Nicki Clendening's guide to Charleston

Nicki Clendening's guide to Charleston
 A few of  Nicki's  must-sees in Charleston

A few of Nicki's must-sees in Charleston


About Nicki

Interior designer, world traveler and Artfully Walls photographer, Nicki Clendening knows a thing or two about Charleston.  We caught up with the tastemaker to get the inside scoop on one of America's favorite cities. 

The Artful Review: Tell us about your childhood and how you developed a love for art, antiques, and all things design

Nicki Clendening: I grew up on a farm in rural South Carolina in a house filled with antiques and art. My grandparents lived around the world and happily embraced antiques from wherever they happened to be living at the time. Many of these pieces were passed along to my parents when they first married and had no money, and throughout the years as my grandmother came back to visit from living in Saudi Arabia, China, and beyond. At least a couple of times a year my mother would rearrange the entire house, from top to bottom...all three floors! It taught me that even though you may not have anything new, you can create an entirely different space just by repainting and reconfiguring the art and furnishings. It also had a profound affect on my love of art from an early age because every wall in the house was filled with things she'd found at flea markets, antique stores, or had been handed down over the years (along with all the art made by myself and my siblings). She let us do whatever we wanted in our bedrooms and encouraged our creativity daily. 

AR: Why did you fall in love with Charleston?

NC: I went to visit the College of Charleston my senior year in high school and decided on the spot that it was the place I wanted to be. I earned an art history degree and honed my appreciation of art by doing an internship with the Charleston Arts Council and by working in art galleries during the ten years I lived there. It's impossible not to fall completely in love with the city's architecture, art galleries, house museums, and art scene. It spurred my love of history, antiques, architecture, and art. 

Nicki's insider guide to Charleston


"The first thing I do when I get off the plane is head to Leon's Oyster Shop for their delicious charred oysters and refreshing cocktails." 

"Fast and French"

"Called "Fast & French" by locals, I've been going to this restaurant for 20 plus years. Their daily lunch special has always been the best deal in town." 

The Ordinary

"I'm a big fan of Mike Lata's The Ordinary and never visit the city without stopping by for smoked oysters and one of their speciality cocktails."

Chez Nous

"Chez Nous is a newer addition to the dining scene and in cooler months, it's fun to dine at their table outside."

Bowen's Island

"If it's oyster season, a trip out to Folly to Bowen's Island to eat copious amounts of oysters is always a favorite way to indulge. Low key and fun."

Elliotborough Mini Bar

"Elliotborough Mini Bar is a charming and cozy place for a nightcap."

The Gibbes Museum of Art

  Rosy Moon Off Charleston Harbor , ca 1908-1916, by Birge Harrison

Rosy Moon Off Charleston Harbor, ca 1908-1916, by Birge Harrison

"I have been going to the Gibbes Museum of Art for many years and they've recently undergone a renovation that's enlivened the space enormously. It's a small museum but a must-see if you love art, particularly Southern art.  I also love walking around to visit some of Charleston's many wonderful art galleries. Favorites include:

Ann Long Fine Art

 John Cosby | Emerald Dance | Oil on linen board

John Cosby | Emerald Dance | Oil on linen board

"The Historic Charleston Foundation is a wonderful resource to use when visiting the city. If possible, I try to get to Charleston when their twice annual house and garden tours are taking place. Spring in the city is especially lovely as everything is in bloom."

Aiken Rhett House

"Every couple of years I make a point to visit the Aiken Rhett House (my favorite house museum in Charleston)"

Middleton Place

"I also love visiting Middleton Place in the spring months to view their gorgeous grounds and gardens"

Magnolia Cemetery

  The cemetery is more than 130 acres. Roads are both paved and dirt. The cemetery can easily be navigated by vehicles, bicycle or on foot.

The cemetery is more than 130 acres. Roads are both paved and dirt. The cemetery can easily be navigated by vehicles, bicycle or on foot.

"Another thing I do on almost every visit to Charleston is to go walk through Magnolia Cemetery just outside the city. I first went there with my architecture professor in college who told us that if we were ever in a city and wanted to know more about the architecture of the area to go to the oldest cemetery first because it had dates and could give you a clue as to what the history of place was.

I am lucky to get back several times a year and am always happy to discover a new restaurant, art gallery, or simply to spend the morning walking beloved streets like Legare, Tradd, Gibbes, Church to peer at some of my favorite old houses."