The Hybrid House on St. John
A bright cottage exterior suggests a traditional interior. Surprise. Carroll Rogers' new home in Bay St. Louis combines industrial caché with warm notes for winning style.
- story and photographs by Ellis Anderson
Maybe Cozy Industrial would be a good name for the hybrid. Or Mid-Century Zen. It doesn’t need a name to impart a contemporary feeling with warmth, one that embraces both the visitor and the owner.
Rogers is a New Orleans native whose primary house is an uptown Eastlake beauty. She’s also one of thousands from the city who supplement busy urban life with a place on the coast to relax. She’s owned three getaways over the past 40 years, the last – and the home she calls her favorite – on Oak Boulevard in Waveland. With the help of contractor friend Jerre Martin, she completely restored the Waveland cottage, only to have it vanish into the crushing maw of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Fortunately, her home in New Orleans was spared.
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.”
During her 18-month rehabilitation process, Carroll visited old friend Janice Guido, who had recently relocated full time to the Bay (Janice's shop, Bay Life Gifts and Gallery is a Shoofly Prime Sponsor, as well as sponsor of this column. She's also current president of the Old Town Merchants Association).
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.”
As a seasoned professional herself, Carroll understands that DIY in any endeavor rarely saves either money or time in the long run – or achieves a satisfactory end goal. She’d heard about Bay St. Louis interior designer Al Lawson of The Lawson Studio, and after a consultation, brought him on board before construction began. Lawson was charged with overall design concept, which included picking colors and obtaining furnishings, all the way down to the dishes.
“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.”
At first, Lawson tweaked the house plans to better meet Carroll’s needs and came up with several innovative build-ins that would complement the final look, yet be timeless. For instance, the front door is an antique cypress beauty from New Orleans, complete with a working bell. Lawson chose a burnished steel handle, so the entrance to the cottage makes a statement: be prepared for interesting juxtapositions.
The unexpected appears right after crossing the threshold. The large open living area is broken up only by furnishing arrangements. In the living room area, a brushed aluminum fireplace mantelpiece is the focal point. Al designed it and had it fabricated locally. The simple ornamentation of the front edge echoes the bold contemporary painting hanging above. The airplane wing coffee table and low-slung, pumpkin-colored sofa in front, along with the bold turquoise wall, work beautifully with folk art from Mexico and an ornate antique wood chair.
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.
Carroll has lots of friends, so one of her requirements was a floor plan that would allow both she and her visitors to come and go without having to pass through the main living area. To that end, the master suite and the guest room are located on opposite sides of the main living area.
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.”
It also pleases Carroll these days to explore a different way of being. A dedicated workaholic for most of her life, her close calls forced her to reevaluate how she’d like to spend the “fourth quarter.” The house in the Bay encourages relaxation. Each day includes long walks around Old Town with her dog Gracie.
“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.”