Southeast designers marry history and interior design with vignettes at the Aiken-Rhett House

Local News

Tami Ramsay and Krista Nye Nicholas of Cloth & Kind

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD)- Seven designers from across the Southeast have installed vignettes in the historic Aiken-Rhett House in Downtown Charleston.

Exterior of the Aiken-Rhett House

The displays are part of a larger event called ‘Illumination Charleston,‘ which is described as “a weekend of inspired design, Southern culture, and holiday décor in Charleston, SC.” sponsored by Southern Living in partnership with the Historic Charleston Foundation.

Over the past several months, designers have been preparing their vignette designs which are inspired by the history and culture of Charleston.

A vignette is a grouping of objects, usually comprised of homewares pieces, but might also feature flowers and other natural elements, art, craft objects, and other mementos. Each designer was designated a room in the Aiken-Rhett House in which to create their vignette.

Tami Ramsay and Krista Nye Nicholas of Cloth & Kind said their Parlor vignette was designed in homage to Dorcas Richardson, one of the enslaved women who spent much of her life serving the Aiken-Rhett family.

The sign outside the Cloth & Kind display reads in part:

‘From the few historical records available, Dorcas embodied all of the characteristics of a woman we admire- nurturing, resilient, and compassionate. Dorcas was not ultimately defined by her enslavement. Her legacy is that of a multifaceted, admirable, intelligent woman– a daughter, a friend, a leader, an entrepreneurial business owner, and a humanitarian.’

Nicholas said the spirit of Dorcas Richardson was at the forefront of their minds and described it as “a current that ran through us as we were designing.”

For Ramsay and Nicholas, highlighting the Aiken-Rhett House’s involvement in a “dark period of history” was of particular importance.

“It felt very important to us to recognize and acknowledge the history of this house,” Ramsey said. “We felt it incumbent upon ourselves to research about the house, the people who lived here, and especially the enslaved people.”

The designers said they picked pieces that drew upon the culture and iconic imagery of the Lowcountry, including palmetto trees and traditional woven floor matting.

“We’ve been working with this Charleston theme of having references to palms and palmettos and so some of the shapes that are on the lampshade, in addition to the piece over the mantle, really reference some of that,” Ramsay said. “The colors very much reflect the coast, the ocean, and the beach.”

Other designers who installed vignettes include Tammy Connor, Jane Scott Hodges, Jenny Keenan, Amanda Lindroth, Canaan Marshall, and Jason Reeves.

The displays can be viewed Friday and Saturday at the Aiken-Rhett House. Tickets can be purchased on the ‘Illumination Charleston’ website.

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