Robert Highsmith and his wife, Stefanie Brechbuehler—co-founders of the design studio Workstead—split their time between Brooklyn, New York, and Charleston, South Carolina.
Last year, after repurposing the Mendel Rivers Federal Building in Charleston as the Dewberry Hotel, they began exploring a style they’ve since identified as "Southern modernism." Recently, their research and experimentation have culminated thanks to a meticulously restored 1853 Italianate Victorian row house, which they’ve named Workstead House.
In partnership with a New York City–based investor, Workstead House now serves as a pied-à-terre for its owner, and doubles up as an event space for Highsmith and Brechbuehler.
Built in 1853 by the acclaimed architect Sara Smith, the three-story, 5,655-square-foot property is one of four row houses located on Charleston’s iconic Bee’s Row.
During the Civil War, the house belonged to William C. Bee, who used the row houses as storage for goods smuggled through the Union blockade.
Other past owners include builder and industrialist David Lopez Jr., the South Carolina general superintendent during the Civil War, as well as George Trenholm, the man rumored to have inspired the character of Rhett Butler in Margaret Mitchell’s novel Gone with the Wind.
Resembling the brownstones built in Savannah, Boston, and New York during the mid-19th century, these historic row houses are known for their terracotta cast pediments and elaborate interior moldings.
Workstead preserved and restored the building’s original floors, moldings, doors, windows, and stairs, and updated the interiors with stylish modern conveniences, while also respecting its historic bones.
To bring their vision to life for the space, the dynamic duo worked with Gateway Park, Lawson Fenning, Farrow & Ball, Meador's, Urban Electric Co., Holland & Sherry, Croghan's, Moore & Giles, 2 Note Hudson, Tim Hussey, Jeff Holt, Melissa Sutton, Brandon Hinman, Artizom, Le Creuset, Sonos, and The Shelter Collection.
Styled with a carefully curated selection of furniture and accessories that evoke the moody spirit of South Carolina’s Lowcountry—yet still infuse a good dose of modernity—Workstead House sets a new standard for historic home remodels.
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