Interiorssneak peeks

Installation Artist Creates A Home With Museum-Like Displays in South Carolina

by Erin Austen Abbott

Becca Barnet grew up in Spartanburg, SC, where as a child she turned the entire basement of her family’s home into an interactive diorama of a rainforest. This penchant for detail and nature would most certainly inform the coming years in her life. Nowadays, Becca and Thomas Howell live with their dog, Bruce, just outside of Charleston, SC in a 1947 Hampton Park bungalow, where Becca is creative director of Sisal Creative and Thomas works for Urban Electric Company.

“I was living right in the middle of downtown Charleston and realized that I wanted to remove myself from the hustle and bustle,” Becca shares. “I love living in Hampton Park because it’s filled with families and dogs, everyone looks out for one another, and there are so many great things happening in the area. I was looking for a way to downsize but also to live in a more family-friendly part of town, away from the College of Charleston campus.”

But it was perhaps the creative path Becca took over time that would eventually lead them to this area and their eclectic home accented with earthy decorative elements.

In 2009, Becca received a BFA in Illustration from the Rhode Island School of Design. After RISD, Becca moved to New York City and worked at the American Museum of Natural History and created display items for traveling exhibits (think: 50-foot dinosaur!). She also worked for a metalsmith and a taxidermist while in NYC. In 2011 she moved to Charleston to work for the SC Aquarium and was a lead fabricator in the Madagascar Journey exhibit. Becca decided to start her own company in 2012 — Sisal Creative. Specializing in model-making, props, decor and taxidermy, Becca now designs and creates one-of-a-kind art installations for restaurants, offices, and museums full-time. 

It is abundantly clear that her lifetime fascination with nature and collections has made its imprint on their home. Rooms and vignettes alike are curated thoughtfully, elevating each treasured item to reflect her admiration for it — especially animals.

Just as their home fittingly portrays Becca’s strength in museum installation and reverence for nature, so too does the home’s location. “The house is right on the park, so it’s a great view,” Becca shares. “The birds in the park sometimes come over after the rain to feast in the front yard. Last week I saw 100 ibises on my lawn and it was my dream come true!”Erin

Photography by Landon Neil Philips

House Tour with Becca Barnet for Design*Sponge
A close look at Becca's favorite area of her home, "Here you can see my favorite artwork, a vintage botanical chart I found at a flea market. The mud cloth on the biergarten table is one of my favorite patterns," Becca shares. The botanical chart and mud cloth are vintage, the crystal was mined in Abbeyville, SC and the cow rug is from eBay.
House Tour with Becca Barnet for Design*Sponge
Looking from the front door into the living room and kitchen. "The open floor plan and white walls and ceilings really got me. The paneling on the ceiling is so interesting and the sloped ceilings make the room look way bigger than it really is. The vintage biergarten table fits perfectly by the kitchen counter. I love cooking and looking out into the living room. Here you can see the records and record player, the deer I made at taxidermy school, some of my plants, and favorite books," Becca says. The kilim rug was found on eBay, the coffee table (that Becca painted) is from West Elm. The painting on the wall is by Josh Jeffords.
House Tour with Becca Barnet for Design*Sponge
"Directly across from the master bedroom, there is an open living room where we have a TV on an arm so you can watch from the couch or the bed. The whole room is really cozy and it's great for snuggling. The back of the house is decorated a bit darker/moodier for that reason." The couch is from West Elm, throw by Tati Compton from Prize NYC, yellow chair is a flea market find, carpet is from esalerugs, ottoman is from Target, pillows from etsy, and the photo is by Salter Scharstein.
House Tour with Becca Barnet for Design*Sponge
"Looking into the living room from the kitchen area, you can see the little sitting area. It's really cozy for reading and gets amazing light, or a great view of the rain when it's moody out. The pencil tree is growing like crazy!" Becca shares. The rug is from eBay, the couch from Restoration Hardware, pillows from Dusen Dusen, and the bar cart is from Wayfair.
House Tour with Becca Barnet for Design*Sponge
"Looking into the kitchen from the living room, you can see the countertops -- I love the color of the marble. The pothos plant hanging -- I have had that for a long time and it keeps growing. The open shelving is really fun to decorate but it's hard to keep clean. The light in here is perfection. I wanted to create a big, bright space, filled with plants and colors that made me feel peaceful after a long day of work," Becca shares. Yellow teapot from KitchenAid, fridge is a Sub Zero, stools from Wayfair
House Tour with Becca Barnet for Design*Sponge
View of the sink and kitchen window, with a salt block and a rooting station on the right. "I take all my clippings from various plants and try to root them and create new plants. It makes me feel like mother earth and a mad scientist," Becca shares.
House Tour with Becca Barnet for Design*Sponge
The master bathroom is an upgrade from their last home, now with two sinks. "Having two sinks is amazing!" Becca says. The bathroom has IKEA fixtures, and the rugs are by Cold Picnic.
House Tour with Becca Barnet for Design*Sponge
View into the guest bathroom, with a reflection of Bruce's portrait in the oval mirror. Towel by Dusen Dusen, shower curtain by Schoolhouse Electric, rug from etsy.
House Tour with Becca Barnet for Design*Sponge
"I love [the] layout of the master bedroom! The art over [the] bed [is[ by Strange Dirt / Marsha Robinson. We got our bedding from Urban Outfitters and the rug from is eBay. The bedside table [is] from Wayfair. The artwork on [the] left [is] by me and the artwork on [the] right is a flea market find. The stuffed animal on [the] bedside table is Fang, from Harry Potter (I'm a huge fan). And stuffed animal of Bruce is by Fink Toys," Becca notes.
House Tour with Becca Barnet for Design*Sponge
"I am a serious nester, and after two days of being moved in I was already unpacked, hanging art and putting things away," Becca says. "I had been dreaming about the house for a few months before we were able to buy it and eventually move in, so my daydreaming paid off! [This is my] personal collection of things, including some puppets I made, some things I found and some things I was gifted."
House Tour with Becca Barnet for Design*Sponge
"The guest room is pretty small, but it works for our guests and for us! The colors in this room are reminiscent of the house I just moved from, so it's kind of nice to see it all in one cozy spot," Becca explains. The rug is from etsy, the chair is a flea market find, the frames are from West Elm, and the hospital bed is vintage.
House Tour with Becca Barnet for Design*Sponge
Becca's office is a collection of art installations in progress.
House Tour with Becca Barnet for Design*Sponge
Another peek into Becca's studio/office.
House Tour with Becca Barnet for Design*Sponge
Some of Becca's completed works, waiting to find their new homes.
House Tour with Becca Barnet for Design*Sponge
Becca Barnet of Sisal Creative.
House Tour with Becca Barnet for Design*Sponge
"What I love most about my house is the natural light and the colors that the light reveals." --Becca Barnet
House Tour with Becca Barnet for Design*Sponge
Becca and Thomas' floor plan drawing.

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  • what a great space! It’s hard to pick a favorite thing but I can definitely say the ‘what I like most..’ note on the lamp made me smile .

  • One of my fantasies is to have a home where a room is a dedicated to an art installation. The whole room. Nothing else but 1 big art installation. A girl can dream…

    Great space!

  • This house is so perfect. I am so inspired. Must get more houseplants! What a difference they make! And so many gorgeous colors. It’s so well thought out. Thank you for sharing.

  • So much to love about this place!It’s warm ,cozy and expressive of the owner’s artistic talent. And they have a great looking do!However,I’ll never warm up to taxidermy as decorative.It’s one thing to use shed antlers,another to have dead,stuffed animals on shelves and hanging from the walls.I just find it upsetting on so many levels……

  • I just pinned every single picture. I am constantly grappling with my dual love of minimalism + my love of color & collecting. Somehow this home perfectly captures that balance between simplicity and actual lived-in-ness. This post has made me believe I can have my cake and eat it too. On a modernist cake stand, with a colorful painting of the cake framed in the background and mismatched frame.