Peachy recently had a delightful conversation with Charleston native Sarah Hamlin Hastings, owner of Sarah Hamlin Hastings Interiors. She talks about what it’s like to be back in Charleston after living in New York, her growing interior design business and her favorite philanthropy—Charleston Animal Society. Sarah Hamlin also offers insider tips on where to eat, shop and relax.
Are there certain childhood experiences or people who have influenced you?
My mother has always had wonderfully eclectic taste, and when I was young I tagged along with her to antique shows and flea markets. She rented space at one of the local antique malls and I would love to go with her to “spruce the booth.” Each year, my aunt would give me and my siblings a painting or drawing for our birthday. I liked some more than others, but I learned that each one was special and unique. I think that was how I came to appreciate the amazing effect that original art can have on a space.
What was it like growing up in Charleston?
It’s funny, I don’t think I really appreciated how idyllic it was to grow up in the Lowcountry until I left. One of the things about growing up in Charleston that I have really come to appreciate is that the girls were raised to be equally comfortable in chest waders and full duck-hunting camo as we were in our long white gloves and debutante dresses. The fact that my friends and I rode our bike every day to school from the first grade until I got my drivers’ license simply astounds people. But we all did it. We used to read stories from Charleston Ghosts and then play truth or dare in the graveyards of the local churches. On the weekends, we went fishing or waterskiing behind Sullivan’s Island, often getting stuck on a sandbank so we had to wait out the tide. We dutifully went to Cotillion every Wednesday, but looked forward to the East Bay dances at Hazel Parker playground on Friday nights. In many ways it was a very normal childhood, but we just didn’t realize how fabulously different it was from growing up in suburbia.
I left Charleston in 1988 when I went away to school. College led to a job in New York, and the next thing you know more than 20 years had flown by. By this point Matt and I had four young sons and I knew I did not want to raise them so far away from our family. We made the decision to move back to Charleston in 2010. What a difference…the city is abuzz. There is an air of sophistication and a youthful vibe, there’s wonderful food, cutting edge art and boutique shopping. It has enjoyed incredible economic growth, yet due to the diligent efforts of the city officials and organizations such as the Historic Charleston Foundation and the Preservation Society, the city still retains all of its historic charm and culture. And that is no small feat.
What is it like to be an interior designer in Charleston? What is on the horizon for your business?
To be honest, coming from New York, jumping into the interior design business in Charleston was a bit of an adjustment. I was accustomed to having an array of sources, fabric houses and artisans at my fingertips. It is more difficult to get some of those things locally, which in turn makes the design process less efficient. And while online sources are very helpful, the design business is nothing if not tactile. You need to see the color in person and feel the nap of the fabric. That is hard to do on a computer screen! I am in the process now of putting together a retail concept that will help bring an assortment of quality, handmade goods under one roof and creating a place where both designers and retail customers can go to find unique, interesting pieces for their home, garden or even wardrobe. Stay tuned!
What is your favorite place for a quiet dinner with your husband?
When Matt and I head out for date night, our go-to spot is Trattoria Lucca. The food never disappoints and the service is wonderful. But I did just discover a hidden little jewel in a new restaurant called Chez Nous. It is wonderfully authentic French and the menu changes daily.
Trattoria Lucca (photo right)
41 Bogard Street
Chez Nous (photo right)
6 Payne Court
Favorite spot for lunch with friends?
That depends on the occasion! But I do love Xiao Bao Biscuit for casual sit-down service, Brown Dog Deli for something quick, and Magnolias for something a little more upscale. One of my all time favorites is getting a group of girls together for lunch when the St. Philip’s Tea Room is on in May. Everything is homemade. You cannot get a better chicken salad and the desserts are all decadent!
Xiao Bao Biscuit (photo right)
224 Rutledge Avenue
Brown Dog Deli
40 Broad Street
185 East Bay Street
St. Philip’s Tea Room
142 Church Street
What is your favorite weekend getaway?
If it’s to relax and recharge, it is so easy to head out to Kiawah for a night at the Sanctuary. It is so close yet you feel as if you are a world away. But if I want to be inspired, there is nothing better than immersing myself in the pulsating madness of New York City. I go at least twice a year…just because.
The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island Golf Resort
What is your go-to hostess gift?
I love a good bottle of wine but I prefer to give fresh flowers or a nice plant that I will either arrange or re-pot in a vintage vase or planter. It’s fun to collect the vessels and it makes for an interesting and practical gift.
It would be a cross between Audrey Hepburn and Gwen Stefani. Is that weird? And as far as interiors go, I appreciate the same dichotomy: I love the classicism of the likes of Billy Baldwin and Mark Hampton, but I am also drawn to those who dare to push the envelope such as Kelly Wearstler, Miles Redd and Alison Spear.
Favorite place to shop in Charleston?
For antiques and vintage finds, my first stop is John Pope Antiques or Arsenal Designed (depending on what I am in the market for). John has a wonderfully eclectic selection of antique furniture and little curiosities that give a room some personality. Arsenal is a great little shop. It specializes in industrial antiques from Europe. Each piece in the shop seems to have its own wonderful story.
John Pope Antiques (photo above)
180 King Street
38 Windermere Boulevard
What is your favorite app or online shopping place?
House Account is a great app to have to help guide you through shopping in different cities. For antiques or vintage finds, I am an avid eBay shopper and I peruse 1stdibs religiously.
I am fascinated by Asian history and culture. I would love to visit Japan, China, Vietnam or Malaysia one day.
Do you have a favorite blog or publication?
My first job out of college was as an editorial assistant at Elle Décor. I have always loved what it stands for in showcasing homes for not only their beauty, but their authenticity. I also love Garden and Gun for its fresh take on Southern culture. I love National Geographic for no other reason than nostalgia and I can often be found flipping through my husband’s Sports Illustrated. Living with all these boys, I find that keeping up with who is in the NBA playoffs or the top recruits for their beloved SEC football is helpful. It keeps me from being totally in the dark!
What are you reading now?
The Goldfinch by Donna Tart…I love it.
Where do you like to see/interact with art work and the arts? Your favorite local artist?
The art scene in Charleston has always been vibrant. There is something out there for almost every taste: from museums and galleries such as the Gibbes and the Halsey, to festivals such as Spoleto, to several online sources such as Charleston Artist Collective, Show and Tell, and The Art Salon. I strongly believe there is no better investment for the interiors of a home than original art. Don’t buy a piece to “go with your sofa,” buy what you love and you will always find a place for it. There are several local artists whom I think are wildly talented. I love the work of Judy Cox, Anne Keane, Tim Hussey, Jill Hooper and Chris Groves, to name a few. Interestingly, their styles are all very different, but many of them have found pride of place in my own house, as well as several of my clients’.
Gibbes Museum of Art
135 Meeting Street
The Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art (photo above)
161 Calhoun Street
14 George Street
What philanthropies are you passionate about?
I volunteer every week at Charleston Animal Society. I help with walking, feeding and playing with the dogs in the shelter. It is so rewarding and therapeutic for me to be with those sweet animals. It is my reset button every week.
What is something that most people don’t know about you?
When it comes to music, I am a closet metal head. Don’t be surprised if you catch me playing air drums in my car while I am sitting at a red light. I have been busted a few times. It is a little embarrassing!