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Restaurant Visit: Comfort First at Fort Louise in Nashville

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Restaurant Visit: Comfort First at Fort Louise in Nashville

January 26, 2018

“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.

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Above: Central to the dining room is an original brick fireplace: “The hearth as the heart of the home is such a nice feature to have as a focal point,” says Reinertson. “It lends an air of warmth and coziness to the space.” The brickwork is painted white and decorated with a stenciled checker pattern.
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Above: The designers kept the house’s original wood floors: “We felt so lucky they were already so beautifully aged and patchworked,” Reinertson says.
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Above: “It took us forever to find the perfect, rich shade of green,” Reinertson says. They settled on Jasper from Sherwin-Williams. The trim, beams, and banquettes are all painted in the color.

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.

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Above: The highlight of the design, says Reinertson, was the stenciling used throughout, which she calls “a strong and simple way of dressing up a room without being excessive.”
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Above: Cocktails are served in moss green glasses from Iittala’s Kastehelmi collection.
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Above: The brick back patio can fit up to 40 people, doubling the seating capacity of the restaurant. It’s dog-friendly and has a magnolia tree, wrapped in string lights, hovering over it: “It’s really awesome at night,” Bower says.
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Above: Fort Louise restaurant is located at 1304 McGavock Pike in Nashville.

For more Design Travel gems in the American South, see:

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