story and photography by Ellis Anderson
- This month - the sedate Creole exterior of the Bagley house gives no clue that inside, Monet's palette of colors and show-stopping artwork bring a slice of France to Main Street.
Sandra says, “While we were working on repainting, Scott and I joked about channeling Monet and would ask, ‘what would old Claude do?’ Monet’s not my favorite artist, but the colors seemed to work for us and it was fun doing it. Tomorrow could be Jackson Pollock.”
Sandra’s a noted artist herself and her striking paintings – mostly of people – populate the house. Her own rich palette brings to mind renaissance portraits and the characters pop to life against rich wall colors.
“At first we wondered why Monet chose those colors,” she says. “Then the light hit the walls and we understood. We liked how it gave emphasis to my paintings and our other artwork.”
While 318 Main also seems similar to Giverny in age, it was built in 2002 by the Bagleys. The design is based on a New Orleans raised center hall cottage the couple admired. Although the Bagleys call themselves “painfully nostalgic,” they worked with an architect to skillfully incorporate contemporary features like plenty of storage space and energy efficiency in the final design.
The finished home fits seamlessly into the landscape of Bay St. Louis. Scott says they’ve had lifelong residents of the town insist they “remember” the house from their childhoods. It all seems the epitome of elegant Southern living.
The move to Bay St. Louis represented a homecoming of sorts to the Bagleys, who weren’t able to spend much of their working lives in the region of their birth. Scott and Sandra both grew up in Fayetteville, Tennessee, where they met in 5th grade (Sandra says that by 7th grade, she thought Scott was cute and their future was set). They married after college and Scott spent his working career as an attorney in the Air Force. Over the years, the Bagleys lived at least fifteen different places, including Europe, where they toured Giverny for the first time.
They were living stateside in Los Angeles when Scott neared retirement. The South called for several reasons, foremost being their daughter Drew. She’d been accepted to Ole Miss on a dance scholarship (where she was also a Rebelette for four years). They wanted to provide a home base for Drew while she was in college.
A friend who lived in Biloxi and knew of Sandra’s commitment to her art career called and said “Have I got the place for you!”
Sandra recalls, “She went on to say ‘This place has your name written all over it. It’s called Bay St. Louis.”
The stars began aligning. Scott had family in Pass Christian and had fond memories of the Gulf Coast. The couple had a romantic attachment to the coast as well – they had honeymooned in the old Broadwater in 1973. They both loved New Orleans and liked the idea of living nearby. They’d be fairly close to Drew while she was in college.
So in 2001, the couple flew into New Orleans, rented a car at the airport and drove into Bay St. Louis at night. While having dinner at a beach restaurant, they noticed an incredible mural, depicting the biggest moon they’d ever seen, reflected over the bay and framed by enormous oak trees. Then they realized the scene before them was no painting – it was real.
“It captured us,” says Scott. “Bay St. Louis seemed like such a real place. Its authentic character makes it unlike any other city or town we’d visited.”
They purchased a lot on Main Street and worked with architect/developer Stuart Farnet to build the house. The center hall design allowed the front and back doors to be opened in fair weather and a breeze would cool the entire house. The spacious screened front porch made outdoor living in any weather pleasant and bug-free. And the wood-burning fireplace added old world ambiance. Upstairs there was room for two spacious bedrooms and an open painting studio for Sandra. Scott’s library had a dedicated room of its own as well.
Construction was completed in 2003 and when the Bagleys moved in, they found additional reasons to appreciate their new home.
“We loved the people and the activities on the weekends,” says Scott. “And the fact you could walk everywhere. In Los Angeles, you have to drive everywhere, so you spend a lot of time in your car.”
The Bagleys also began developing the gardens, with Scott taking the lead and working with a retired horticulturist friend, Jane McKinnon. McKinnon suggested that they extend their center hall into the garden and place a fountain at the end of it, a project that was carried through with remarkable effect. When the back door is open, visitors entering the front have their eyes drawn down the hallway and along the brick walkway to rest on the splashing fountain. Between the screen front porch with its tiled floor and the back porch gardens, the outer walls of the house seem like room dividers rather than demarcations between indoors and out.
The Bagleys also wanted a shaded yard, so planted nearly twenty trees. They added to the large water oaks already on the property and created stands of river birch and crepe myrtles, accented with live oaks and cypress.
Most of the water oaks went down in Katrina and the house was flooded with two feet of gulf muck. Fortunately, the Bagleys were able to live upstairs while the house was being renovated. Today, it’s impossible to detect any signs of damage. On the ground floor, the living, dining and kitchen areas flow into each other on one side of the wide center hall. The other side contains the library, separated from the master bedroom by a wall of closets and a spacious bath.
At the top of the hallway staircase, Sandra’s open, light studio is flanked by two large bedrooms. Once Drew’s domain, it’s now a paradise for two grandsons. Sandra’s also a certified yoga instructor and B.G. (Before Grandchildren), taught classes in the uplifting space.
Sandra, an award-winning artist, works in oils and explains that her paintings are created using her fingers instead of her brush.
“Using brushes would make me come across as tight. Using my fingers, I felt like I could get in there and make the paint go where I wanted it to go.”
In her early days as a painter, she was drawn to landscapes, when teacher Diane Tessler advised Sandra to begin taking portrait classes. Tessler pointed out that any house Sandra painted seemed to have a face.
That's certainly true at 318 Main Street.