“I wanted it to feel like you’re coming over to my house for dinner,” says first-time restaurateur Jessica Bower of her Nashville, Tennessee, restaurant, Fort Louise. Her designers, Karie Reinertson and Rob Maddox of firm Shelter in Asheville, North Carolina, understood: “It should feel welcoming to everyone,” says Reinertson of the restaurant: “Somewhere you would feel as comfortable eating mussels on a low-lit evening as eating breakfast in casual attire.”
The concept fit the neighborhood perfectly: According to Bower, Fort Louise’s East Nashville neighborhood “is going through an awesome growth period” of people moving to town to buy homes and start families. “We’ve got this cute, hip, young family vibe,” she says: The ideal crowd for the outfit’s “chef-driven, American-style food” that includes elevated burgers, fried chicken, and a hearty weekend brunch.
They set up shop in an old bungalow house to capture the coziness Bower desired but wanted to add an edginess to fit the crowd. Says designer Reinertson, “We wanted to use the vernacular of a warm and cozy home of a bygone era” but inject playfulness, confidence, and simplicity. “We spent a lot of time rummaging through works of turn-of-the-century English architects and interiors of the Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts periods for inspiration,” she says, before settling on an abstract, geometric stencil pattern. Let’s take a tour.
Photography by Lisa Diederich, courtesy of Fort Louise.
Bower’s favorite design detail is an old factory window that offers guests a glimpse into the back-of-house cocktail bar. It separates the bar and dining room by necessity, she notes, but “creates a cool little dynamic” in which guests can watch their cocktails being made.
For more Design Travel gems in the American South, see:
- Restaurant Visit: Optimist in Atlanta
- New in NOLA: A Greek Revival Mansion, Now an 18-Room Hotel
- Outbuilding of the Week: A Retro ’60s Camper, Outdoor Bathhouse Included