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."