The Hybrid House on St. John
- story and photographs by Ellis Anderson
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
A House With a Diary - 526 Citizen Street
When they purchased their historic home in 2014, Chris and Patricia Cheek didn't realize that it came complete with its own journal, started 65 years before - one that contained a few surprises.
- story and photos by Ellis Anderson
A cherished family home is snatched from the verge of destruction and restored to pay homage to former owner Ellsworth Collins - Bay St. Louis artist, woodworker and musician.
- story and photos by Ellis Anderson
A Cottage For Creatives
A small historic cottage on Carroll Avenue provides both home and studio for an active young family of artists. Meet the Maddens!
- story and photos by Ellis Anderson, family portrait by Katy Tuttle
The Rosendahl Home on Bookter
An artistic family calls on all their construction, real estate and design experience to transform a derelict historic house into a welcoming showplace.
- story and photography by Ellis Anderson
The Rosendahls’ appreciation of art and design spans the decades of their marriage. The couple both grew up in Naples, Florida and met when Vicki took a job working at an exclusive designer apparel store owned by Ron’s parents. The two college students found they shared a common interest in art and music and were caught up with the creative energies sweeping the country in the 1960s. While Ron finished his degree in international business administration, Vicki focused on completing a commercial art degree.
When the two began their family, Ron focused his business savvy on construction, which was booming in the ’70s and early ’80s. Although his primary business eventually evolved into consulting on large-scale development projects in the Caribbean, Vicki and Ron worked on many upscale residential homes together. Ron would design and build the house, while Vicki — who had studied further and obtained licenses as an interior designer and a real estate broker — would create a custom and complementary interior. The team developed a reputation for “making space work.”
Vicki’s art background gave her a knack for discovering standout work by local artists — pieces that would become focal points in luxe Naples homes. Ron, who’d followed his artistic muse despite his busy career, found that his own sculptures were in demand throughout South Florida. Since he worked mostly in stone at the time, he also had opportunities to design and create award-winning stone altars and fonts for well-known churches.
The couple first visited the New Orleans area in the early ’90s, after son Matt moved there to pursue a Master’s at UNO. The Rosendahls became regular visitors, even more so after Matt established himself as one of the city’s quality renovation contractors. When their son purchased a weekend home in Bay St. Louis before Katrina, Vicki and Ron were enchanted from their first visit. They made plans to build in the town and relocate eventually.
Katrina changed those plans, along with those of everyone else on the coast. Afterward, nothing remained of Matt’s Bay St. Louis house except a single piling. To complicate matters, Ron began battling a grave and extended illness. In the coming years, Vicki often wondered if the active life they’d shared was coming to a close. They downsized from their large Naples house into a small cottage near Cedar Key, Florida, waiting to see what the future would bring.
In 2011, the future delivered, big time. Matt, who’d continued building and renovating in both New Orleans and in Bay St. Louis, went to Bay St. Louis on the behest of Vicki to check out an abandoned house that she’d seen on the Internet. Although the interior was wrecked and the structural integrity dubious, the team of three had the vision and experience to make the purchase. They began the renovation with enthusiasm.
The project took a year and a half. Ron’s health began to stabilize and he was able to come to the Bay and work with Matt on occasion. For instance, the two looked for weeks for a piece of granite large enough to cover the huge kitchen island without a seam. It had to be big and have “just the right movement.” Vicki says even though she wasn’t able to visit often, “every decision was a group decision.” But the parents trusted their son’s taste and instincts completely.
“Matt’s always got great ideas,” says his mother. “Most of the time, if he suggested something, we said, ‘just do it.’”
“The three of us brought all the knowledge we’d learned from decades of building to this project,” says Ron. As an example, he points to a hidden steel beam that added strength to the back structure. A distinctive feature they collaborated on is the bead-board wainscoting throughout the house: it’s made from wood salvaged from the original ceilings that had been collapsing when they made the purchase. Vicki insisted on leaving the original paint colors of taupe, turquoise and ivory, with lots of natural wood showing through the layers.
At 2000 square feet, the house is smaller than the Rosendahls are accustomed to, but they say it fits them “just right.” Their experience with designing well-thought-out spaces shows throughout. Although it’s three bedrooms and three-and-a-half baths, no space feels cramped. The high ceilings contribute to the sense of spaciousness. Comparing them to the lower ceilings common in Florida, Vicki says “it’s opened us up.” Her studio, outfitted with built-in cabinetry, gives her both room to create and ample storage. Ron, whose work requires a larger studio, may eventually build one on the home’s large lot, but for now, he’s content with a small cottage in the neighborhood that gives him room to work large.
The couple chose soft beige-grey neutrals for most of the walls to better showcase the artwork. The colors gives the master suite a restful, spa-like feel. There’s one exception to the softer wall colors, however: the Haitian Room. The couple have an exceptional collection of originals, purchased long ago from Haitian artists who lived in the island’s highlands. Vicki chose a dark blue for the wall color of the guest room where the collection resides, then used lime green as an accent color. The effect is somehow a combination of energizing and restful.
The couple have settled happily into their new home, often sitting on the front porch to listen to music coming from Depot Row or watching events unfold on the Depot park lawn. The entertainment features of the house come in handy. Matt and his wife, Lauren, divide their time between Bay St. Louis and New Orleans. Daughter Kerry, who lives in the Bay, along her rescued black Lab Louie (short for Bay St. Louis) comes over often. Oldest son Chris (who, no surprise to anyone, sculpts as well) and grandson Rider still live in Naples, but they visit several times a year.
Even with a revolving roster of family and guests, the Rosendahls admit that their home is a still work in progress.
“Come over next time,” says Vicki, “and we’ll have everything all changed around.”
With two such talented artists in the same household, who makes the final decisions on décor? Vicki begins to laugh. “We don’t always have the same opinions,” she says. “But in the end, I get my way.”
Ron smiles in response and then winks. “We work it out,” he says.
Al Lawson - On Design
Artists are unique people. I can say that with confidence - because I am an artist. And so is my wife. As well as one of our daughters. We are familiar with the artist "raison d'etre,' which means we have to do art and be around art to fulfill our sense of purpose and meaning. That's why I have always loved to enter or peek into the private world of other artists' homes. They construct, paint, spray, and stage everything as if their homes were just another canvas or another gallery to display their work.
The other thing that artists do in their homes is collect or acquire things that energize them and help them to find inspiration and new influences for their own art. Artists' homes can also be fascinating self-portraits about the art they wish they could have done or are hoping to involve in their own art. The secrets and revelations to discover in artists' homes are limitless - just like the unending expressions artists may depict. Artists' homes are their safe place set apart from a world that may not understand them.
Our good fortune is that some artists let us in to walk around and share their personal space. And we are allowed to discover the fascinating and different way others live and embellish their nests. Or how an artist uses their home to find meaning and refuge.. Perhaps it is as the author Pierce Brown says, “Home isn't where you're from, it's where you find light when all grows dark.”
The Dreamsicle Cottage on Ballentine
A small shotgun cottage becomes a fanciful home, with color, light and art - both inside and out. And a very special orange tree.
- story and photos by Ellis Anderson
When Karen West and her friend Christy Hole purchased the house in 2012, it had been vacant for years and was “terribly deteriorated.” The original shotgun cottage was only 870 square feet, with three rooms and a tiny bathroom. With shotgun style houses, one room leads directly into another without a hallway. They’re so named because theoretically someone could shoot a gun in the front entrance and the bullet would go right out the back without hitting anything (at least one hopes). Guesstimates placed the construction of this shotgun somewhere in the 1920s.
Karen grew up in Columbia, Mississippi, a historic town on the Pearl river, about 90 miles northwest of Bay St. Louis. For most of her career, she worked in the breast healthcare industry and lived in Jackson. With friends living in the Bay, she visited often and began shopping for a second home in the town in 2005.
After "The Storm," everyone’s plans changed. The friends moved in with her in Jackson for three months. Yet Karen kept being irresistibly drawn to the coast, again and again, often to help friends with cleaning and rebuilding efforts. In 2012, she began shopping for real estate again, after retiring from General Electric's healthcare division. When the cottage on Ballentine came up for sale, Karen immediately recognized its possibilities. The house was tiny, but the lot had room for a big addition.
There was only one obstacle. The orange tree. One of the oldest in the city. It grew exactly in the spot where an addition would normally be built.
“I couldn’t kill that tree,” says Karen. “It’s been there way longer than I’ve been on this earth. It gets filled with the sweetest oranges in the world. People in the neighborhood all had memories of that tree, of eating those oranges. It was not going anywhere, so it pretty much dictated the design of the addition.”
Karen found the brother of a good friend, Steve Melton – a contractor from Gulfport - who worked with her to renovate the house and build the addition. She calls him “a true artist.” They ended up extending the shotgun back and then adding a master bedroom wing on at right angles. The orange tree ended up being nicely framed and protected in the inner corner of what’s now an ‘L” shaped house.
The newer section is 800 square feet, bringing the total space in the house to just under 1700. The highlight of the addition is a master bedroom/office with a dressing area that opens up to a screened porch (overlooking the orange tree!). The addition also includes a second bathroom, a laundry room, two closets, and a storage room. Karen met her goal of wanting to maintain the integrity of the shotgun. She also worked to integrate the historic charm of the original house into the new addition.
“We didn’t want to use anything in the interior but reclaimed wood,” says Karen. “Steve found a bunch of wood laying in the grass of a sawmill up north of Gulfport. It was full of wormholes and bee tunnels. He planed it and we helped him sand it. Let me tell you, it was a job. We had piles of it.”
The payoff is in the charm of the finished addition. Other custom touches throughout delight the eye. For instance, salvaged French doors refitted with stained glass became pocket doors for the original bathroom, which helped with space considerations. All the doors in the new part of the house are salvaged, some antebellum and handmade cypress. Three porches – front, back and side – now beckon guests and invite conversation and story-telling.
Once complete, Karen began decorating with art pieces and furnishings she’d been collecting for a lifetime. She used chartreuse green as her main “punch” color and added accents of black, white and green. The bead board walls were painted white to act as gallery canvases to showcase her extensive art collection.
“I’m drawn to artwork that is different. All of the art in the house has meaning to me though. The majority of it is from my family or created by friends. I'm wild about work by several local artists, including Ann Madden, Kat Fitzpatrick and Michelle Allee.”
The cottage grounds also acted as blank canvas for West. The yard now features an enchanting garden shed (designed and built by Melton), a cunning enclosure for her golf cart and an entire collection of iron work by Stephanie Dwyer, an artist who lives in Paris, Tennessee.
The yard art complements West’s simple landscaping, which boasts native lilies, rosemary plants and knockout roses. Crepe myrtles add height, while a grotto that came with the house has become a focal point in the side yard. As in the house, unusual accents add memorable zip. Like the bright blue candle chandelier hanging from a tree above a café table.
Even while the renovation was taking shape, West believed she’d just spend part of her time on the coast. Two years ago, part-time became full-time. She now shares the cottage with three cats.
“I came back a lot more frequently than I thought I would,” she says, smiling. “I got involved with volunteering in the community [with Friends of the Animal Shelter, St. Rose de Lima and the Historical Society]. I decided I wanted to be a permanent resident.”
Homes are reflections of their owners. That should probably be self-evident, but it is one of those things you have to reiterate. There is also a certain amount of projection involved when we create spaces to promote who we want people to think we are. In the end, even that is a reflection of who we really are. And I like that about interior design and architecture: it is both revealing and communicating.
I spend a lot of time working with clients and friends to find a right color or a comfortable sofa. That’s a predictable part of my job. What I really love, though, is when someone wants to be daring and imaginative beyond what they ordinarily would. Most of the time my work involves helping clients find new ways of looking at spaces — and usually that inspires them to think differently about life as well.
“Carpe diem,” we all know, means “seize the day.” Let’s seize the opportunity to do something fabulous with the spaces we live in, too (I won’t try to find the Latin phrase for that)! This month’s featured home is a great example of all this. Color explodes everywhere. Items and materials are repurposed in amazing and surprising ways. When you enter this house, you enter a stage of fantastic fun and frivolity.
Every day is precious, and every space we live in is important. Bravo to those who seize the opportunity to make their homes their self-portraits. As always, thank you to all who invite us into their homes and lives. May we all be inspired to find our joie de vivre where we live!
The Little Pink Cottage On Union
One of the most charming garden cottages in the Bay St. Louis historic district, "The Laughing Place" on Union has a colorful past - and present - thanks to owners Mack and Judy Pursell.
- story and photographs by Ellis Anderson
“He told me that I’d better get on back to the coast as fast as I could, because the workmen were painting the house pink,” says Judy, grinning. “He just couldn’t believe it when I told him that was exactly the color I’d picked!”
Mack and Judy both grew up in George County, Mississippi. It sits directly above Jackson County, the state’s eastern-most coastal county. Their families often took the short drive to the Gulf to boat and fish, so the Pursells both formed early attachments to Bay St. Louis. Mack remembers coming to the Bay for fishing trips as a child, while Judy sometimes visited a good friend who attended St. Joseph’s Academy on the beach (the site of the present day Our Lady Academy).
Mack and Judy attended Perkinston Junior College (founded by Judy’s great uncle) and then USM before marrying and moving to Baton Rouge. They’ve lived in the River City for the past forty years, raising a son and a daughter there. Mack spent nearly 30 years working for State Farm Insurance, and then 17 years ago he “retired” to open his own insurance-related business: an auto collision shop. Meanwhile Judy operated Judith Pursell Interiors and worked as a popular interior designer.
Through the years, the Pursells made frequent trips between Baton Rouge and Lucedale in George County to visit family. Often, they’d detour to the coast and swing through Bay St. Louis. After the children were grown, they began contemplating a second home on the coast. While the beaches in Alabama and Florida may have been more popular, the short drive between Baton Rouge and the Bay would make it possible to visit the coast almost every weekend.
In 2000, the fantasizing ended and the shopping began. The Pursells worked with realtor Marlene Logan. They’d been looking for three months when a new “for sale” sign popped up at 201 Union. But the market in Old Town was sizzling and several people had already viewed the house before the Pursells got a showing, only three days after it went on the market.
The walk-through was not encouraging. The 1600-square-foot house had been used as a rental for several years and needed lots of work. However, one big plus was the postage stamp yard. Their ranch house in Baton Rouge has a full acre of grounds, and as much as both Pursells enjoy gardening, they were looking for a light load in their second home. And Judy’s interior designer’s eye saw the cottage as a blanck canvas with unlimited possibilities. Mack made an offer the same day they first stepped inside and on August 15th presented the house as a gift to Judy for their 34th anniversary.
“Nothing in here was pretty,” says Judy, remembering those early days. “When our daughter saw it, she said, ‘The first thing you have to redo is that little bathroom off the kitchen. That’s the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen in my life!’”
They followed their daughter’s advice and then spent weekends and vacation time slowly working their way through the rest of the house. In addition to multiple renovation projects, Judy tiled the kitchen countertops and backsplashes with a mosaic of vintage dish and pottery shards, the first of several interior and exterior mosaic projects. Antique-dealer friends would save their shop casualties for her. She’d also scour garage sales looking for colors and textures she liked and buy undamaged pieces. When she was ready to start working, she put on goggles, sat on the back steps with a hammer and “broke up stuff for days.”
A friend who wanted to learn Judy’s mosaic technique helped her lay the floor of the front porch. For eight days, the two friends sat on pillows while they fitted colorful tile pieces together.
“That’s when I realized something was wrong with my brain,” says Judy, laughing. “I’m missing the part that says ‘Don’t do that! It’s too much trouble!’”
The kitchen cabinets were another stroke of creative genius. The Pursells purchased new doors to replace the dated, worn ones. Judy had read about a technique to age them using Rit dye on raw wood. She then applied a glaze to add depth and character.
“Of course, Katrina helped me out,” she says. “They look a lot older now than they did when I finished them.”
In 2005, about the time the Pursells were beginning to see light at the end of their restoration tunnel, Hurricane Katrina forced three feet of water into the cottage. Debris from other buildings and the force of the surge structurally damaged one corner of the house. The couple rolled up their sleeves and started over.
Judy turned into a salvage queen while the couple worked through the aftermath. When beaded board wood was ripped out of other historic houses and left at the curb for garbage pickup, Judy would save it from the debris pits and carry it back to the cottage. Those salvaged scraps eventually became a charming wainscoting that replaced the bottom three feet of every wall that had been ruined by Katrina.
When the Corps of Engineers began tearing down another damaged house in town, a Judy was able to save the beveled glass doors before they bulldozer crushed them. The doors now have a new function as a charming divider between the living room and the closed-in porch.
While the Pursells didn’t make any major new changes when restoring the second time around, Judy keeps adding to the whimsical nature of the house each year. When asked what style it is, she’s not able to pinpoint it. Shabby chic? Not exactly. Garden cottage? Well, maybe.
“I see things and colors that seem perfect for the cottage and find a way to work them in,” says Judy. “I experimented with the cottage from the beginning, trying things I’d never have done if I was living in a house day in and day out.”
Judy’s experiments only show her superb instincts and training as an interior designer. There’s the French bedroom for the granddaughters that incorporates French flashcards that her mother used for teaching the language. In the bathroom that doubles as a gallery for collectibles, the showpiece is a restored claw-foot tub that was original to the house since 1929. The gas fireplace in the living room is a recent add-in, yet looks like it was an integral part of the original house. And everyone’s favorite detail, the antique plates that can be seen by passersby through the window.
Outside, the Pursells’ green thumbs are evident. Blossoms spill over the ribbon strip of property that separate the house from the sidewalk. A picket fence captures a private nook of yard on Second Street, while in the back, a deserted driveway has become a charming gated courtyard shared with the house next door (belonging to neighbors Paulette and Glenn Bohne). Judy’s mosaic tile work on the side porch makes the intimate place sing with color and whimsy.
Now Mack has turned the Baton Rouge business over to his son and Judy has downsized her business, the couple are spending more time in the Bay. Even though their corner is a busy one — at least by Bay St Louis standards — Mack says it’s a serene spot. Both Pursells enjoy the fact that they’re just steps from the beach and the shops, restaurants and galleries of historic Old Town. Soon they’ll be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary, their 16th in the Laughing Place.
“We get the best of both worlds here,” says Judy. “We’re still part of Louisiana — which we love — and we’re still part of Mississippi. Nothing could make us happier.”
Al Lawson - On Design
It’s a uniquely human endeavor to decorate our domicile. It is something that visually communicates who we are and articulates what we value. I am always fascinated to see the elaborate collections people have created in their homes --- whether it is vintage dishes or an unusual collection of tchotchkes.
Whatever people choose to collect or decorate with - I am reminded that they have an identifying interest and find meaning through their collections. I first witnessed this design concept in Italian homes that displayed ceramic plates on their walls from restaurants they had visited. The plates were beautifully painted and helped the memory of a wonderful meal or remarkable evening last longer.
And I love seeing anything that shares a love for the fanciful, celebratory or simply beautiful. It’s so inviting when it is combined in a home filled with joy and warmth. Thank you everyone that shares your home with us as we read The Cleaver. We are grateful that we have been able to glimpse a little of the special spaces where you find peace and happiness .
The Green House
Looking over the picket fence at the historic Waveland home of Liz Stahler and Kevin Breaux, visitors probably won't notice the addition on the back that makes this cottage into a spacious hub for extended family and friends.
- story and photos by Ellis Anderson
Located on Jeff Davis Avenue, Lili says the original house was probably built for workers at the Ulman Woolen Mill, located around the corner on Nicholson Avenue. The cottage consisted of a central hallway with two bedrooms on either side. A kitchen and bathroom serviced the house from the back.
Niceties like living rooms and dining rooms common in middle class houses weren’t part of the plan. Apparently, life was all about sleeping, going to work, eating and then doing it again the next day. The porches provided all the living space a mill worker would need.
Bay St. Louis historian Charles Gray placed the construction of the house in the late 1800s, probably the 1890s. His estimate is based on the fact that the bead board lining the walls runs horizontally. A few decades later, it became fashionable to run the wood in a vertical direction.
Waveland represented paradise to Lili’s family, who would come over from New Orleans most weekends and holidays. After Lili married, her husband, George Stahler, fell in love with the cottage as well.
Liz became the second generation of the family to build fine memories in the Green House.
“We’d come on weekends and all the holidays – of course, more during the summer when it was hot. You’d come over here, put on your bathing suit and wouldn’t take it off until you went back to New Orleans.
“My dad was a fisherman and we all loved to fish,” she says. “But bringing five little girls fishing meant he didn’t get much done himself. He had a lot of patience.”
Eventually, the patient man began seeing ways he could make the house more comfortable for entertaining their growing family.
First, he took down the walls separating the two east bedrooms and opened them up to the hallway, creating one big living space. He added a fireplace. As their children left the nest, two other bedrooms merged into one larger one – with closets and storage built in. The kitchen and bath expanded too.
When George and Lili decided to sell their New Orleans house and move to Bay St. Louis full time, they knew they’d have to make even more changes. The beloved green cottage simply wasn’t large enough for the open arms lifestyle.
The addition itself would be 3500 square feet, most of it in one open, vaulted living area. This would more than double the square footage of the historic cottage, which was only 1500 square feet. Yet, Bay St. Louis architect Michael Reeves designed the addition so that it nested cleverly behind the original house. To passersbys and neighbors, the quaint mill workers’ cottage appeared unchanged. Inside, the front cottage opened up into a grand living area where generations of family could comfortably dine, visit and relax.
Sadly George didn't get to live very long in the house after it was completed. After his death in 2008, LiLi didn't see where it made sense to have all that space for herself. She downsized and moved next door to another smaller historic cottage on the family's compound. The next generations moved into the Green House: Liz, Kevin and their teenagers, Sam and Sarah.
While the Green House only has three bedrooms and three baths, the bedrooms are large enough to accommodate multiple guests and two half baths make it easy to share. With a revolving cast and crew of family, children, friends, college buddies and high school pals, every square foot of the original house and the addition has came in handy.
“When the kids were in college, the bedrooms were nothing but beds,” says Liz smiling. “You’d wake up in the morning and there’d be students sleeping everywhere. We’re a typical blended family, but we also have many children who weren’t actually born to us. They all know they’re welcome.”
“Of course, it usually looks like a tornado because they all come in with food and purses and bags. That doesn’t bother me. There are some things more important than worrying about clutter."
The living spaces inside the house blend and merge with the ones outside, where live oaks, a lush pond and groves of bamboo beckon. A pavilion, a screened porch, open deck and inviting front porch all provide intimate nooks for conversation, even when the house is brimming with guests.
Kevin, who’s a contractor at Stennis Space Center, knows every inch of the house. He’s the one who built the addition for Liz’s father. The couple got to know each other during the construction process, with George playing matchmaker.
“He loved the idea that Kevin could teach me how to use power tools safely,” says Liz laughing. But it’s clear that her dad’s concerns weren’t misplaced. In addition to having worked as an international paralegal, comptroller and business manager, Liz is a fearless DIYer.
For instance, the front porch of the house had been screened as long as anyone could remember, but Liz had seen an old photograph of the house without the screen and liked the way it looked. Several attempts to persuade Kevin to give it a go were unsuccessful. So one day, while he was getting a haircut on the other side of the coast, Liz took a hammer and set to work. By the time her husband arrived home, the porch was free of screening.
“When he got home, I was sitting here pretending nothing had happened,” she says. They both laugh at the memory. “But once he saw how it was going to look, he got all into it.”
One project still in the works is repainting the house. The couple had completed the front part when a seemingly endless round of road work on Jeff Davis forced them to postpone completion. A set of dormers in the back is the main telltale sign. It’s a darker shade of green.
“That old original green paint,” remembers LiLi Stahler. “I don’t know how they made it, but when you leaned against it, it rubbed off on you.”
While the new paint might not leave stains on your clothes, guests can testify that the Green House on Jeff Davis definitely makes a mark on memories.
Al Lawson - On Design
Frank Lloyd Wright, the esteemed architect, had a special appreciation for how buildings and people interact. His goal for the homes he designed for his clients was to uplift the spirits of those who lived in or visited them.
Perhaps we could say he was designing an opportunity for grace in addition to designing space. It's particularly interesting to see what he thought would contribute spiritually to peoples' lives in a building.
One of those elements was a hearth or fireplace. He is often quoted as saying, "The hearth is the psychological center of the home." Wright knew that the hearth or fire was the historical gathering place for people. He respected the social aspect of people and how they knit in communities. He took advantage of the opportunity to use space to facilitate living in harmony with nature and simplicity.
Many of us are professional designers or architects who share these same ideals and emphasize them in our projects. I have joyfully entered many homes and found not only "hearths," but "hearts" in them. People know that home is the special gathering place for their tribe or clan. As a designer, my hope is that we all will consider how we can meaningfully and, if you will, spiritually, consider our precious home spaces — and incorporate grace thoughtfully in those spaces. Here's to a life full of beauty and love!
This stunning historic home may be a Work In Progress, but that doesn't prevent the visionary and artistic owners from enjoying it to the max as they move ahead with restoration.
- story and photos by Ellis Anderson
242 St. Charles
Neither Rosie or John Dumoulin have any idea why a collection of eight bowling balls were scattered around the yard of their house when they purchased it two years ago. In fact, the gardens were so overgrown at the time of closing, it took months of slowly clearing away the weeds before they found the first ball. As they worked their way around the property, other surprises appeared. Beneath a mystery hump of vines, they discovered a beautiful fountain. Brick-edged garden beds hid beneath the rampant overgrowth.
And there were, of course, more bowling balls.
The Dumoulins appreciate a good mystery. They also know a good conversation starter when they see one. The bowling balls are staying, at least for now. But the house on St. Charles is still in the early stages of Work In Progress.
Meanwhile, the couple has no intentions on delaying gratification in their home until it’s “finished.” Children, grandchildren, and friends are already enjoying the home’s distinctive personality.
It's a house built for entertaining and easy family living. The door to the main house opens to a wide center hall, with four rooms on either side. In the back part of the house, the kitchen, another bedroom and a glassed-in porch give plenty of spread-out space.
The décor of the house reflects John and Rosie’s love of antiques, treasured family memorabilia, and fun Americana collectibles. While the style of the house and the furnishings differ in both period and region, the Dumoulins have pulled the juxtaposition off with flair. Even their primitive antiques fit seamlessly in the elegant and airy rooms.
Of course, it helps that both Dumoulins have artistic inclinations and careers. John holds bachelor’s degrees in art and advertising. While working in public affairs for the Air Force, he obtained a masters degree in public relations and communications. He’s spent most of his working life in Air Force and NASA communications (including one stint working directly for the Secretary of the Air Force).
Over the past decade, John has specialized in producing educational museum exhibits and programs for NASA and for the past two years at INFINITY Science Center. He’s also the author of four books, including the Flatcreek Tales series.
Rosie holds degrees in art education and crafts design. Her thirty-year career as an art teacher has left her proficient at jewelry design, photography and pottery. She’s already showing work locally at Gallery 220 (220 Main Street in Old Town) and at Bay-Tique (125 Main Street). She’s commandeered a room in the house for her workshop and another glassed-in area beneath the guest cottage is slated to become a pottery studio.
So, the Dumoulins see their St. Charles house as another art project, albeit, a large one (the house is 2300 square feet, plus two out-buildings). And like most artists, they’ll take just as much pleasure in the planning and the doing of a project as they will in the ultimate outcome.
Of course, they’ve had plenty of practice. Their last home, a cabin outside of Huntsville, was built of 100-year-old logs. For twenty years, they tackled project after project, shaping the house with their vision and labor. They built studios, barns, decks, patios and gardens on the 12-acre farm. John established a small working vineyard and made wine as a hobby.
Their last major project at the cabin had been on the backburner for years – Rosie’s dream kitchen. But Rosie had only cooked a few meals in that new kitchen. INFINITY Science Center offered John the job of museum manager after he retired from NASA. He couldn’t resist. But the couple needed to move immediately.
While the location of INFINITY made Slidell, Mandeville, and Diamondhead all possibilities for their new home, after John took a tour of Bay St. Louis, he called Rosie.
“You need to come see this,” he said. “This feels right.”
Rosie joined John on the coast and the two drove around the town. They’d both grown up on Florida’s panhandle and the Bay still possessed the “Old Florida” charm that’s now extinct. They liked the fact that the core of town wasn’t made up of subdivisions. They loved the front porches, and the picket fences, and the people waving from their yards.
“I grew up in a small town, so for me, it was like coming home again,” says John. “I can bike everywhere. It’s like being ten years old again.”
They looked at several houses, but the one on St. Charles called their names. Loudly. Insistently. It was built in 1890 - or 1895 - since records disagree. According to the National Trust (and it’s one of only two individual houses in Bay St. Louis to be listed on the National Trust), it was the first Colonial Revival house built in Bay St. Louis – and perhaps in Mississippi.
Since it was built on high ground, flood insurance premiums wouldn’t be an issue, yet the Dumoulins could see the beach from the mailbox. High ceilings, transoms, floor to ceiling windows, and a big yard for gardening all beckoned. Their new next door neighbors told them that they would be buying the most photographed house in Bay St. Louis (in fact, it's featured in Ken Murphy's book, My South Coast Home).
But the house was also crying out for help. Due to illness, in recent years, the former owners hadn’t been able to care for the house they’d once lavished with love. And some serious updating was required. Old knob and tube wiring had to be replaced before the sale was even finalized.
Afterward, the Dumoulin’s tackled the heavy structural tasks first – replacing the broken “spine” of the house underneath and leveling. That was just the beginning.
“We painted the entire interior,” says Rosie, “and put wood floors in two bedrooms, floored the attic and added insulation. In the guest cottage, we added a bathroom and redid the floors and insulation. Coming up are re-dos of both main house bathrooms and the kitchen.”
Rosie, a master gardener, has approached the yard carefully over the past two years.
“I know Zone 7 plants, not Zone 9. I was afraid to pull things up at first. So we grew a lot of weeds that first year," she says, laughing.
John’s even experimenting with growing grapevines in the yard. He planted his first muscadine vine. It’ll take three years to see if it produces grapes. If it does well however, John is nurturing a retirement dream.
“What about vineyards and a winery here in Bay St. Louis?” he asks. “It could be great for locals and be a lovely visitor attraction too. Wouldn’t that be amazing?”
Most people would agree. Of course, it’d be another Work In Progress. But with visionaries like the Dumoulins, it’s likely to succeed.
Al Lawson - On Design
Her home never looks finished. It just looks lived in. She has somehow found that perfect blend of domesticity and function that tells us living is her real vocation. I'm inspired by her and homes like hers.
May we all grow where we are planted and incorporate beauty, peace and joy around us! Cheers to a beautiful life! La bella vita!
The "Country" Home on Miteer
Geoff and Moli Kergosien entertain easily and often in their "country" home, one that reaches out to embrace and include the natural beauty that surrounds it.
- story and photography by Ellis Anderson
But thanks to Horace’s grandson Geoff, and his wife, Moli McDonald Kergosien, excursions “to the country” now are anything but primitive. The couple built their Miteer Drive home to take full advantage of the surrounding natural beauty - and to share that splendid bounty with friends and family.
The home sits on property a few lots down from the one Geoff’s grandfather owned. Geoff, a physical therapist, purchased it twenty-five years ago, just a few months after he started dating Moli. They both worked at Hancock Medical, where Moli was an x-ray tech.
The McDonald family has been in the Bay since the mid-1800s, while the first Kergosien arrived in the 1880s. The families knew each other. In fact, Moli’s aunt (Eve McDonald) introduced Geoff’s parents. But although Bay St. Louis is a “small town,” because of a seven-year age difference, the two had never formally met before.
“She graduated high school when I was playing little league,” Geoff quips, and they both laugh.
Geoff, who’d been a woodworker from an early age, was a regular customer of McDonald’s Hardware, but didn’t realize Moli’s connection until he rang the bell of the family home on their first date. Mr. Jim answered the door and the young suitor momentarily was taken aback. But he remained undeterred in his courtship. The two married in 1990.
Later, after a year-long stint living and working in Tuscaloosa, the pair joyously returned to the coast. They still remember the drive south and the intoxicating scent of marsh grasses that seemed to welcome them back.
When their son Caleb was a toddler, Geoff and Moli begain building their house on Miteer. They moved in a year later on the first birthday of their daughter, Camille. Geoff - who is “biologically programmed to be an architect” - had been fascinated by building and design since his youth, completing a sailboat when he was only fifteen.
He came up with a floor plan and his “adoptive grandfather,” William Boudreaux, finessed the plan and drew up blueprints – even gifting the young couple with a 3-D model of the home – complete with a removable roof. Contractor Rodney Corr then constructed the framework of the house, leaving much of the finish work for Geoff. Raising young children and working fifty-hour weeks left him little time to give the detailing the attention he would have liked.
Yet the Kergoisiens' life on Miteer was idyllic. The young family missed no opportunity to appreciate the lively social scene offered in the town itself and the super-saturated natural beauty that surrounded their home.
Eight years later after moving into their home, Geoff and Moli cruised the Bay in their classic convertible Bonneville. It was a memorable evening, because Old Town was “rocking.” The splendid landscape of the coast wrapped them with peace.
“That night at Dan B’s, we thought, ‘this is utopia,’” says Geoff. “We could entertain ourselves in this tiny town, while everything was so vibrant and lush and green. It was almost too good to be true.”
Two weeks later, Hurricane Katrina turned that utopia on its head. The losses – both personal and community-wide - seemed insurmountable. The unprecedented flood waters tore through the living area of their home on Miteer. They were able to save only three pieces of furniture - one of them being the bed Geoff had built when they were still newlyweds.
Moli admits that the first time she stepped into the house afterward, it seemed so far beyond redemption she suggested they burn it to the ground.
But Geoff couldn’t suppress an odd sense of elation. Hurricane Katrina had given him another opportunity to rebuild the house – this time, according to his vision.
“I lost every tool I owned, and there’s nothing that will make a man happier than to tell him he must go out and buy new ones. Within a month, I had a game plan.”
The plan involved rebuilding the woodshop first and then beginning work on the house. The couple chose mahogany to finish off the interior the second time around. The rich red tones of the wood set the theme for the entire house. Over a period of two years, Geoff crafted the kitchen cabinets, all the window and door casings, and every piece of trim. Moli and the children pitched in on the rebuilding efforts as well. In their scant spare time, the Kergosiens also helped friends and family members reconstruct their own lives.
There were surprises along the way. One night Moli came home from work to find a large hole in the bedroom wall. Only a bed sheet separated them from the yard. During the day, Geoff had taken a chainsaw to the exterior of the house and cut out a huge section. He'd been visualizing a sun room off the master bedroom and decided it was time to begin.
Now the space Geoff designed and built has become the couple's favorite retreat.
Another day, Moli arrived home and marveled at a new and enormous crater behind the house.
“I’d never put a pool in before,” says Geoff. “But I figured it couldn’t be that complicated. Besides, by this point, Moli knows my projects are probably not going to end badly.”
Moli’s faith was justified. The pool is now the centerpiece of an extraordinary outdoor living space on the ground level. It encompasses the entire footprint of the house and flows effortlessly out toward the canal that wraps three sides of the property.
Down by the docks, a classic wood Chris Craft and a sleek skiff beckon. Beneath the house, an enormous screen for watching televised games is visible from almost every vantage point within 100 yards. An outdoor fireplace, two bars (one in progress), multiple grills and three large dining areas tell the story of frequent family feasts.
The couple love to cook. Moli is the "family caterer" and in recent years, Geoff has focused his creative drive on the kitchen. He compares slicing and dicing to woodworking. “You can take the ingredients and create anything you want. There’s nothing better.”
The two often entertain and now that the children are both in college, the focus has expanded. Immediate family members who live in the area comprise a ready-made dinner party of twenty. Add friends and acquaintances, and the numbers easily rise to a hundred. Yet the Kergosiens have developed a system that’s “efficient and easy.” They can prepare for a major party in just two days and clean up in a few hours.
The relaxed approach to entertaining extends to the couple’s taste in décor. Both downstairs and upstairs, eye-catching artwork, photographs and collectibles make up simple tableaus. Room-makers like Elizabeth Veglia’s mosaic table and glass panel provide unforgettable focal points.
Yet nothing seems fussy or overworked. Moli jokes that Geoff can tell the story behind every item in the house. But it’s a joke based in truth. It’s clear that each belonging is infused with meaning, intertwining the family’s life with that of the community's and the landscape they love so well.
“We live this life to its fullest and it makes us spoiled rotten,” says Geoff. “I suppose we could have a home anywhere in the world. But why would we want to live anywhere besides Bay St. Louis?”
Al Lawson - On Design
Joie de vivre! Il dolce vita! When you see it – you know it. People who have that special joy of the sweet life! They are the ones who are always finding an excuse for a party… seizing every opportunity to make a meal a feast… making sure everyone is connected and given meaning.
I can’t remember when I began to see hospitality because it has always been a part of my conscious world. My mother and father were inveterate entertainers. Every week had a bridge party. Every weekend had a wedding or baby shower. Every holiday had a cookout or large assembly of family for dinner. What I learned from these events is the powerful opportunity they have to share love. It is a labor of cooking and decorating to share hospitality – but what it communicates is love and inclusiveness.
A special tablecloth and arranged flowers on the table tell you that I care you encounter beauty. Food prepared with special processes and spices say I want you to feast on the savory and sweet things of this world because you are important. Music involved in these celebrations is the sensory gift that elevates your heart, soul and mind - because I care you enjoy that experience. I have been a grateful recipient of many generous people who shared friendship, family and festive living with me. I am grateful.
Cheers to the sweet life full of joy!
This month's home is located in the middle of Old Town's Historic District and owner Martha Wilson is beginning to wonder if there's not something a little angelic about her new neighbors.
- story and photos by Ellis Anderson
Maybe Miss Moseley Was Right
Click on photos in gallery below to enlarge
“People just go the extra mile here,” Martha says. “I’ve been in some lovely places, but this one just takes the cake. Whenever you have any kind of problem, they do what they can to help.”
Martha names a veritable choir of them. An angel named Jeanne Baxter helped her find the cottage at 314 Carroll Avenue. An artist she met at Gallery 220, Jo Slay, bolstered Martha’s hopes of finding a home in the Bay. Interior designers Al and Cathy Lawson offered fresh ideas to make the house live up to its potential as her dream home.
Liz Seal, who had originally designed the striking patio landscaping, offered her new neighbor advice for making the most of the maturing plantings and adding new beds. Contractor Kenny Monti has competently solved Martha’s small construction dilemmas. There are lots of gardeners and shop owners and painters she names. As well as the neighborhood children who take a break from play to rest on her front porch.
It’s clear that Martha has found her own slice of heaven on Carroll Avenue.
Martha’s lush southern accent is punctuated with genuine smiles that light up her eyes. She grew up in Greenville, Mississippi and has lived most of her life in Memphis. Yet one can guess at the steel that runs beneath the magnolia: this genteel woman spent most of her career as an owner of a container shipping business, dealing with cargo arriving from the world over.
After retiring, she devoted her energies to full-time care of her aging mother, who recently passed. Soon after, she began to feel tugs toward the coast. Martha had spent time there as a child, but when she, her mother, and her sister returned on a road trip in 2007, she was heartbroken to see that the damage from Katrina was much worse than they’d imagined. The haunting images remained with her, but so did a love of the landscape and the people she'd met. Finally, in 2014, she found the opportunity to return - this time with the resolve to buy a house.
At the suggestion of her sister, she began searching in Ocean Springs, but found it didn’t “feel quite like home.” She traveled to Bay St. Louis, where she met Jeanne Baxter (John McDonald Realty), “whose love for the place came out." Then a stay at the Bay Town Inn and a visit with owner Nikki Moon, left her certain that she’d found her true coast home.
She made the offer on the Carroll house cottage before she left town.
“What a wonderful place for family and friends," says Martha. “I looked at other homes with great charm and character, but this one really spoke to me.”
The house is a Biloxi cottage, a rare design in Bay St. Louis. Economy was important in the early 1900s, so four adjacent rooms had corner fireplaces - all served by the same chimney. In the past century, all the fireplaces in the Carroll cottage have been removed. However, the previous owners, Benjamin Golding and Elizabeth Bartasius, exposed the remaining brick chimneys when they renovated post-Katrina – one of the many small touches that make the house anything but ordinary.
Architecturally, the floor plan of the house flows like a lazy river. The front door opens onto a large living room area on the left with the dining room straight ahead. The compact – but exquisitely functional kitchen – merges with the left side of the dining room.
French doors at the end of the dining table tempt one to step out into an astonishing Asian/Southern deck area. Liz Seal’s vision as a landscape designer comes to the fore in this serene place. Stalks of rust-colored bamboo provide privacy and a fantastic visual backdrop for the clumps of river birch trees growing up through the deck. The textural bark of the lithe trees sings against the bamboo backdrop. Comfortable and durable furnishings complete this retreat. Any activity would feel perfect here – meditating, reading or grilling out with family and friends.
The house originally contained two bedrooms and a small office. Martha’s master bedroom opens into the second bath and and a private door leads directly to the patio. Since her children and grandchildren are frequent guests, she needed “as many beds as I could fit.” The former office now contains two twin beds. Four full-sized bunk beds fill the guest room, but they were designed with the comfort of adults in mind.
Family portraits by Ann Madden
Even when the grandchildren aren’t visiting, their presence is strong. Glowing portraits by Ann Madden (another one of those neighbors who might be hiding wings) have captured the bright energy of these children and various pieces of their artwork are prominently displayed.
Work by other local artists can be found almost everywhere the eye lands. The furnishings range from beach casual to antique, but with the help of designer Al Lawson’s genius with juxtaposition, everything works beautifully.
The main conversation piece in the house came about because Al mentioned that the living area lacked a real focal point. He brought in a mass of huge paper lanterns and hung them over the dining room table. Their light - and light-hearted - impact woke up the entire living area and set the tone for the house.
Martha believes Al understood exactly what she was going for. “I didn’t want it to be stuffy. I didn’t necessarily want it to be beachy though - just a fun place for the family and friends to come."
“More people have already have stayed in it than I would have imagined in my lifetime… my friends, my children, my grandchildren. It’s a happy magnet.”
And one guesses that the house at 321 Carroll is attracting a few angelic visitors as well.
Al Lawson - On Design
334 Terrace Avenue, Waveland
This month's home is located in the Bay's sister city of Waveland. It may be tiny, but it dazzles with star-power in "Tiny House Nation!"
- photos and story by Ellis Anderson
It all started with Pye Parson, a landscape designer who lived in Waveland pre-Katrina. She owned the popular Sol Gardens on Main Street in Old Town Bay St. Louis. Like thousands of coast residents, Pye and her family evacuated from their Waveland home in 2005, believing they’d be returning in a few days.
After the storm, nothing but a set of brick steps remained. The family relocated to Birmingham for son Quen’s schooling. He was five at the time. Although, they struggled together through the abrupt adjustment, the couple’s marriage ended eventually, along with Pye’s hopes of living on the Mississippi coast. Yet, she found herself unable to completely relinquish the Waveland dream even though she remarried in recent years and built a busy career as a real estate broker.
Realizing the costs of rebuilding on the coast had risen because of fortification techniques and elevation requirements, she began to research tiny house living. The trend to build smaller has been blossoming on the international scene for decades and has recently caught fire in the U.S. The environmental impact of living small appealed to Pye, as did the lower rebuilding costs.
One evening, while doing more tiny house research on computer, Pye ran across a call for people wanting to build a small house as part of a major network TV show. Pye wrote a letter explaining her situation and two days later, heard back from New York. Thus began a six-week series of interviews during the screening process. Finally, the producers selected Pye, her husband Roald and son Quen, to be featured in a first-season episode.
Although Pye had found a Waveland builder she wanted to work with, she didn’t have plans. Her sister’s husband, Birmingham architect Bruce Lanier (Standard Creative http://www.standardcreative.com/home.html worked overtime at his office and gifted Pye with a set of plans, managing to tick off everything on her “must-have” list: lots of light, a large bathroom area, a space for Quen and his computer set up. The entire structure would be built to satisfy fortified coastal building codes.
During the following weeks, Pye and her family became used to being interviewed and having camera crews filming every reaction and casual comment – both in their Birmingham home and at the site of the Waveland build.
Pye and the producers spent the next year wrestling with roadblocks like zoning, variances and builders who were reluctant to vary from the norm. The house was smaller than regulations – ones put in place in a different era when size equated with quality - allowed. Because of the delays, the house ended up being featured in season three instead of season one.
But finally, in January, Pye and her family were introduced to their new Waveland home. The cameras were running the first time they entered the finished house and captured the family’s excitement and awe.
“When we walked into the house, we hadn’t seen the interior before,” Pye says. “ We were totally surprised. The show really blew it out of the water with the efficient use of space. Plus, I love the way the elements of tile, wood, and metal all work together. “
The show’s producers modified the original plan somewhat to meet their own criteria, but Lanier’s sophisticated beach-style comes through loud and clear. Fourteen-foot ceilings in the main living and bedroom area make the 576 square foot house sing with spaciousness and light.
Pye says that her favorite part of the new house is the master bedroom.
“I’m up in the tree with the birds,” she says. “And at sunset, when the light comes in from the West, it’s amazing.”
The bathroom runs a close second. Pye had wanted a spa-like feel and clever use of the square footage gave her just that.
“You give up a lot of space and privacy in a tiny house,” she says. “So you need to splurge elsewhere. Once you close the door to the bathroom, you’re in your own world, with a big tiled shower. It’s amazing.”
The kitchen, according to Pye, is a model of efficiency and a cinch to clean – from top to bottom, she can have it sparkling in just twenty minutes. The loft area includes a small office space for Pye and Quen’s living area with a custom –built computer desk.
The custom feature that’s a design and efficiency hit are the “barn doors,” that separate the living area from the master bedroom. The massive doors are hung from the top and slide easily into place on tracks. One of the doors contains a fold-down table, while the other serves as storage for two bench-style seats. When the family’s hosting a dinner party, the living area transforms instantly into a dining room.
Two distinct outdoor living areas lay claim to space beneath the house and add hundreds of square feet to the home.
“In the beginning, one of our hardest decisions was where to eat our meals,” Pye says. “We have several outdoor spaces that are really unique. The balcony right off the kitchen has become our favorite place for breakfast, while we tend to have most of our dinners in the living room beneath the house. Then we’ll enjoy a drink around the fire pit in the evening."
Although the family hasn’t been able to leave Birmingham as quickly as they’d planned due to jobs and school for Quen, they’re hoping to move down to the coast full time as soon as practical. In the meantime, they're spending as much time in the house as possible.
Has the family found disadvantages in living small? Turns out the main one is acoustical. Since the house is so small, Pye and Roald can sometimes hear night-owl Quen when he’s up late working on his computer. They’ve solved the problem by creating sound panels that Quen can easily take up and put down.
How about the news that the city of Waveland is considering welcoming developers who want to build more tiny houses?
“Why use an old model? The real opportunity is often in being different,” says Pye. “There’s a huge body of people who miss the “old Florida” and Waveland can offer that experience.”
“I’m excited to be back. The people are wonderful, the landscape is beautiful and Waveland is in the position of being a really cool, eco-friendly place. Our asset is this incredible natural world. You don’t have to invest any money. The beauty’s already here. You just have to promote it.”
Al Lawson - On Design
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.
Good Bones, Simple Pleasures
story and photos by Ellis Anderson
- This month - Marilyn and Wayne Gouguet take a historic cottage with good bones and create a Bay home where every detail shines.
The cottage was not beautiful. In fact, it was a mess. So was the town. Only two years had passed since Katrina’s unprecedented destruction. The city’s entire infrastructure was undergoing a messy overhaul and in 2007, it seemed that every street in Bay St. Louis was made from mud. Many streets were lined with empty lots, abandoned buildings and FEMA trailers. St. George, a narrow lane running through the heart of Old Town had its own share of sad scenery. The little side hall cottage was one among many.
But 303 St. George possessed something many others did not: good bones. The original house is one of the few side hall cottages in Bay St. Louis and was built in 1890. Wayne and Marilyn recognized what it could become with time, and vision, and work.
The couple have lots of practice at restoration. Soon after they married in 1980, they tackled the makeover of a 1920s bungalow in Picayune. Although they eventually sold it and moved into a contemporary home they built, the passion for historic housing never faded.
So they purchased the gutted cottage on St. George and spent the next two years working on its restoration. Since the couple live full time in Picayune where Wayne is a city councilman (in addition to working as a contractor) and Marilyn is a private practice therapist, they commuted weekends to work on the house. Wayne handled the construction end of the renovation while Marilyn oversaw the interior design.
story continued below
Just months after the purchase, the Gouguets were thrilled to learn that their cottage was included in the boundaries of the newly formed Bay St. Louis Historic District. It was created by the city council in April 2007 after an overwhelming number of property owners voted to establish one.
“Some people don’t realize what a positive impact being in a historic district has on property values,” says Wayne. “We knew that Bay St. Louis was going to come back with a vengeance.”
Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH) had a hand in the restoration too, helping out with grant funding and architectural oversight. Working with MDAH, the front rooms were replastered and original floors sanded and restored. In the quest for historic accuracy, Marilyn and Wayne also embarked on a historic scavenger hunt of grand proportions, seeking out everything from period door hardware and shutters to trim and moldings.
Wayne even went so far as to find and install antique ceiling fans, while Marilyn chose a kicky contemporary lighting fixture for the dining room. She also opted for bright wall colors and contemporary artwork. Fortunately, her sister is the well-known artist Joyce Livingston King, who paints bold, strikingly rendered images of fish, crabs and landscapes. The juxtaposition of the antique, the vintage and the modern in the house seamlessly work to create a comfortable, timeless atmosphere.
“I even love the detail of a historic transom window,” says Wayne. “Seeing that wavy glass and knowing that it’s 110 years old makes you think of all the families and people who came before you.”
The Gouguets have actually met some of the people who came before them. The first time Wayne went to pull building permits, he met Charlene Black, the city’s zoning official. When Charlene saw the address on the form, she smiled and revealed that she’d grown up in 303 St. George.
The Gouguets spend most weekends in the Bay and have friends lined up to reserve the two bedroom/one bath cottage on weekends when they can’t. One couple loved visiting so much, they ended up buying their own house in the Bay. Other frequent guests are still shopping.
And maybe, just maybe, they’ll be fortunate enough to find a house with bones as fine as the one at 303 St. George.
Joyce King's work can be seen at Blue Skies Gallery in Long Beach and Vintage Vault (in the train depot) in Gulfport.
Al Lawson - On Design
Somewhere along the path of life and work it made sense to me to have a signature something. It was a no brainer that one of my signatures would be a bow tie. My dad always wears bow ties – and always has. I simply adopted that style idea as well. It may be a little more evident in my life and work, however, because I wear one every day. Or almost every day. I really do it because it’s easy and I don’t have to think as much about what I am going to wear. There you have it. The method to my madness. In that same way of thinking I have tried to find other signatures to simplify my life – and to be memorable and unique. Our signature wine. Our signature dessert. That signature meal I always take to someone if they are sick or need some expression of love. That signature cologne. Or that signature stationary. So pick the things that are your signatures! Be memorable! And simplify your life at the same time.
by Ellis Anderson
This month - a visit at one of the most distinguished homes on the Mississippi coast - "Tranquility," the home of architect Fred Wagner.
As one draws closer, the home that stands at the end of this dreamy corridor seems to materialize from the past. While it was built in 1979 and isn’t a historic house, it’s well on its way to being one of the most beloved examples of fine architecture on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Driving up the oak alley, climbing the steps to the veranda and knocking on the tall front door impresses on a visitor the stately dignity of the house. Yet, when Fred Wagner opens the door and offers a heartfelt welcome, even a child would feel instantly relaxed and at home.
Inside, doorways open from the wide front hall, offering glimpses into the varied characters of the rooms. Each of the ground floor rooms even has a different type of flooring – a device Wagner used to further accentuate the personalities of the rooms.
When Wagner designed the house for his own family in 1979, he had already established a career as a noted coast architect. A native New Orleanian, he had graduated from Tulane University and in 1954, married Virginia Seal from Bay St. Louis. The young family lived in New Orleans until their oldest child, Lisa, was about five, when the couple decided they’d rather raise their family “in the country,” on the coast. They purchased an old Victorian house close to the beach on property dotted with oaks and magnolias.
When Camille raked the coast with 200 mph winds in 1969, Fred, Virginia and their two children rode it out in their old house, taking refuge beneath the dining room table while the walls shook. Ten years later, the couple decided to forgo a complete restoration on their old, structurally unsound house and build on the same lot. The old house was carefully dismantled, as Wagner planned on reusing its heart-pine beams, stained glass and moldings in the new home.
Although Fred had been trained as a modern architect, he appreciates the skills and the design of historic houses. He decided to build his own home in the classic tradition that was so evident in “the Bay,” so he designed a very unpretentious house with cottage proportions.
But he also wanted it to be able to withstand the most ferocious of storms. So although the house appears to be a simple, framed Creole cottage, it’s built on a commercial grade foundation.
“The footings, the columns, the beams and the floor slab – which is five inches thick – are made from reinforced concrete,” says Wagner. Other upgrades include using two by six lumber to build the exterior walls (instead of the normal two by fours) and the roof is fortified with extensive cross bracing.
Hurricane Katrina tested Tranquility and after the storm had passed, it was the only beach house standing south of the railroad tracks. The storm had taken a heavy toll however, crashing through the first floor and wrecking havoc.
The couple began a full restoration soon after the storm and by spring of 2007, were back in their home.
“It seemed like an overwhelming challenge,” said Wagner. “At first we weren’t sure we could even restore the house. It was a joint decision to try. It’s not exactly like it was before, yet there’s a sense of place.”
Evidence of the storm’s fury can be seen in the scarring of the fabulous cypress paneling in the formal dining room. Yet, one thing that hasn’t changed is the fluid floor plan, with wide doorways that invite movement from room to room.
“Virginia loved to entertain and this house has a way of putting people at ease when they visit,” says Wagner. “I designed it to encourage an easy flow of people, so that nobody got stuck in a corner when we had large groups.”
The floor plan features a dining room and kitchen off one side of the wide center hall, with a living room and master bedroom on the other. The center hall opens up to living area in back that spans the width of the house. Glass doors create a transparent wall, inviting in the lush yard. A staircase on each end of the room leads to additional bedrooms upstairs.
The cypress-paneled dining room is special to Wagner. His father’s insurance clients included the Louisiana Cypress Lumber Company in Ponchatoula, and since he often went along on business trips, he learned to love the intoxicating, pungent odor of milled cypress. Many years later, Wagner spotted some of the most beautiful cypress he’d ever seen at the mill of an architectural client. Although he didn’t know at the time what he’d do with the wood, Wagner accepted payment for his services in lumber. Later, when Tranquility was under construction, Wagner created paneling, molding and a mantle out of the lumber, making for an unforgettable dining room.
“There has been much conversation and laughter and clinking of glasses in this room,” Wagner says, leading the way into the adjoining kitchen.
The kitchen too was created as an entertainment area, as well as an efficient workplace. Wagner designed it so that the comings and goings of guests wouldn’t disrupt the work of the cook. A small breakfast table sits near the French windows that open up to a screened porch facing the beach. One can almost see Virginia, who passed away in 2011, preparing some of her famous hors d’oeuvres at the kitchen island.
Virginia’s lively spirit still permeates every room in the house, especially the formal living room, where a spectacular portrait of her hangs. The original was painted by famed New Orleans artist, Hal Carney. Carney was known for his brilliantly abbreviated portraits, which managed to catch the very essence of his subject’s personality. This one is no exception.
Virginia was in her early fifties when Wagner approached Hal Carney about the commission. Carney at first refused, saying that he didn’t do portraits of women because “they always want to look prettier than they are.” Yet Fred insisted that he wanted a portrait of his wife “as she is.” He finally persuaded the artist to take on the project.
Carney did a masterful job. Even a viewer who never knew Virginia would understand that she was a forthright, confident woman who possessed great powers of perception and enormous energy. There’s tenderness and compassion and laughter in her face as well. A single bare foot and her expressive hands speak to someone who could work tirelessly, yet find time to relax with friends and family.
The original portrait was lost in Katrina and no trace of it was ever found. However, slides of Hal Carney’s work were discovered, including the portrait of Virgina. The Wagners were eventually able to have the image printed on canvas. Even on close examination, it’s difficult to tell that it’s not an original painting.
Wagner calls the adjoining master bedroom his favorite room in the house. Two sets of French doors lead to another screened porch, a place Wagner frequently enjoys. It seems to reflect Wagner’s personality since a contemporary Eames chair flanks a poster bed that speaks to the best of mid-1800’s antiques. The original Mallard bed was destroyed by Katrina. A master craftsman in St. Francisville was able to recreate an exact copy based on drawings and pictures Wagner had made of the bed before the storm. Like Virginia’s portrait, there is no enjoyment lost in the fact that it’s a reproduction and not an original.
The master bathroom features a whimsical counterpoint to the classic house. While traveling in Mexico with friends, one couple purchased a hand-painted tile wall mural of a peacock. The mural never was installed, so Wagner asked to purchase it as he planned his own bathroom. “It’s been a delight all these years to bathe with a peacock,” Wagner says, laughing.
The expansive tiled living area across the back of the house echoes the inviting natural views of the front porch. Wagner calls it the “summer” living room, while the more formal living room with it’s fireplace is his winter retreat.
When guests need to head for their own homes, the house doesn’t make it easy to go. The front porch is flanked on both sides by large screened rooms, each beckoning and begging one to stay a bit longer. The oak alley acts as a living telescope; looking though it, the line where the blue water of the sound meets the sky is both magnified and sharpened. Why would someone want to leave this magical place for the world beyond the oaks?
Fred Wagner sits in the porch swing, taking in the view so very familiar to him. He’s been able to mesh the natural environment with the built environment graciously, seamlessly and unforgettably – the ultimate goal of fine architecture. The expression in his eyes is one of peace and of course, tranquility.
Fred had this swing crafted to duplicate on that had been in his family for generations. In the little video snippet below, he demonstrates how it easily transforms from a swing to a cradle.
Al Lawson - On Design
Welcome to the New Year! Get excited! Embrace the moment! Inhale the preciousness of the present! There is nothing as important and real as where you are right now. So don’t wait. Put a new pillow on your sofa. Reupholster the chair you’ve been waiting to change. Buy flowers every week and put them in a pitcher or a vase on your kitchen counter. Find a candle or fragrance diffuser that makes you smile when you walk in a room. Throw a gorgeous piece of fabric over the back of one of your chairs. Buy a painting from a local artist that gives you goose bumps. Remember “Beauty will save the world” according to the Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky. Start the renovation of your world now!
401 Main Street - The Bell Family
story and photography by Ellis Anderson
Brehm and Jenny Bell were all set to build their dream home. They owned a lovely lot in Old Town and architect Ed Wikoff had worked with the family to come up with plans for a house that would be their “forever home.” Final tweaks were being worked into the design. The stars seemed aligned for perfection.
Then Jenny, who was driving through Old Town in a rain shower, chanced to see realtor Amy Wood dashing to her car after posting a “for sale” sign in front of 401 Main Street. She stopped her own car in the middle of the street. She called her husband, Brehm, a local attorney, on the cellphone.
“Brehm, you know that house I’ve always loved?” she asked. “The pink one on the corner of Main and Necaise? It’s on the market.”
The couple booked an appointment for a showing that same day.
Jenny, a practical-minded woman, doesn’t think of herself as being clairvoyant, yet the week before she had specifically mentioned the house at 401 Main in a conversation with a close friend. She’d confided that if something wonderful - just the right thing - came open in Old Town, they might put aside their house plans and buy instead of building. It’d have to be a place we both really loved, she told her friend. Something like the Pink House.
However, both Brehm and Jenny went to the showing with open minds. They were prepared to walk away, although Jenny at least hoped to snag a few ideas they could incorporate into their own house plans.
She recalls, “We walked through the gardens first and then through the front door. It just immediately felt like home. And even though it'd been renovated, the charming character of the house had been left intact.”
After the initial walk-through, the couple sat in the outdoor pavilion and tried to absorb the situation. Did they love the house so much that they could ditch the idea of building? Later that day, they set up a second appointment so their four teenage/young adult children could take a look. The deal was cinched when they all expressed enthusiasm. The kids were especially excited by “the outside rooms.”
While the original house was built sometime in the 1890’s, the former owners, Jim and Lori Lewis, had constructed two outbuildings The first contains a large living area with kitchenette, a finished attic space and a workshop. After the Bells purchased the home, they made the building a complete studio apartment by converting a closet into a full bathroom. There’s even room in the studio building for Jenny’s office. The graphic designer used re-purposed historic doors to create a chic room divider between a guest bedroom area and her workspace.
The second outdoor building is just a few steps away, across an intimate courtyard garden paved with bricks. There's a pond in the center, where fish flash in filtered sunlight like slices of orange. The many-paned glass walls of the “pavilion” give it a charming fairyland feel. Inside the tiny cottage, the exposed rafter ceiling seems higher than the room is wide. The Bells have furnished it with a suspended television, comfy chairs and game tables. Jenny says it’s already become a favorite teenage hangout, while the adults have found it to be the perfect fair-weather spot to enjoy football games.
The overhang of the pavilion creates the roof for yet a third outdoor living area. A massive brick fireplace steals the show as the centerpiece. Two stained glass doors hang on either side to give privacy from passing cars on the street. On chilly nights when the winds are brisk, a thick canvas shade can be pulled down to make a "wall," turning the brick patio into a cozy place for conversation or simply watching the fire.
“The Lewis’s did such a great job of making the additions mesh architecturally with the main house,” says Jenny. “They really loved on this house. We’re blessed by all their attention to detail.”
The Bells are looking forward to putting their own stamp on the pink house as time goes on. But they’re not in a hurry. In the meantime, they’re settling into the rhythm of life in Old Town’s Historic District. They walk or bike to visit friends, go to church, eat out or just to take in the scenery of the beachfront.
“This is the place where we want to be for life,” Jenny says. “And that’s a good feeling.”
The Bells are seeking to learn more about the history of 401 Main Street. If you have information about this house's past, you can email them here!