07/18/2013 10:24 am ET Updated Sep 17, 2013

Real People, Real Design

My former boss is one of the grande dames of the New York publishing world, a woman of impeccable taste and even more impeccably starched white shirts, a former shelter-magazine editor whose Park Avenue apartment includes a dining room coated in high-gloss lacquer. I am not of that ilk. In my two-bedroom Brooklyn condo, the Florence Knoll-like leather sofa is often splashed with apple juice from my two-year-old's sippy cup, and my teak midcentury table bears deep scratches from the clamps of the hanging high chair. My husband's office area is a black hole. My art collection is a work in progress. And the once-magnificent willow tree that lives on our roof deck soldiers on valiantly at half-mast after two not-so-professional movers wrestled its whiskey-barrel container up three flights of stairs.

Which is to say, I live in the real world, just like you. And I hope that my take as the new editor of Lonny reflects that. We're a digital magazine and website with a mission to make home design both exciting and accessible -- and to introduce you to the living, breathing individuals behind the images you see on your screen.

On that note, please meet Angie Hranowsky. Recently, editor Sarah Storms got an inside look at the interior designer's Charleston Single House in South Carolina -- a family-friendly abode infused with vintage finds and vibrant hues. The best part of the transformation: the house is a rental!

Charleston, South Carolina, is a city steeped in history. Its very name conjures up Southern belles and sweet tea, horse-drawn carriages and cotillions, and stately homes that date back to antebellum times. Angie Hranowsky never thought she'd end up in one. "I love historic houses, but I'm a modernist at heart," says the interior designer and mother of two. But a little less than a year ago, she left the midcentury-modern dwelling she shared with her then-husband and resolved to start anew in an old home. It was a break from tradition in more ways than one: utilizing everything from saturated pinks and zebra-skin rugs to eclectic artwork and one-of-a-kind furnishings, Hranowsky pulled off a veritable reinvention of the circa-1850 Charleston Single House that, when she first laid eyes on it, was "nothing but beige."

That's not to say she didn't have her limits. Because the house is a rental, major renovations were out of the question, forcing Hranowsky to rely on cleverly chosen paint changes and cosmetic fixes such as new light fixtures and modular shelving. The one thing the designer refused to scrimp on? Bespoke window treatments. "Much of what's in the house are pieces I've collected over the years," she says. "But I had to have custom drapes and roman shades -- they make the room."

Mixing her contemporary aesthetic and the structure's historic bones proved unexpectedly seamless. "The low, clean lines of modern furniture play nicely off the high ceilings and large windows, adding a real sense of scale," Hranowsky says. For her glamorous bedroom, she again experimented with opposites, surrounding a chrome four-poster bed with soft, pale design details whose colors were inspired by her plush Madeline Weinrib rug. Throughout the house are lighthearted nods to her children's blossoming style. Sasha's and Loulou's artworks hang alongside vintage ephemera in the sunny kitchen, and the design of their bedroom was a collaborative process. "The kids chose paint colors and fabrics," Hranowsky says, "and Loulou was adamant about having a loft bed."

The designer says there was little difference between working for herself or someone else. The goal remained the same: a home that was thoroughly personal as well as modern. "My style is constantly evolving," she says. "I'm always trying to push myself while holding true to what my work is about: creating spaces that are both inviting and risk-taking." With its refreshing twist on tradition, this Charleston Single House proves that some risks are worth the reward.

How to Make a Rental Home Your Own

Can't pull off a top-to-bottom renovation? Read on for Hranowsky's tips for making smaller changes count.

  • Paint everything you can, even the kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Often it's the most cost-effective way to transform your space.
  • Change out the light fixtures. "I replaced all the ceiling lights and fans with my own vintage pieces," Hranowsky says.
  • Invest in window treatments. "You could even go with less-expensive rattan blinds," she says, "or get creative and make simple drapes out of your favorite textile."
  • Hang artwork. "The right art is incredibly transformative," she says. "Incorporating it is one of the most important elements of my design vision."
  • Add a natural element. A large freestanding plant or a well-placed vessel of cut flowers makes any space feel more inviting.