A Picture-Perfect Pivot
By Heather Hurst
It’s a story we’re all too familiar with, by now.
The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted lives across the country and the world, but its daily impact was most keenly felt at home. Our homes became our offices, schools and sanctuaries—leading so many people to take on renovations or home improvement projects that it rocked the design and construction sector and shifted the industry in substantial, even surprising ways.
When daily life ground to a halt in 2020, interior designer Emily Richter’s practice EKR Interior Design Inc. was primarily focused on serving clients in the commercial and hospitality sectors. Practically overnight, restaurants replaced themselves with residences. Clients needed answers to storage, functionality and space issues, but beyond the practicality, Richter realized there was a common thread in what her clients sought: a sense of peace.
For many people, coming through the long, shut-in winter of early 2021 into the light and freedom of summer felt like a release from captivity. Staying at home, everyone had received a crash course in how design can support and sustain not just productivity and organization, but one’s own mental and emotional well-being. Light, nature and space were no longer taken for granted, but rejoiced in. Everyone was getting back to basics.
So it was with Richter and the color gray. Gray has unequivocally been the stand-out neutral of choice thus far in the 21st century, but like anything that becomes fashionable, too much of a good thing becomes a challenge to reinterpret. When Richter’s client in Asheville told her they loved the color gray, she knew she was up to the task. What she didn’t expect, when she first took on the job, was how it would reignite not only her passion for the residential side of her work, but also for the versatility and elegance of the color gray.
Entrusting Richter and her team with the project while quarantined offsite, the client did not get to preview the remodel until the project was completed. Emily found the modern mountain style of their house charming and knew its character would play well to a streamlined aesthetic.
“There are so many possibilities with remodeling and that’s something I really enjoy,” says Richter. “I love to envision the potential of what’s already there. Simplifying things is usually the best solution, only making changes where necessary.”
In reimagining the client’s well-cared-for but outdated master bathroom, Richter looked first to the outdoors. By replacing the small window and creating a centerpiece glass wall, the space now maximizes light, while taking full advantage of its stunning privacy and views. A simple, modern retractable shade was installed to complement the clean lines, while affording the option for additional privacy.
The floating vanity and cabinets are a custom design made by a local cabinetmaker, featuring a matte finish quartz composite countertop. The backdrop of artisan glass tile adds more interest to the space than did the previous wall to wall mirror.
While overdesigning the room might have competed with its indisputable star—the view—Richter has carefully combined and selected sophisticated materials that elevate the space and truly rise to the occasion. The most prominent feature is the tile, a large format onyx porcelain is the main finish, accented with a glass mosaic.
The subtle interplay of patterns creates interest, while the soft, muted gray palette allows the eye to rest and draws one’s view to the mountains beyond. Even the delicate, modern light fixture belies her expertise: instead of choosing a statement light that interferes with the view, she has skillfully incorporated an arrestingly simple and elegant wall fixture that radiates a sense of intimate, cozy luxury.
It is, at once, an ideal setting for forgetting about the world, and also for preparing to face it once again. For Richter, it has reaffirmed her love of transforming a space and making it extraordinary.
Emily K. Richter NCIDQ, LEED AP
RESIDENTIAL | COMMERCIAL | HOSPITALITY