Setting the Scene

A Verona home is worthy of a standing ovation

The back view of Fred and Susan Foster's house. SEE MORE PHOTOS OF THE FOSTERS' HOME IN THE SLIDESHOW BELOW.

The back view of Fred and Susan Foster's house. SEE MORE PHOTOS OF THE FOSTERS' HOME IN THE SLIDESHOW BELOW.

A little drama doesn’t scare Fred and Susan Foster. The pair met in UW–Madison’s theater department and since their college days have nurtured their flair for the theatrical—including in their Verona home.

They moved into the house in 1991 with their children, Kate and James. And although the house was on the Parade of Homes tour just four years earlier, the couple knew they wanted to make some changes. They did a round of remodeling in the late nineties, then another more expansive project starting in October 2007, once their kids were off at school on the East Coast.

Shortly after discussing potential home improvements with Associated Housewrights, Susan sent a long e-mail to the firm explaining what’s important to her and Fred in a house—specifically, light, proportion and a sense of artistic romance.

“We like ruined castles and twisty paths,” Susan says.

“And contemporary design,” Fred adds with a laugh.

Amazingly, both got their wishes granted in the remodel, which wrapped last summer. The house features an interplay of circles and squares, carried out in wood, stone and glass. The contemporary backdrop allows the Fosters to center the spotlight on their art collection, one-of-a-kind furniture—much of which Fred makes himself—and impressive lighting scheme.

While Fred and Susan both have a background in theater lighting, he also works as CEO of Electronic Theatre Controls, a Middleton-based company that makes lighting equipment. Perhaps not surprisingly, the Fosters’ home boasts fifty-five light dimmers, more than what Fred used in his first three theaters!

The lighting scheme allows the Fosters to set and change the moods of rooms and to highlight art, flower arrangements, even beautiful materials, such as the black granite in their kitchen.

But natural light is important to the Fosters, too. Curving patios and large expanses of windows let sunshine stream in and afford views of the landscaped backyard and adjacent park, also known as their “self-mowing backyard.”

“In the springtime when the leaves come out, our neighbors disappear,” Fred says.

“It’s very private and quite beautiful,” Susan adds. “This house is awesome when the sun comes out.”

That their house constantly changes, whether through a major renovation or little things like the lighting of a candle or the smell of cookies baking in the oven, appeals to the Fosters’ sense of theatricality.

“Basically this isn’t really a house,” Susan says. “It’s performance art.”

Katie Vaughn is an associate editor of Madison Magazine.

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