Island Beat: A Celebration In Bohemian Style

When Charleston design maven Cortney Bishop attended a cocktail party in an historic Sullivan’s Island home in 2003, she knew fate was at play.

Drawn in by its colorful heritage, Bishop moved her family from Knoxville to their new coastal abode that she calls “a true island home.” Built in 1886 and listed on Charleston’s historic register, the 4,300-square-foot, five-bedroom residence retains the romance of South Carolina’s traditional Lowcountry charm: wide wraparound porches, tall windows and wooden shutters, peeking out from behind a crisp white picket fence. “A few years back, we were given an old black-and-white photo of a woman sweeping the porch in a cotton hoop skirt,” recalls Bishop. “Sadly, there are few homes left on the island like ours.”

With a young family to raise, Bishop looked to create a comfortable, laid-back space that was anything but formal. “The goal was less decorated, more collected,” she tells us. “The home constantly has kids and friends running in and out of the house – there is no room for formalities.” To that end, the interior integrates a playful mix of pieces and styles – lighthearted and not overly curated.

“The greatest consideration is that my home style’s not overly represented by one aesthetic,” notes Bishop, dubbing the overall approach “island bohemian.” “It’s pretty carefree and no-fuss.”

Lots of textural layering adds interest and dimension to a soft-hued base palette: seagrass wallpaper, wood accents and original pine floors that speak to the home’s age. An eclectic collection of art, family heirlooms, vintage finds, and modern pieces rounds out the island boho feel.

“I am a tried and true antique hunter,” comments the designer. “My husband and I have also been collecting art since we married in 2000, so each piece has special meaning to us. We try to invest in a really strong piece each year with the intention of gifting them to our two children, Ryder and Lucy, someday.”

Visitors enter the home from the second-floor porch doors, which open into the 11-foot-ceiling living room brimming with personality. Simple furniture shapes are sparked with many of the couple’s favorite modern art pieces and unexpected collectibles, such as the antique grandfather clock by the doorway or the vivid blue entryway rug, handpicked by Bishop in Morocco. A former back porch was remade into a warm and functional galley kitchen, with windows overlooking the yard’s Japanese maple trees. In the dining room, grasscloth wallpaper, vintage buttercup-yellow chairs and Farrow & Ball Inchrya Blue painted shelves displaying family photos and memorabilia add a splash of colorful character. “I’ll forever love looking at these shelves,” Bishop shares. “It’s the one room in my house that you can really “meet” our family story.”

An interplay of found treasures old and new is a continued theme in the bedrooms: “Old World modern” style defines the master; while her teenage son Ryder’s room is a “cool and modern” testament to mixing fresh youthful pieces with keepsakes passed down from family. Her daughter Lucy, the designer tells us, is a collector just like Bishop herself – with a style to match. “I wanted her room to feel full of energy, and spunk,” quips Bishop, recalling surprising her daughter one Christmas with her queen Hope bed: “Its classic, soft lines are timeless, and I hope she’ll dig it forever.”

A music center anchored by a handcrafted console table with a built-in stereo system and record player celebrates the couple’s shared passion. “My husband and I have always been mad music lovers,” Bishop admits. “I saw the first record console prototype years ago and begged them to let me purchase it for my husband’s 40th birthday.” In the spirit of southern hospitality, the classic wraparound front porch outside invites easy hangouts with friends and family.

“All are welcome,” proclaims Bishop, adding, “We love keeping the beautiful French doors open in the spring and fall and playing our favorite records; our doors are always open!”

Photography by Katie Charlotte.

This story originally ran in the ASPIRE DESIGN AND HOME Magazine Summer issue. See full imagery of the project with a subscription to the magazine.

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