The Fireworks are Free
Photo by JAY BROWNE
By Katherine Pettit, Columbia Living Magazine
Liz Harbison had two big surprises after moving into a new TownPark townhome. The lifelong Columbia resident and USC graduate knew she’d be close to the Vista, her favorite restaurants, her church, and the University of South Carolina campus. And she was downsizing by design. With her three children grown and the recent loss of her husband, Will Harbison, a Pensacola native and Columbia attorney, it seemed smart to consider the next phase of her life and what it would look like. Less maintenance for sure. A smaller footprint to make homeownership less demanding. Amenities nearby. TownPark, in the BullStreet District, checked all those boxes and more.
But it wasn’t until she actually moved in and spent her first winter, spring, and summer in the house that she realized how very safe she felt here. “I quickly met my neighbors, and they are lovely, caring people,” she said. “The property is well structured for getting around.” The homes on her street are easily accessible, with owners who range from young professionals to families, empty nesters, and retirees. Everyone looks out for everyone else.
The second surprise was quite unexpected. “The fireworks in the summer at Segra Park, when the Fireflies play baseball, are beautiful and festive,” Liz said. “I can enjoy them from the privacy of my rooftop deck.”
There’s also the convenience of Page Ellington Park, with 20 acres, including a two-acre pond, the restored Smith Branch Creek, green space for picnics and afternoon strolls, and a fenced dog park – perfect for Billy, her canine companion. The cats (Eloise and Leslie Knope) enjoy access to the cozy area that opens from her living area but generally stay close to home, and Leslie Knope is restricted from enjoying the rooftop terrace after an exploration from the rooftops that took her three doors down the street and required a cherry picker to try to coax her home (which failed) and the removal of a bit of her neighbor’s decking to get her out and back home again. “I think she enjoyed the adventure but couldn’t make the same jumps back to her terrace,” Liz laughed.
Now everyone seems quite settled and pleased with their new home. It’s a great choice, and Liz has enjoyed decorating and furnishing the rooms with the help of longtime friend and designer MarnieClayton, who works as a realtor and interior designer for The Moore Company and sold Liz’s home in Gregg Park as well as the BullStreet townhome. The two go way back. Liz managed MACK Home, a retail store and design showroom owned by Marnie and Anna Kemper, and is working with Marnie again at her design firm, Marnie Cie.
“Marnie and I found a few new pieces at Market to combine with some well-loved vintage and antique furnishings I kept from my old home,” she said. Indeed, a curated eye is apparent throughout the rooms, beginning with the ground floor. The entrance is warm and inviting, with a brick exterior and flowers. The front outdoor space is compact, which is exactly how Liz likes it.
“Liz has great style, and after knowing her for so many years, I have a good sense of her aesthetic,” Marnie said. “We wanted her new space to showcase her collected, loved pieces, and also be a comfortable shelter for life and entertaining.”
The door in the garage opens into the home – great for rainy days. The first floor is open and contains the kitchen, living area, and dining space. “There is just enough outdoor space behind me for sitting outside or giving the animals access to the outdoors,” she said. It’s enclosed along the back with part of the original brick wall that secured the area many years ago. There’s a powder room for visitors.
The kitchen is the showstopper. Liz and Marnie reworked the wall behind the stove to include open shelving and the striking backsplash, 3-inch by 12-inch subway tiles by Daltile in Venice Statue. The tile has a glossy, hand-painted appearance with irregular edges that reflect the beauty and tradition of a handmade tile.
“The kitchen is a focal point of the home, so we sought to elevate the area with customized cabinetry, finishes, and appliances,” Marnie said. “We added distinctive funky pendants over the island and incorporated a favorite whitewashed wood and iron light fixture over the dining table. The open living space is elegant and functional.”
Most of the walls throughout are painted with Benjamin Moore White Dove in a high-gloss finish. Liz chose a contrasting color (Sherwin Williams Black Fox), for the doors and trim. The gooseneck faucet is an upgrade as well, practical yet stunning. Plenty of cabinet space houses her pantry, dishes, glassware, serving pieces, and more. Open shelves display treasures.
The island offers a bit of separation from the living area, even as it invites conversation between guests and the cook.
Liz’s eclectic taste is striking in the white modern table with nature accents against the wall. It’s a focal point, with seating around the space. The dining table is expansive and follows the white theme. Modern, with a touch of tradition. On the wall is an oil painting, one of several in the home painted by her late husband’s brother, a professional artist who lived in New York.
Two doors allow access to the small outdoor area: one for the cats and the dog, and the other, for their human friends who want to enjoy fresh air in a private setting.
The stairs lead to the second floor and the primary bedroom with its en-suite bath and spacious shower, plus the walk-in closet. A comfortable chair offers a bird’s eye view over the brick wall and onto the bustle of Calhoun Street. It’s visible, but not intrusive. Accessible, but somehow far away. Down the hall is the second bedroom and another full bath. It’s currently home for her son, soon graduating from the university, which is a pleasant walk away.
The final stairs lead up to a comfortable room with two closets which can serve as an office, guest bedroom, or TV room – perhaps all of the above, depending on the need at the time. A queen-sized foldout sofa would fit nicely here.
But that’s not all the third floor has to offer. The rooftop deck looks toward the heart of BullStreet and beyond. It’s private, but not closed off. Furnished with inviting outdoor furniture, it stands ready to welcome the morning, grab an alfresco lunch, or serve as the backdrop for cocktails and conversation at the end of the day.
Clearly, New Urbanist principles embraced by the BullStreet District are at work here. Walk to games, greenspace, restaurants, shops, and gathering places, while being comfortably nestled within 181 acres in the middle of downtown Columbia. Then, return home to an aesthetically charming classic-meets-modern vibe. Back inside, the home envelopes Liz with treasures from her past and newcomers for the new space. They blend seamlessly together, just like life at its best.
Does Liz miss doing laborious yard work on the weekends? “Absolutely not,” she said, laughing.
“Tending to my new tiny garden is exactly what I wanted for the next phase of my life.”