My House: A Fashion Designer Adds a Dash of Parisian Flair to Her Charleston Apartment

My House: A Fashion Designer Adds a Dash of Parisian Flair to Her Charleston Apartment

By Jen Woo
Amanda Greeley recounts her return from New York City to the coastal, creative enclave of Charleston, South Carolina.

Attending an all-girls school in Columbus, Ohio, from first to eighth grade made a huge impact on Amanda Greeley, founder of high-end loafer brand Thelma. "I was truly lucky to grow up in an environment where I never questioned the idea that women make great leaders," says Amanda. "Female leaders were everywhere I looked."

Founder and CEO of luxury loafer brand Thelma, Amanda Greeley.

Following college, she moved to New York for a job in merchandising. A few years in, she launched Tink + Tiger, a U.S.-made pajama line that taught her about sourcing fabric, pattern-making, and navigating the Garment District. She was young and inspired, soaking up all the facets of what it takes to develop a brand. It was then that she decided to move back home to Charleston, South Carolina, which was experiencing a renaissance in 2013. 

"I craved a little more space and loved the idea of being closer to the ocean," she says. "The Charleston economy is made up of a lot of small businesses, so it was a good place to get some experience doing freelance work for others."

Ocean hues run throughout Amanda’s home. The apartment she shares with her husband is nestled in the heart of downtown Charleston, a few blocks from Colonial Lake. 

By 2016, Amanda—who also designs for the minimalist underwear line CUUP—was ready for something new. The resulting Thelma loafer, which comes with a wood-block heel and in a variety of candy colors, is what she calls a "power-shoe—the perfect balance of masculine and feminine."

"I definitely like to mix modern with traditional and am also a sucker for some rattan or caning to add a dose of a coastal feeling," says Amanda.

The same foresight and initiative led Amanda to find her current apartment in downtown Charleston: she’d known the landlord for years and had been eyeing the building, so when she saw it pop up on Craigslist, she jumped on it. 

"In our living room, we have a fairly large abstract piece from Sally King Benedict that was gifted from her years ago," says Amanda.

"I suppose the parallels across all areas of my life, aesthetically, are that I like things to feel put-together, but also easy and comfortable," says Amanda. "I hate feeling like I’m trying too hard. Any time I try too hard to do anything, I end up feeling less like myself." This is absolutely reflected in the apartment she shares with her husband—it’s elegant, yet effortless. 

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"I tend to keep the color palette pretty simple—whites, neutrals, with some black and blues. I like to layer textures to create a space that feels clean, cozy, and calming," says Amanda. An indigo dyed blanket from Mali adds texture atop Serena & Lily bedding in the bedroom.

"I love that it has some really glamorous bones," says Amanda. The home benefits from 12-foot ceilings; two fireplaces; and old, wood floors in the living room and bedroom. "I also like that the whole thing has a bit of a patina, so nothing feels too perfect. The floors are already scratched, the paint on the moulding is a little lumpy in places from God-knows-how-many layers of paint. But then, in terms of contents, it’s fairly laid-back—a deep, low, comfy linen couch; neutral rugs."

"A big part of the reason I sought out the apartment we live in now was due to its amazing bones and architectural details," says Amanda. "The 12-foot ceilings, French doors, and fireplaces that date back to the late 1800s feel like a little dose of Paris in Charleston."

How do you balance your time between running Thelma and being a designer at CUUP?

Amanda: That is the question. I don’t know if I’m that good at it, honestly, but I try. The truth is, any given week is often more consumed by one thing than another. I don’t know if I’ll work this way forever, but the best I can say is that I try to tackle whatever needs the most attention. And, because I don’t live in New York and the Cuup team is growing, my role there has evolved a bit. I’m starting to work on tackling some longer-term special projects. 

Since 12-foot curtains are hard to come by, Amanda purchased sheer, white, linen drapes from Restoration Hardware and sewed on a foot of gray fringe that she found on Etsy.

How do you split your time between Charleston and NYC? Since you’re on the move so much, are there elements of your house that you feel are necessary to make it really feel like home?

It’s funny to answer this right now since I haven’t gone to New York since late February. I don’t have a place there, but for most of the past few years, I have gone to NYC every four to six weeks, and it really felt like a routine. I would either stay with friends, or at one of two hotels. I have my New York routine down—I take the same flights, stay at the same places, etc. 

As for making a house a home, we won’t be in this apartment forever. I do think I’m excited about, some day, making a space truly feel like home. This mainly means having a kitchen and a bathroom I love. For now, I sort of love living in a smaller space without a lot of clutter. It feels easy. 

"I have some small paintings from an Artist named Barbara Irwin," says Amanda. "Currently a ship on our bedroom mantel, and a whale above our bed. A few years ago I purchased France & Son’s take on a Jeanneret chair. You see them a lot of places now, but I still love it."

How long have you lived in your apartment, and has it changed over time? 

We’ve lived there for a couple years. I put a fresh coat of paint on everything when we moved in. That is always a quick way to make a space feel fresh. Because it is relatively small, I try to regularly get rid of things we no longer need. For example, if books are piling up on our shelves that we’ve read, I’ll donate a stack. We did upgrade our porch a bit just as COVID-19 was emerging. We got a loveseat and small outdoor rug to give us a cozier nook outside. We’ve basically lived on our porch all spring, so that was a good investment.

"We've got a growing record collection," describes Amanda. "I picked up some fun old jazz and funk albums while traveling in Rome last summer. I also look for the original printings of classics from the likes of Fleetwood Mac, Prince, Phil Collins....You can usually find them for about $20 on eBay."

How would you describe your style?

If I had to describe the vibe, it’s sort of classic Paris apartment meets laid-back coastal. I paired some traditional elements, like vintage brass candlesticks or an alabaster lamp, with softer things—like a linen couch and linen bedding and a big, shibori-dyed blanket from Mali.

Amanda and her husband have been spending most of their time on the porch, relaxing, working, and tending to their herb and vegetable garden. "We've got a ledge that's over a foot wide and currently has tomatoes, basil, peppers, a small lime tree, Meyer lemons, parsley, and sage," she says.

What was on your checklist when designing your home?

I mainly filled this home with things I had before moving in. I seriously can’t wait to tackle a space from scratch some day. I love lighting. So, it’s been challenging not to change out ceiling fans and kitchen and bathroom lights. I like to invest in the big pieces: the couch, our bed. For a smaller space especially, I like to set a color palette and live in it. I actually think it can make the space seem bigger. Here, it’s a lot of whites and neutrals with pops of blue and black. I also love to bring the outdoors in with plants— though admittedly, my husband is much better at keeping them alive than I am. 

Vintage items complement contemporary pieces like a coffee table from West Elm and lighting from Rejuvenation.

Any standout parts of the house that are particularly special to you? 

I absolutely love our bedroom. Wherever we live next will likely be nicer in some ways, but it’s going to be hard to top this bedroom. At night, the westward-facing windows often are full of pink sunsets or vibrant, blue skies. Because we are higher than any of our neighbors, we often have great views of the stars at night, and rooftops in the morning. It’s special to be woken up by sunlight peeking through French doors. And the porch—especially as we have been stuck at home this spring, having the porch has made us feel like we have our own little slice of paradise.

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