything you don’t want to do, but it will definitely be all you want to do.’ I said, ‘It’s the big project. It’s going to be a lot more than you thought, but you’ll be as happy as it can be when it’s done.’”

The Taylors swallowed hard and bought the house in January 2017 for $5.35 million. They then moved to a rental property down the street and began the long process of reviving the home with Mr. Fava, Betsy Berry, an interior decorator, and Sheila Wertimer, a landscape architect and partner of Wertimer & Cline.

Although the project involved a major renovation, the design team planned to preserve the character of the house while taking it into the 21st century with modern systems and spaces, including rooms for watching TV and working from home.

“I believe you can have the best of both worlds in these types of houses, if they are carefully put together,” said Mr. Fava. “It doesn’t have to be a museum house.”

They removed and kept the original doors, moldings and panels so that they could be copied and replaced if necessary. They restored the existing floors with matching pieces of antique heart pine and restored the stairs.

Mr Fava has also made significant architectural changes, including removing the floors of a connected former coach house to create a new double-height family room on the ground floor, with a large dressing room connected to the primary suite above.

Mrs. Berry was equally intent on mixing new with old. “This was my dream project because the history of the house is so amazing,” she said. “What I like to do is respect and honor that age, but also bring a new youthful feel and modern touches to give it more life and spirit.”

In the entryway and in a porch, she had the pine floors painted with a decorative pattern, then sanded and planed to evoke a sense of age. In the dining room, which is furnished with a mix of antiques and custom contemporary pieces, she covered the walls with custom hand-painted Gracie scenic wallpaper and hung a Lindsey Adelman Branching Bubble chandelier from the ceiling.

In the living room, where she hung a 1950s Fontana Arte chandelier from the center of an ornate ceiling medallion, she suggested painting the walls and was surprised when Mrs. Taylor urged her to use a bold raspberry shade.

“I had originally shown her a safer color, but she said, ‘No, I want color. I want it to be bold,’ said Mrs. Berry. “It was scary for me, but that room turned out beautiful.”

After two years of design and construction, and over $4 million, the project the Taylors had been reluctant to take on was finally completed. Just before the family moved in, towards the end of December 2019: “We packed everything in their closets, made the beds and decorated them for Christmas,” said Mrs. Berry. “We had all the fires on and Christmas music.”

She added: “We walked around the house with all their daughters and then we went to the salon. And Julie and I cried and hugged.”

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