Call it luck, or fate, or a real-life real-estate fairytale: For years, creative director and brand consultant Hanna Seabrook had moved between cities—first Charleston, then Louisville, then back to Charleston—while her husband, Nelson, pursued a career in medicine. All the while, she dreamed of finally settling down in one particular house, a 1924 center-hall Colonial with a stately granite exterior and columned round portico, in Nelson’s hometown of Columbia, South Carolina (the pair are high-school sweethearts). “It belonged to a friend of Nelson’s grandmother, and for years, we’d write to her and tell her where we were in our lives, knowing that we might eventually move back,” says Seabrook. “And maybe six months after we finally did, she decided to sell it. It was Kismet.”
Not long after posting a photo of the empty house in February 2022, she received a message from longtime friend Caitlin Flemming with an enticing proposition. Flemming, a San Francisco–based designer and author, was working on her new book, Sense of Place: Design Inspired by Where We Live (Abrams), and wanted to feature Seabrook’s home; she’d just need to have it photographed by June. “We hadn’t even put a single rug down yet, but I knew I had to say yes,” recalls Seabrook. “So we busted it, which is not at all in my nature—I like to take my time and move slowly. I’m not a pull-a-scheme-out-of-a-box girl. But it ended up being wonderful to have a bit of a push.”
The time-sensitive process was made easier by Seabrook’s ability to distill a flurry of ideas into a concise visual aesthetic. As a branding authority who specializes in the interior design space (she founded her studio, Gadabout Creative, while still in college, and also co-owns the decor and fashion line Parterre with blogger Julia Berolzheimer), “I really enjoy the psychology behind design work and helping people figure out how to articulate why they do what they do,” she explains. She’s also had plenty of practice parsing her own evolving tastes, which she discusses with a remarkable clarity, from her predilection for Swedish antiques (“When I was first discovering what I liked, the coolness of those pieces really felt novel to me”), to her love of “old lady” fabrics (“I like prim, I like feminine, I like tidy”), to her paint preferences (“I don’t like pigments that feel too manmade”).
Like any dedicated aesthete, Seabrook has spent most of her adult life amassing a collection of antiques, family heirlooms, and vintage finds in anticipation of finding a place for them in a future home. By the time she moved to Columbia, she had a storage unit filled with furniture ready to make its debut. “It meant that I was able to focus more on finding things that completed the rooms than building them from scratch,” she says.
At the top of her shopping list was an antique tapestry to hang in the living room. “It took me a minute to find the right one,” she recalls; the winning number (“from a store in Denver, of all places”) was a Belgian Verdure wall hanging in shades of aged yellows, browns, and greens. “The colors have that Bloomsbury quality that I love,” she explains. (The extra-long white linen sofa that now sits below it was also a new addition, custom made to fit the space.) Throughout the house, Seabrook installed natural-fiber rugs—seagrass squares in the foyer, sisal in the living and dining rooms. “I’m a creature of habit—they just make everything very unfussy,” she says. As do the chik blinds in the bedrooms: “The juxtaposition of the casualness with the antiques and florals keeps it youthful to a degree.”
Given the fact that the Seabrooks share their home with two children—Eaddy is seven years old, and Henry is three—and a pair of Cavaliers, there’s the obvious question of how little ones and pets manage to peacefully coexist with antiques and white upholstery. The answer, perhaps surprisingly, has less to do with kid-friendly shortcuts (“I can’t do performance fabrics”) than with instilling a particular ethos. “The fact that some of these items have lived so many different lives and been owned by so many different people before finding their way to us is such a romantic, lovely thought, and it’s been something that’s been easy to explain to my children because there’s a sort of bedtime-story quality to it,” she says. “I want my kids to be able to recognize and respect the craftsmanship that goes into these pieces. And if they’re getting too crazy with an antique chair, I can tell them, ‘Guys, this is older than you and I put together. Calm down.’”
That doesn’t mean she’s not realistic, though: “You have to go into it knowing that something will happen. Always buy extra yardage!”
THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED IN VOLUME 9 OF FREDERIC. CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE!