The Hybrid House on St. John
- story and photographs by Ellis Anderson
E. Carroll Rogers is not afraid to shatter stereotypes. She’s had plenty of experience. She started out her career as a social worker, and then went back to school to become a lawyer. Later, as a top maritime attorney in a mostly male world, she became equally proficient at making complex courtroom arguments and boarding enormous cargo ships at sea by leaping from small frantically bobbing crew boats.
She’s broken medical stereotypes too. After a heart valve replacement and a brain aneurysm double-whammy a few years ago, she’s made a complete comeback, something few would have predicted possible.
So it’s no surprise to Carroll’s friends and family that only the outside of her cottage in Bay St. Louis looks traditional. Inside it’s a place where high tech and antique marry up, giving birth to a new sort of style.
At Home in the Bay
For the next decade Carroll considered rebuilding on the coast, but the task seemed daunting. Then after close encounters with both death and permanent disability in 2013, she felt a profound inner shift. The adversarial legal world began to lose its appeal.
“A legal practice is all about winning,” says Carroll. “But life is not all about winning. It’s about a lot of other things, including giving.”
Janice encouraged Carroll to consider building or purchasing another second home in town and told her about a small new in-fill development slated just a block off Main Street.
That information led Carroll right back to former neighbor and contractor, Jerre Martin. Jerre was working with local builder Terry Stoltz, collaborating on plans for the new cottages.
Carroll’s interest was piqued by the close in-town location, as well as the high elevation of the property. The proposed cottages were attractive, compact and efficient, with small, low-maintenance yards. She also knew that Jerre wouldn’t be working with Terry if quality construction wasn’t the primary goal.
Carroll chose the lot that was most set back from the street and struck a deal. However, having owned a number of houses, Carroll knew from the beginning that she wanted something different this go-round. She had in mind a look that would somehow be both “industrial and warm.”
“I needed everything from plates to linens,” says Carroll. “It was pretty overwhelming, especially since I was just coming out of rehab and living in New Orleans.
“I’ve always worked with someone in design. I have a certain eye and if you come to my house in New Orleans, it has me in it. That’s important. But that's harder to do when you’re making all the decisions alone.”
The eye travels across the large open room to the stainless kitchen with a spaceship-worthy stove hood and a massive heart-pine island. The brushed metal back-splash matches the fireplace.
On the other side of the room, the vibrant colors of the breakfast nook upholstery and paintings by Michelle Allee (one with glasses is a playful portrait of Carroll) play counterpoint to the kitchen’s wood and steel. The deck, with its bright chairs and lush tropical plantings beckons through glass back doors.
The guest room, a full bath and a super-stylish laundry area (complete with artwork) all access a side door leading outside to the garage. On the other side of the house, the master suite opens to a bath with walk-in shower toward the back. On the front side, a massive – and cheerily painted – sliding barn door separates the bedroom from a light-filled study. The study opens up to the wide screen porch, so on pleasant-weather days breezes can circle through the rooms.
The furnishings make a statement about professional design. A few pieces might be found in a current issue of Architectural Digest. Many are vintage re-purposed pieces from local antique and collectible stores, like Antique Maison (on Second Street in Old Town). Local artwork and pottery play off several heirloom antiques Lawson pulled in from Carroll’s house in New Orleans.
Bold mixing of styles like this comes off about as often as a triple-lutz attempted by an amateur. In this case, Lawson’s years of experience give him the confidence to garner perfect scores. The overall effect is chic and seamless: edgy, but supremely comfortable. Take a bow, Al.
“You can’t have everything that’s industrial,” Carroll says. “That doesn’t work either. By being creative, we were able to make it work price-wise and style-wise. It pleases me.”
“I came to realize the stress that I’d been under as a lawyer. It’s just the nature of the beast. But it wasn’t going to be good for my health. I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life fighting over money.
“When I was a social worker, that was the giving part of my life. I want to get back to that, design a new life, build bridges, give back,” she says. She’s already serving on the New Orleans board of the Salvation Army and is investigating volunteering opportunities in the Bay.
Dividing her time between New Orleans and Bay St. Louis is also part of the new hybrid life design.
“Some people see New Orleans as a hard city because of the crime and traffic. Or they say it's dirty and the politics are frustrating. I don’t see it that way. It’s a city that loves life.
"The Bay, meanwhile, has a slower lifestyle. They each have their positives. I’ll always have a house in both places, as long as I’m physically capable. It’s not for everybody, but it’s right for me. It’s the best of both worlds.”