Patricia Altschul may be a fixture in Charleston society these days, but believe it or not, that wasn't always the case. In fact, Patricia is a relatively recent resident of The Holy City.
After being born in Florida, growing up in Virginia, and then making her mark on New York society, Patricia "started dreaming about having a place down South," she writes in her new book, The Art of Southern Charm, which is in stores now. Patricia says that she was averse to moving to Palm Beach, which she knows is a popular warm-weather destination. "It's fun to visit, but it's not really Southern," she describes. "It's basically fake Regency in terms of architecture, and everyone I know goes there in the winter, so it's a lot like a 'little New York,' but with palm trees."
But Patricia didn't know where exactly her dream destination was. So she hit the road with her beloved butler Michael to find out. "I was a younger version of 'Miss Daisy,' driven from location to location, trying to imagine myself in a new home," she writes.
Patricia opens up about her life before Southern Charm in her new book, available now. Photo: Diversion Books
The pair explored properties in Virginia, Georgia, and the eastern shore of Maryland before they visited Charleston. "The cobblestone streets, the beautiful vistas of water along the Battery, the flowers, the food, the architecture, the overwhelming sense of tradition, genealogy, and history wherever you go (just like my beloved Richmond, Virginia)...what didn't I like about Charleston?" Patricia recalls in the book.
So Patricia decided to move to Charleston, but finding a new home proved to be easier said than done. She looked at six or seven houses in the city, even considering purchasing a plantation. The first time Patricia laid eyes on the Isaac Mikell House, she knew that's where she wanted to live. Though it wasn't for sale at the time, it did eventually end up on the market a year later. "I always loved houses with columns because they fulfilled my Gone with the Wind fantasy," Patricia writes.
Unfortunately, the "house had deteriorated" over time, and it turned out that every system needed to be replaced. It had been built in the 1850s, after all. "I searched my heart and decided I was up to the challenge," Patricia says. "I had found my Tara and I was ready to come back to the South."
With the help of architect Lewis Graeber and interior designer Mario Buatta, Patricia renovated the house to become the magnificent mansion that it is today. "And I was thrilled with my hometown. My New York friends always thought the South was all about Gator Boys and Honey Boo Boo," Patricia writes. "They were amazed by how charming and beautiful Charleston is—and some of them have followed me here."
Patricia has been living happily in Charleston ever since, and we totally can't imagine Chucktown without her. Besides, who would be around to keep the Southern Charm crew in line?
Find out Patricia's most recent words of wisdom for the Charmers, below.