When Kristin and Joe Foster moved back to Charlotte in 2009 after spending more than nine years living in Stockholm, Sweden, the couple and their four children settled on a home in Eastover.
Though the house was beautifully designed, the finishes—from the floors to the cabinetry—and the lack of natural light made the home feel dark. “Having just come from Stockholm, where the design is very light, bright, and all around modern, we really
struggled with our home being so dark,” says Kristin. “In Stockholm, it gets very dark in the winters. You’d go crazy if your home was just as dark.”
Despite significantly more mild winters and a lot more sunny days here in Charlotte, the Fosters were adamant that their new home needed to be brighter, more clean-lined, and more modern.
The kitchen was easily one of the darkest rooms of the home and bled over into the large family room. The Fosters enlisted the help of architectural designer Emily Bourgeois of Bourgeois McGinn Builders to recreate their existing space, which was well-designed but simply lacked an overall brightness. “The kitchen was pretty, but it was dark,” says Bourgeois. “It had too many cabinets. And the colors were just too much. It was as if you were looking at a wall—so closed off. Kristin really wanted light and airy, and bigger windows to bring more natural light into the space. She’s so light, so I wanted the design to fit her.”
It’s exactly how Bourgeois likes to approach design: look to the client as the inspiration. “A room that has no people in it is just a dead, empty room. I try hard to create a room where the client is the biggest decoration or asset of all,” she explains. “I picked up on Kristin’s lightness and the cleanness of how she expresses herself. I wanted this design to reflect that simplicity. Keep things light in color and clean lined, but then dress it up with the curved iron windows because she’s so feminine.”
A large window above the sink was added to flood the kitchen with natural light. That design feature also removed nearly an entire wall of cabinetry. “The cabinets overwhelmed the space,” says Bourgeois. “There were just too many of them.” New custom cabinetry was then designed and dressed with less assuming hardware. White, honed marble with simple veins brought additional brightness to the overall look.
To assist with the interior design of the home, Bourgeois recommended designer Patrick Lewis. “Patrick’s work is very similar to what the clients wanted,” says Bourgeois. “It’s clean and classic. It’s refined but comfortable and livable.” Lewis added backless counter stools by Thomas O’Brien for Century Furniture to help streamline the kitchen while keeping the view and natural light unobstructed.
“The kitchen was the catalyst for the rest of the home’s design,” says Lewis. The room flows seamlessly into the family room, which was also very dark. Lewis brightened the space with the addition of opposing sofas in a white performance fabric by Duralee. In a nod to Swedish design, Lewis added touches of blue by adding throw pillows “contrasted by black to give the look some strength.” In the adjacent breakfast area, Lewis transformed a once-underutilized space by installing a custom banquette that fit perfectly into the nook and added seating without overwhelming the area. The banquette also incorporated the Fosters’ existing English oak dining room table, which added a dose of warmth.
One of the biggest changes came in Joe’s home office. The one-time playroom-turned- guest-bedroom was transformed into a study, but it was cut off from the rest of the home. Bourgeois redesigned the space by removing the wall next to the fireplace in the family room to create a doorway into the office. “It felt much more like a logical sequence because that room was so cut off from the rest of the house,” says Bourgeois, who also added a Scotch bar in the hallway leading to the room. Lewis then designed the room with light, bright, and airy in mind. An existing antique the Fosters originally had remained in the room. “That piece has a great presence to it,” he says. “It reads modern but feels warm.”
The reimagined downstairs living space is now clean and modern, yet welcoming. Says Kristin: “What Emily and Patrick did was take this dark home and really turn it into this livable, bright, happy space.”
Photography by Michael Blevins