Constance Dugan

Designing Woman

When Constance Dugan looks at a room in need of redecorating, her mind shifts into high gear. If an empty space is stumping a homeowner, Constance has a solution. When a tired couch upholstered in 1990's colors needs updating, it's Constance to the rescue.

Constance doesn't just run her interior design business in effective fashion, she's also proved successful in making over her own life. For much of their married life, Constance and her husband, Richard Dugan, were living in the fast lane. Big homes, fancy cars, and a private plane were the preferred lifestyle for the couple, who relocated to the Lowcountry from the Boston area more than 20 years ago. 

All that came to a screeching standstill during the fall of 2004 when Constance's mother died of breast cancer, and one month later, Constance was diagnosed with both breast and melanoma cancer.  "I said, 'Stop the world, we need to get off.' We sold the house, the plane, sports cars.we looked to simplify and quiet down," Constance explained. Today, she refers to herself as "a modern medical miracle," crediting Dr. Steven Brower, who was practicing in Savannah, for saving her life. Her cancer-free path involved 36 rounds of radiation, followed by six months of chemotherapy, and another 36 rounds of radiation. Her recovery period took about two years.

"I'm alive and well now for (more than) seven years," Constance said. "I know God must have a bigger purpose in mind because they really didn't think I'd make it."

The Dugans made their first drastic lifestyle change in 1989 when Richard left his stock trading job and moved the family to Hilton Head Plantation. Merrill, the Dugan's daughter, was four at the time, and the couple's son, Patrick, was two. After living on Hilton Head for a few years, they made an even bigger leap, building a home at Melrose on Daufuskie Island. The couple ran a successful commercial vending company from the sparely populated island, selling the business in 2001.

"We're pioneers. My husband always wanted to live on an island. We liked the whole concept of living on a remote island, raising the children, and sending them to the one-room school house for elementary school" Constance said. Life was unexpectedly interrupted at Melrose when someone offered to buy the Dugan's house with the golf course view, which they sold, furnishings and all. They built a second home at Melrose, and, once again, sold it down to the dishes and linens. After building a large home on the marina at Windmill Harbour, the Dugans have since migrated to Hampton Hall in Bluffton.

After getting a close look at her own mortality, Constance made a choice to focus more on her passion of interior design. She had been working in the business for years, putting her touches on anything from one room to complete homes, from Sea Pines Plantation to Beaufort. But in 2010, Constance decided to start her own home dÈcor and staging company. She also works part-time at the Rug Store on Barrel Landing Road in Bluffton.
"I navigate with clients. Their home is their home, not my home. My job is to help them make good choices that reflect their tastes and lifestyle," Constance said. She has also created ideal living spaces for her own family, which includes interior design of four homes in Beaufort County over the years.

"She's extremely dedicated, focused, and passionate about every job and business she has started," Merrill, now 28, said about her mother. "She never stops until the job is complete and up to her high standards."
As for slowing down with work, Constance's quick response was, "Never! I love helping people create beautiful living spaces that reflect who they are and where they've been in their lives."

Up Close
Hometown: Born in Holliston, Mass.
Family: Married to Richard Dugan for 29 years. Daughter Merrill Dugan, 28, lives in Bluffton; son Patrick Dugan, 27, lives in Los Angeles.
Business slogan: "While the world may be a stage, your home is your world. Design it with distinction."
Interests: Tennis, healthy cooking, reading, and traveling.
Recommendations in current interior design: Splashes of color. It started in Europe and made its way here. Tangerine, coral and spa blue, like robin's egg blue, are in. Living in the Lowcountry, it's easy to use beautiful watery pastel colors.