ADAC is celebrating 30 years of Veranda magazine with a special installation of the seasonal Behind the Windows series, in which designers turn a vignette into a stylish room to showcase their talent and the furnishings offered at the design center.
Amelia Handegan, the owner of Amelia T. Handegan Interior Design in Charleston, S.C., created a vignette using an unexpected color palette that is intriguing and cozy. She talked to the AJT about her new book, “Rooms,” and about being a member of the Jewish Historical Society of South Carolina.
AJT: You used pink in your Behind the Windows vignette. Most people shy away from pink in their home. What was your idea behind the pink?
Handegan: I think that pink right now is a popular color. But I don’t like it being a saccharine color, so it’s paired with a dark brown … so it turns into more of a neutral. We have a little lavender, sea grass and a striped rug. So we bring the pink down from being sweet.
AJT: Is this in line with your style, or did you take a risk because it’s a vignette and you can show off?
Handegan: I think it’s very much in keeping with my style. I think the dark brown is driven a little bit for drama because it is a window, and the laser-cut panels we have on each end were also done to create an intimacy. So we didn’t have this one big glass to look through, so you see through it as two panels. Instead of putting up curtains, we put laser-cut panels that you see through to the room.
AJT: Tell me about the animal print.
Handegan: It’s actually a jaguar. It’s silk velvet from Clarence House. A little bit of that in every room looks good. We do love that one silk velvet from Clarence House, and we use it in small bits, like chair bottoms or pillows, that you see in the room.
AJT: The room is quite dark. Is dark your style?
Handegan: I do like drama, so that’s a part of it. I do tend to study houses and the light they give, and sometimes they call for light, and sometimes they call for dark.
AJT: Tell me about the pieces in the room.
Handegan: On one side of the room we have a regency table, and the other side a new Rose Harlow table, so one is old and one is new. In the other room, there is a console from 1840s England from Travis Showroom. We needed the reflection of the mirror there too. A lot of rooms have that setup with seating and maybe a piece of furniture with mirror. The candles are down there too, and striking a match would cause a reflection, so the mirror is part of the reflection in the room.
AJT: How do you go about designing a room? Where do you start?
Handegan: For me personally, design is a lot of intuition, but I backed it up with the study of history, art history and color theory. Those are things you don’t think about on a daily basis, but they come to you in ways like painting the dark walls for the contrast to the pink. I just believe in intuition with interior design, and I think when you’re intuitive about it, it comes fairly easy.
AJT: You’re from South Carolina, so what made you want to be involved in ADAC?
Handegan: I’ve been working in design for 35 years, and it was a special time because it was the 30th anniversary of Veranda, and they called and asked if I would do a window, and I’ve never done a window before, so I did it for that reason. It’s a bit of challenge, coming from Charleston and pulling from all the showrooms to put it together, but I like a challenge, and I was honored to be asked to be a part of it.
AJT: You’re a member of the South Carolina Jewish Historical Society. Tell me about that.
Handegan: It comes from a point of history. My husband is Jewish, and he really got me involved in that. I grew up in a small town and had Jewish friends going to school, even though we had a population of 2,000 people in my town. I think that being involved with John, my husband, in the historical society is fascinating. It’s history. Charleston alone had one of the biggest Jewish populations, bigger than New York and anywhere in the Northeast, in the 1800s, and so we found all these Jewish people and all their stories in all these little towns in South Carolina. For me to be a part of that, I get to learn about that and how it’s all woven into the fabric of the history of South Carolina.
AJT: What do you find most fascinating about the Jewish history of South Carolina?
Handegan: You think of it as being a small population, but what I’ve come to understand is it’s diverse, and the Jewish population has always offered so much to the community. A lot of places in Charleston, particularly some of the old stores, still have the names of the original Jewish merchants. I’m right around the corner from Bluestein’s. Bluestein’s has been there since the 1800s, and the sign is hanging in the design district, where they’re still selling clothing. All up and down the street in Charleston there were Jewish merchants, and even in my small town the pharmacist was Jewish and the dry-goods owner was Jewish. So we’re talking about a population of 2,000 people, and the pharmacist and many of the merchants were Jewish.
AJT: It’s the quintessential Jewish story.
Handegan: Yes, it is.
AJT: Tell me about your new book, “Rooms.”
Handegan: Some of the projects in the book come from 18 years ago, and some are from the present. My book is traditional but paired down with modern touches. The inspiration is to show what I’ve done over the 18 years with photographs. I hope people can look at the book and look at the photos from 18 year ago and two years ago and not know which was done when, so I think it does that. I use a lot of murals in my work, and I use painters to do that, so pages show creativity as the chapters open.
AJT: What are three things you think people should have in their home when they’re starting an interior design project?
Handegan: As an interior designer, you hope it’s an empty house. If it’s not, you hope they have some treasures that mean a lot to them and that they find value in because those make it home. Frankly, you’re hoping it’s something they value, but you think it’s great. I think personal items are important. Secondly, they should have a sense of being open-minded and looking at different options and seeing how their house can change by using an interior designer to help them see beyond what they have always had. Lastly, they should have a sense of humor — and a check.