It was 15 years ago that Lib and Robbie Foster decided to buy the last remaining lake front lot on Lake Katherine located just off Trenholm Road in Columbia. “Robbie had grown up on Lake Katherine, and we wanted our kids to have the same kind of adventures that he experienced,” says Lib. In fact, the cream-colored stucco house sits just across the lake from the house of Bob Foster, Robbie’s father, where he spent his summers boating and playing on the lake. Although considered a risky move by some, the Fosters bought that lot, built their house and have never looked back. “We had been in Charleston and Atlanta opening offices for Robbie’s law firm,” says Lib. “This lot had been sitting awhile, but we both knew this was what we wanted.”
Robbie is a partner with Nelson Mullins Riley and Scarborough while Lib spends her time as a community volunteer and mom to their daughters, Marjorie Ann, a sophomore at Heathwood Hall, and Burgess, a freshman at the University of Georgia. With their roles in the community, the Fosters do a great deal of entertaining, so open space was a key element for their home. Lib’s goal was to create a house that was both stylish and livable. “Through the years of growing a family, I have always kept in mind that this home belongs to all of us, which often times meant a Play-Doh station on the coffee table or wet bathing suits dripping throughout,” she says.Because her family owned a furniture store in Society Hill, S.C., Lib spent many hours learning how to arrange rooms and working with décor. She often accompanied her father on buying trips, and at one time she even owned her own accessories shop here in Columbia.
It’s obvious that she learned a great deal because the furnishings throughout the house are reflective of her desire for comfort and style. Lib has blended traditional pieces inherited from her family with more modern furnishings to set the tone for a sophisticated, yet lived-in feel. Guests enter the airy foyer that leads past the dining room and into a living area that is set apart by large columns. The mahogany dining room table comfortably seats a dinner party of 12. The room’s décor can easily inspire a conversation as guests dine beneath the “band of monkeys” chandelier and note the whimsical monkeys hanging around on the wallpaper.
With the open floor plan, there is plenty of room for guests to move from room to room. From the living room, visitors pass the wet bar on their way to the generous-sized kitchen that features a working center island and dine-in granite covered bar. A butler’s pantry provides extra storage and work space for entertaining, and what better way to start the morning off than at the breakfast table with a picturesque view of the lake through large plate-glass windows.
When the focus is on work, Robbie and Lib still have their own getaway corners – Lib’s private office sits just off the kitchen area. While Robbie has a comfortable study at the front of the house, he prefers to spread out his paperwork in the screened porch, weather permitting. During comfortable summer evenings, parties flow out onto the screened porch or the newly covered open porch. “Sitting on the porch in the evening, the sunsets can take your breath away,” Lib remarks. “I can truly feel close to God sitting here.”
So the family can still enjoy the porch when it’s cold outside, a large stone fireplace helps draw off the winter chill. Guests can choose to lounge in any one of three sitting areas filled with wrought iron tables and wicker sofa and chairs. Lib admits that she even spends some alone time out on the porch with a television that lifts out from its hidden recess in a console. “It’s a great spot to indulge in both ‘Mad Men’ and the sunsets,” she smiles. The covered porch leads down to an open patio where many a burger has been grilled for the neighborhood kids who spend their summer days in the pool overlooking the lake, out in the boat or jumping on the trampoline. “It’s like camp here in the summer,” laughs Lib. “Robbie loves passing on the adventures that he had growing up on the lake to his girls, camping out on the island, jumping down the spillway. It is a very Huck Finn place to grow up.” It’s apparent through her chosen décor that Lib’s taste runs toward a feeling of nature. Easy linens cover many of the furnishings that warmly blend with natural fiber rugs. A statuesque heron perched on a table in the living room gives the impression that he has just flown in from the lake and is taking a moment to rest next to a vase filled with dried grasses.
That love of nature is obvious through Lib’s fondness for anything floral, and she has filled the house with not only live greenery but also pieces she has created both from silks and fresh flowers. The arrangement above the mantle of the outdoor fireplace was an afternoon project and a bowl overflowing with pink and white striped tulips brings the promise of spring indoors. While she has spent much of her life around furnishings and décor, Lib doesn’t consider herself a true decorator. “I have what you might call an ‘I know it when I see it’ kind of sense about decorating,” she says.
Lib also believes that not everything has to be expensive to be tasteful. “Decorating is like dressing,” she says. “It doesn’t all have to be designer to be beautiful. I like to shop around and find things that I know will fit in a room, and who doesn’t like finding a bargain!” In fact, several of the pieces in her home, including the outdoor TV console and a fabulously fun painted bureau for her daughter’s bedroom, were discovered at a local salvage/overrun store.
What means most to Lib though are the stories that come from raising a family in a house that is truly lived in. “I can’t tell you how many times the kids would do their homework sitting at the formal dining room table, knowing those pencils were pushing through the paper leaving marks on the table,” she says. “I do believe the beauty of a house is the story associated with it.”
Lib thrives knowing that she and Robbie have been blessed enough that they can share their home with others. Whether it’s a political fundraiser for a friend, a church social, a prom party or a U.G.A. football-watching party, Lib believes that there is one central message a house should send. “Welcome,” she says. “People care most about the smile on your face and the warmth in your heart. The most precious things in this house are the people in it.”