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New Age 

Debbie Counce's new dream home has the timeless appeal of an old house.

More than a few people have assumed that real estate agent Debby Counce's center-hall cottage is at least 100 years old — a mistake that speaks well for the design and execution of the three-and-a-half-year-old house. When Counce took on the project with her boyfriend and business partner Manning Ogden, they initially approached it as an investment that would be sold for profit. Having already renovated and sold several houses less than a block from the site, the couple planned to raze the neglected box of a ranch house that occupied the roomy corner lot and replace it with a new structure that would blend in better with the architecture of the Uptown neighborhood. But it wasn't long before Counce began to see the prime property as the perfect place to build a dream home of her own. The house she envisioned was a raised center-hall cottage that would look as though it had been there for years and would serve as a hub for the busy family life she leads as the mother of twin daughters, Caroline and Lexi, 16; and two sons, Jordan, 23, and Holland, 18.

Taking cues from 19th century houses that Counce admired, Ogden — a contractor who renovates as many as 30 houses per year — deftly designed a commodious, family-friendly house incorporating indigenous, historically referenced architectural features: dormer windows, an iron fence, floor-to-ceiling windows framed with cypress shutters, and a broad porch supported by columns. As owner of a complementary business — the Mid-City salvage yard, Armadillo South — Ogden also was able to give the house the kind of authentic, acquired-over-time patina usually seen only in old houses and those built with reclaimed materials. Architect William Sonner then perfected and drew the plans.

"Building this house enabled me to have the best of both worlds: the little details that look old, like cypress shutters, and the luxury of new things like all-copper plumbing, so you don't have the headaches you have with an old house," says Counce.

With Ogden at the helm of the design and construction, they easily secured salvaged items such as cypress shutters, an ample supply of antique, long leaf pine flooring (originally from a high school on Jackson Avenue), and a stately front door large enough and age appropriate enough to be a focal point of a center-hall cottage. While Counce chose paint colors, surface materials, hardware and appliances, Ogden devised the floor plan and managed to work in the extra amenity of a pool without going over budget. "I had the pool before I had a house," says Counce.

Counce's only requests for the interior were a great room across the back of the house and an unobstructed, door-to-door view through the center of the house. "I always wanted French doors across the rear of the house," she says. "It's part of the same vision I had of a center-hall cottage. I love being able to open the front door and see all the way to the backyard." That concept — coupled with Ogden's memories of growing up in a house where the formal living and dining rooms were used only on special occasions — resulted in a downstairs floor plan where living room, dining room, kitchen, great room and back porch flow openly, one into the other. The private spaces, the powder room and master suite, are easily accessed from the center hall. Upstairs, the children have their own domain with their bedrooms, bathrooms and playroom all on one floor, the only adult intrusion being Counce's home office. "Every part of this house is used," says Ogden. "The back porch gets used every day. It's an extension of the living space. With the ceiling fans, it's really not that hot even in the middle of the summer."

Though she admits to dreaming of a professionally decorated house swathed in neutrals and whites, Counce approached the décor with the same practicality, spontaneity and unpretentious ease that prevailed over the choices she made during the design of the structure itself. Antiques from her family's string of local boutique hotels, furnishings from estate sales and pieces purchased from personal friends, are all part of the mix. Custom touches are also part of the house's unique thumb print and inviting personality. They include a pewter-colored, Mediterranean-inspired iron stair rail made by local artisan David Borgerding; a generously sized, pillow-laden porch swing, which Ogden made as a surprise for Counce; refurbished finds like the powder room's iron chandelier, which Ogden recovered from the trash, then rewired and painted; and a collection of whimsical artwork depicting voluptuous feminine forms.

"This house is a mixture of everything," says Counce, who collects the lighthearted, Bustamante-inspired images of round ladies during the frequent trips that she and Ogden make to Mexico. "But it always comes back to a warmth that's centered around the fireplace in the back. I knew this would be a house that we used a lot. It's full of kids all the time."

click to enlarge The straight and narrow  The two settees on either - side of the staircase originally were used in one of the - small hotels owned by Counce's family. After finding - them relegated to a storage warehouse, she had them - reupholstered with a striped silk/cotton blend from - Calico Corners. Tendril-like flourishes adorn the - custom-designed, iron stair rail and complement the - upswept arms of the chandeliers. - EUGENIA UHL
  • Eugenia Uhl
  • The straight and narrow The two settees on either side of the staircase originally were used in one of the small hotels owned by Counce's family. After finding them relegated to a storage warehouse, she had them reupholstered with a striped silk/cotton blend from Calico Corners. Tendril-like flourishes adorn the custom-designed, iron stair rail and complement the upswept arms of the chandeliers.
click to enlarge Touch of antiquity  The limestone vessel used as a sink - in the powder room is from a Turkish bath found at a - local salvage yard. Ogden had the base of the sink made - from portions of an old iron porch rail and used a dry- - brush technique to streak the walls with glaze. - EUGENIA UHL
  • Eugenia Uhl
  • Touch of antiquity The limestone vessel used as a sink in the powder room is from a Turkish bath found at a local salvage yard. Ogden had the base of the sink made from portions of an old iron porch rail and used a dry- brush technique to streak the walls with glaze.
click to enlarge A step above  Wicker furniture and a capacious, pillow- - laden swing provide seating on the back porch, which - serves as an extension of the living space and is used year - round. - EUGENIA UHL
  • Eugenia Uhl
  • A step above Wicker furniture and a capacious, pillow- laden swing provide seating on the back porch, which serves as an extension of the living space and is used year round.
click to enlarge Cool drink  Counce paved the pool deck with lilac - flagstone and recycled the four sides of a metal column - capital as decorative waterspouts set against a backdrop - of slate. The raised, L-shaped flowerbed is planted with - Savannah hollies and hibiscus. The sago palms were a - gift from a friend, who dug them up when he was - relandscaping his own yard. - EUGENIA UHL
  • Eugenia Uhl
  • Cool drink Counce paved the pool deck with lilac flagstone and recycled the four sides of a metal column capital as decorative waterspouts set against a backdrop of slate. The raised, L-shaped flowerbed is planted with Savannah hollies and hibiscus. The sago palms were a gift from a friend, who dug them up when he was relandscaping his own yard.
click to enlarge Lady of the House  Counce and her Maltese/Lhaso Apso - mix, Bella, in front of her 3-year-old raised, center-hall - cottage. Local metal artist David Borgerding made the - custom iron fence topped with fleurs de lis. - EUGENIA UHL
  • Eugenia Uhl
  • Lady of the House Counce and her Maltese/Lhaso Apso mix, Bella, in front of her 3-year-old raised, center-hall cottage. Local metal artist David Borgerding made the custom iron fence topped with fleurs de lis.
click to enlarge Gray matter  Cool grays dominate the kitchen, where - Counce combined stainless-steel appliances with glazed - pewter-colored cabinets and polished granite - countertops. The extra-roomy island provides a place for - casual dining and for the Counce children to gather with - friends. - EUGENIA UHL
  • Eugenia Uhl
  • Gray matter Cool grays dominate the kitchen, where Counce combined stainless-steel appliances with glazed pewter-colored cabinets and polished granite countertops. The extra-roomy island provides a place for casual dining and for the Counce children to gather with friends.
click to enlarge Family warmth  An Oriental carpet, generously sized - leather-upholstered seating and a glass-and-metal coffee - table anchor the great room, which is accented with warm - shades of ginger. - EUGENIA UHL
  • Eugenia Uhl
  • Family warmth An Oriental carpet, generously sized leather-upholstered seating and a glass-and-metal coffee table anchor the great room, which is accented with warm shades of ginger.
click to enlarge Room of her own  Counce used travertine and painted - cabinets to put together a palette of soothing neutrals in - the master bath. The window above the tub is made from - frosted privacy glass; the transom is a salvaged stained- - glass insert. The lighthearted depictions of voluptuous - women were obtained in Mexico. - EUGENIA UHL
  • Eugenia Uhl
  • Room of her own Counce used travertine and painted cabinets to put together a palette of soothing neutrals in the master bath. The window above the tub is made from frosted privacy glass; the transom is a salvaged stained- glass insert. The lighthearted depictions of voluptuous women were obtained in Mexico.
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