Cool Spaces Stylish circa-1926 home is a Mobile classic with a Spanish accent

Cool Spaces: Stylish circa-1926 home is a Mobile classic with a Spanish accent

MOBILE, Alabama Some 80 years after Dr. Helen Rogers’s house was built, Mobile architect Pete J. Vallas designed a plan to make it «more livable.» Now doubled in size, the home seamlessly blends old and new, and represents one of just a few remaining Spanish-style homes of its era in Country Club Estates.

Like so many other Mobile neighborhoods developed by George Fearn Jr. in the 1920s, «Hillwood,» off Old Shell Road in the heart of Spring Hill, includes a smattering of the Spanish Mission Revival-style homes that were all the rage at the time.

Fearnway, Silverwood, Florence Place and Flo-Claire all feature Mission Revival homes, with stucco walls, terra-cotta roofs and archways.

In his office, Vallas has a Jan. 1, 1925, plat of the 32-lot Hillwood, billed as «Mobile’s newest and smartest suburban development.» At the time, 11 lots remained, at a price of $15 per front foot an unbelievable steal by today’s standards.

Today, Hillwood is considered part of Country Club Estates one of Mobile’s most prestigious neighborhoods, encircling The Country Club of Mobile. Even the country club’s clubhouse, completed in 1927 after a fire gutted the original, was designed in the Spanish Revival style, said Vallas.

Rogers, who grew up in midtown Mobile, went away to college and medical school and then returned to Mobile to establish her medical practice as an OB-GYN, likes houses with character. So 13 years ago, when she found the house at the corner of Country Club and Hillwood roads built in 1926 on one of the lots platted by Fearn she fell in love with it.

She immediately sought Vallas’s help to slightly reconfigure the home to make it work for her at the time. «It was a modest house,» Vallas said. «It was an odd shape, with a little kitchen.»

At the time, it comprised about 2,000 square feet, with two bedrooms and two bathrooms upstairs.

«My plan was to get my practice started so I could do a renovation,» Rogers said.

And so, after living there a few years, she worked with Vallas on plans to double the amount of square footage while changing the layout to make it fit her needs. Her brother, Mike Rogers, a commercial contractor with Rogers & Willard Builders Inc. did the construction work for her in 2007.

She had to move out for most of the year while the renovation took place, but «it was worth it in the end,» she said.

The home originally consisted of a living room and dining room to each side of the entry, and a small kitchen. A driveway went down one side of the house and across the back yard to a carport that didn’t match the home’s architecture. «These houses rambled and weren’t symmetrical,» Vallas said of the Spanish mission style. His additions helped to balance the home on its corner lot.

As part of the renovation, Vallas added a large den with a vaulted wooden ceiling on the back of the house. He also expanded the kitchen by about nine feet and added, essentially, two wings: a hallway leading from the living room past a large laundry room to garage that that blends perfectly inside and out, as well as a wing past the center of the house with a downstairs master bedroom and bathroom.

«We opened all that living area up,» Vallas said. The house now has about 4,000 square feet.

It’s impossible to tell where the additions took place. The whole house flows smoothly and seamlessly from room to room, as if it were always laid out this way. «Pete did a great job blending old and new,» Mike Rogers said.

Vallas preserved the original windows from the dining room that once overlooked the backyard for the new den. «We re-used most of the windows,» he said.

Now, the kitchen is roomy and bright, with small-paned casement windows over the hammered copper farmhouse sink. The cabinets are stained a subtle shade of red, and a square island in the center of the kitchen is topped with red marble, in keeping with the home’s Spanish style.

Off the hallway that leads to the master bedroom, pocket doors open to reveal, on one side, back-to-back desk areas that overlook the new covered patio off the den, and on the other side, a roomy master bathroom with a heated tile floor a real luxury in the wintertime. The bathroom also features a long marble vanity with two sinks, a jetted tub with electronically controlled curtains and a large walk-in shower.

Throughout the house, one of Vallas’s trademarks is evident: the presence of long vistas, such as the view from the entry through the center of the house and out Rogers’s bedroom window, and the view from the tub through the bathroom and out the pocket doors to the covered patio outside. Arches repeat on fireplaces and windows and in doorways that echo the home’s original architecture.

Mike Rogers designed the railing for the staircase, which is directly across from the front door. «I’m a big fan of wrought-iron,» he said. Through Internet searches, he’s found several pieces made by Samuel Yellin, who he refers to as «the greatest American blacksmith.» He purchased a circa-1920s bank teller’s screen and modified it to fit his sister’s stairs.

Mike Rogers became so enamored with his sister’s home that he built his own Spanish Revival-style home, also designed by Vallas, on a lot across the street in 2005.

He encouraged his sister to design her garage to be similar to his. The result is downright elegant not a word usually used to describe a garage. It has custom-designed wooden doors, a dark wood ceiling and two wrought-iron chandeliers. «My thought was, if you had a big party, you could move the cars out and it could easily be decorated to be part of the house,» he said.

After the renovation, Rogers worked with interior designer Stanley Ellis, who worked in Mobile for many years before moving to Atlanta in 2000. «None of the rooms are the same, but it all blends,» she said of Ellis’s design touches.

Now that she has lived with the home’s renovation for a few years, Rogers has decided it might be time to downsize a little, and she has placed it on the market. «I do love it,» she said. «I’ve put a lot of work into it, but I don’t feel like I’m getting to enjoy the cool part of it.»

The home is perfectly designed for entertaining, yet Rogers said she rarely entertains. She shares her home with her Maltipoos, Tiny and Tiger, a brother-sister duo who keep her company. She plans to build a smaller house after she sells this one.

«When she did it, she did it right,» Roberts Brothers Realtor Chris King said of the renovation. King, who sold Rogers the house 13 years ago, now has the property listed for $1.325 million.

Cool Spaces showcases unique homes, gardens and other spots around Alabama. We welcome suggestions for places we ought to highlight.

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