Mount Pleasant resident Lisa Thomas has a laugh that is simply infectious. Paired with a glowing smile, she welcomes guests into her home that’s right around the corner from Out of Hand, her eclectic Old Village boutique.
“I try to come out here as much as I can,” she says, reclining on a bed-sized porch swing laden with comfortable pillows. Stretch your neck a little and you can see the sparkle of Charleston harbor at the end of the street.
You can find Thomas, also a well-known, longtime event planner, on the porch year-round. She has electric blankets to keep it cozy when there’s a nip in the air. “Sometimes it is just nice to come out and get in the sunshine — and without the laptop.”
For the last 20 years, she and her husband, Pete Wofford, have been fixing up the two-story home built about 170 years ago on a corner lot. They’re at it one room at a time, year after year. After 20 years, it’s beautiful, filled with the same eclectic blend of art and furnishings in the store down the street.
“The first project was to remove the vinyl siding, repair the woodwork and put a porch on,” she said. “I like to restore things. I try to do things that are authentic, rather than all new and shiny. I love patina.”
With most of the work done on the home — a grand kitchen was added recently — Thomas is spending time restoring a family lake house in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains near where she grew up.
Before it got Out of Hand
She attended Penn State University on a golf scholarship and later ran promotional sporting events for the LPGA and coordinated marketing and events for The New York Times. By 1994, she hooked up with the Family Circle Cup and moved to Hilton Head Island to direct the tennis tournament. As it grew, she worked with the organization to move the event to Daniel Island by 2000. Soon after that success, she went out on her own to start Ooh! Events, a full-service event and wedding production company.
And it’s been gangbusters since with as many as 12 events on busy days in “the seasons,” which are March through June and a few weeks in the fall. Over the years, she’s had to secure 60,000 square feet of storage space in North Charleston to keep all of the company’s specially-designed tables, chairs and party furnishings.
Decorating approach blends styles
Thomas will be the first to tell you that she loves to hunt treasures — interesting little (and big) knick-knacks that can transform a bland room. Her kitchen, for example, has a row of large vintage single-pane windows from a farmhouse in upstate New York that drench the room in light.
“I mix all kinds of things, new and old, modern and traditional,” she said. “I love to try to create opportunities to reach that balance point.”
When she entertains in her own home, she says she tries to do it without using electric lights. Instead, she floods interiors with light from multiple candles “because everything looks better by candlelight.”
She also encourages people to use smells in homes, such as through scented candles, to enhance the experience that a guest has in a room. Fill a room with good smells, she said, just as you put art on the walls to make it look attractive.
“I try to appeal to all of the senses — your sight, smell and taste,” she said, adding that hosts don’t need to go overboard. Rather, focus on one thing for each sense — and do it well.
She also said that she’s a big advocate of making people comfortable. Often when she entertains, she takes furniture from inside of the house and puts it in a garden outside. You don’t, she said, want things to feel corporate and cramped.
And that’s why she owns 30 types of event chairs and 20 different kinds of farm tables, all of which were specially-designed to be folded and stored efficiently while looking great.
More creating ahead
Thomas continues to find joy in creating.
“I am a bit of an introvert — not that it’s anything people should know, but they are often surprised,” she said. While I do a lot of things, I don’t like the limelight. I do it because I love to create and I am conduit to make things happen.”
Her store is a great stage for her productions and that of colleagues.
“I like to sit back and be a spectator to a group of women in the store, all jumping in to help each other or rally around someone in need,” she said. “Or walk away from a wedding or event set-up that is magical and just know that I had a hand in making people happy.
“I don’t want to be the center of the attention — just knowing is what fuels me.”