A 1960s brick ranch in West Ashley’s Old Charles Towne neighborhood gets a cool makeover with a mix of mid-century furnishings and accessories, heirloom pieces, and an eclectic art collection
PHOTO: Mary Tinkler at home in West Ashley with her pups, Cornbread and Moose.
In 2014, Mary Tinkler was craving a house that felt like home. Then a state legislator in the South Carolina House of Representatives, the Charleston native was splitting her time between rental homes here and in Columbia, and neither was particularly welcoming. Not that she had much time to spend relaxing: when she wasn’t penning policy for the people of Charleston and Dorchester counties, Tinkler had a side hustle, working locally as a realtor and property manager—all the while keeping her eyes peeled for a home to call her own.
And so, when a certain 1960s brick ranch in West Ashley went up for sale, the market-savvy Tinkler put a contract together that day. The abode was a fixer-upper, but the location was a perfect fit—within District 114, which she then represented at the state level. What’s more, it was within walking distance of her brother’s and parents’ Old Charles Towne places. (She’s particularly close with her father, former city councilman and downtown attorney Paul Tinkler.) After stints in D.C. and Alabama, she returned to Charleston in 2011 and began managing her dad’s senate race, which wound up launching her own political career. “This is the community I grew up in, and home has a way of drawing you in,” she says.
Though the 1,300-square-foot structure needed work, Tinkler saw potential in the warm hardwood floors and spacious fenced-in backyard, the latter being the perfect spot for her pups, Moose and Cornbread, to romp and play. “The rooms were boxy, almost maze-like, but I was drawn to what could be a large living space between the kitchen, dining, and living rooms,” she adds.
For the next year and half, though, that potential remained untapped, as Tinkler continued to commute to Columbia for her gig as a state rep while simultaneously launching a campaign for Charleston County Treasurer. That campaign became her chief focus, and the results were historic: in 2016, Tinkler became the first female treasurer ever elected in Charleston County.
After long days on the campaign trail, Tinkler didn’t have energy for decorating. “It just didn’t feel like home; spaces were underutilized, there was a lack of furnishings, and the lighting wasn’t right,” Tinkler says. “I love to entertain, but I never wanted to have people over.” The busy Tinkler recognized that it was time to bring in a pro and enlisted pal and area designer Erin Glennon to lead the charge on a reno that would respect the home’s mid-century roots, modernize the layout, and add a dose of vintage glamour.
Glennon’s first task was to open up the floor plan. She took out a wall separating the kitchen from the dining nook and swapped in built-in bookshelves that act as informal partitions while allowing the space to remain visually open. “I’m not a proponent of always having spaces completely open; it’s nice to have individual rooms,” Glennon says. “This was an efficient way to still create that divide.”
Next up, she set about gutting the dated kitchen. Tinkler originally wanted simple Shaker-style cabinets, but to achieve a more glamorous look, Glennon steered her towards cupboards with more modern lines, brass hardware, and a high-gloss white finish. “That led us to the ceramic-copper backsplash, which drove some of the fabric and furniture choices—like the velvety gold dining chairs,” Glennon explains. A found antique table with Federal-style legs and a marble top was reimagined as a kitchen island, while a mid-century light fixture with brass-and-wood accents nods to the home’s history.
From there, Glennon set about outfitting the rest of the residence with furnishings and fixtures from a range of eras, sourcing much from vintage shops and estate sales. A 1950s chandelier found at auction presides over the dining table, while a vintage French coffee table from the 1970s centers the living room. “I incorporated some traditional furniture that Mary liked too, like the pedestal table from Well Furnished and the hutch that was passed down to her.”
The pieces that fill the home are pretty, yet practical. For example, after Glennon scored a beautiful vintage sofa in shades of pink and green in an antiques shop in Florida, she had some of the cushions remade in a fabric better matched to Moose and Cornbread’s tawny fur. “You’re gonna get the shock of your life if you pop up after sitting here with black pants on,” Tinkler quips. “My home is their home.”
Finally, Glennon layered in art, much of which had already been collected by Tinkler over time. Before entering the political arena, she studied art history, interned at the Gibbes and the Brooks Museum in Memphis, and worked at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in D.C. “Many of these works are special to me because I know the artists,” Tinkler says. “Some are imperfect; one piece, made by students of the Corcoran College of Art + Design, was messed up in the printing process. The image is overexposed, but I love how that shows the process of things.” A pair of gold and green abstracts that flank the TV in the living room were picked up by Tinkler’s mom at an area garage sale. “My mom has an incredible eye for art,” she notes. Other works, such as photographs by Tripp Smith and a sweetgrass basket by Mary Jackson, celebrate the Lowcountry Tinkler so loves.
All told, Glennon created a look that’s feminine and eclectic, blending vintage and modern in a way that perfectly suited Tinkler’s varied interests. “I love travel, food, taxes, art, finance; Erin found a way to pull it all together,” she notes.
At the outset, Tinkler told Glennon that she wanted everyone who passed through her front door to feel comfortable—herself included. “I’m certainly a public figure, but I believe work and life should be balanced,” she notes. “Now this space feels like a retreat: it’s so open, it allows me to chop vegetables while I talk to friends at the dining table or spend a quiet night on the couch watching a movie.”
To boot, for this record-shattering politician, a relaxed home environment translates to happier, more efficient days at the Treasurer’s Office. “You can’t do a great job if you don’t have balance, and having this place leaves me feeling much more centered.”