By Donna Cornelius
Saying that a house is filled with its owners’ art collection might conjure mental pictures of a prim and proper place that resembles a museum more than a family home.
Laura and Jesse Vogtle do, indeed, have an extensive array of artwork – she’s the owner of Gallery 1930 in English Village and Scene at Pepper Place – but their Mountain Brook house is more fun than formal.
The Vogtles’ house at 2647 Abingdon Road is one of the stops on the Independent Presbyterian Church Holiday House Tour, set for Dec. 3 and 4. It’s distinctly different from the other houses on the tour not only for its lively, nontraditional rooms, its mostly black-and-white palette, and the intriguing displays of art in every room, but for another reason.
“We’re the only ones on the tour with children living at home,” Laura Vogtle said with a smile.
The two older Vogtle children, Stringer, 21, and Alli, 19, are both University of Alabama students. The three younger children – 18-year-old Hays, 16-year-old Rhoades and Florie, who’s 14 – all attend Mountain Brook High School.
Laura and Jesse, a Birmingham attorney, lived in Crestline before moving to their large Abingdon Road house about a year ago.
“Someone bought our house, and we had to find something,” Laura said. “With five kids, we needed something large and not too expensive.”
The house they chose was built by June and Mike Matsos in 1987. It has three levels and sits on a two-acre wooded lot with a backyard swimming pool and tennis court.
“One reason we bought the house was because of the layout,” Laura said. “We could have the boys downstairs, us on the main level and the girls upstairs. And June did an excellent job
with the structure of the house.”
To fit their family’s lifestyle, the Vogtles renovated and updated the house before moving in.
“We moved to our lake house in Pell City while most of the work was going on,” Laura said. “We refinished the floors. All the floors on the main level are stained black, and the floors upstairs are painted white.”
All that work was done by David Burch with Alabama Hardwood Floors, she said.
Every wall in the house, including the trim, was painted the same color: white.
“I had white walls in our old house,” Laura said. “I guess I would say I love change – my houses are never finished but constantly changing. White walls enable me to change up easily.”
The Vogtles also redid the bathrooms and changed out the plumbing fixtures, Laura said.
On the house’s main level are several gathering places, the master suite and the kitchen. Laura removed the dark paneling from a former study to create a light-filled, cheerful spot that she calls her room. A painting by Alabama-born artist Nall hangs in this room.
The house’s big kitchen was gutted, Laura said. Soapstone countertops are in her favorite black-and-white combination. One clever addition is a square table with fabric- covered benches on rollers to provide flexible seating for her large family and any guests.
While Laura loves the spacious kitchen, she’s equally fond of the adjacent “pantry kitchen.” In its previous life, the space was a laundry room and office.
“All my kids cook and fix their own food here,” Laura said. “Hays cooks almost every night. I like keeping the mess confined.”
The unfinished basement downstairs was turned into the boys’ quarters. The Vogtles took out the existing drop ceiling and painted the exposed parts black. They also stained the concrete floor. In addition to their sons’ bedrooms, the basement has a kitchenette, pool table, a TV room with a row of comfy lounge chairs, a room for hunting gear and a sauna.
Upstairs belongs to daughters Alli and Florie. Both girls have distinctly different bedrooms and a posh sitting room with a sectional sofa and lots of fun accents.
Tour-goers should take their time and try not to miss the paintings, photos and other art pieces on every level of the house. All the artwork in the house is by artists who exhibit in Laura’s galleries.
Laura and her mother, Kathryn Keith, owned Laura Kathryn, a cloth- ing store in Crestline Village, for 20 years.
“We sold the clothing store, and I opened Gallery 1930 about five years ago,” Laura said. “My sister was looking for a place to exhibit.”
Her sister is artist Meredith Keith, whose work is prominently represented in the Vogtles’ home. One of Keith’s pieces, which hangs in the foyer, is a large diptych of a Native American. It’s a tribute to a similar painting by Andy Warhol.
“Upstairs, one of my favorite newer pieces is by Sarah Heath,” Laura said “We have her work at Gallery 1930. It’s a wall sculpture that’s a lighted box with Mylar birds.”
Laura said other favorite pieces are a fabric wall hanging by Celeste Pfau and Rebecca Tully Fulmer’s photo- graphs with mirrors and Plexiglas. A black-and-white photo hand-painted with watercolors by actor Mason McCulley, who’s from Birmingham, hangs in the girls’ sitting room. Laura has several pieces by Linda Cooper, a Studio by the Tracks artist who also exhibits with Gallery 1930.
Laura opened Scene at Birmingham’s Pepper Place earlier this year.
“It’s an event space,” she said. “We host pop-up shows, art shows, parties and dinners.”
The Vogtles’ family-friendly, art-filled house combines style, sophistication and playfulness, as evidenced by one of its residents: a pet mini-pig. Tallulah, like her family’s house, is mostly black and white.
“The kids wanted a pig,” Laura said. “We got her from Piggy Patch Farm in Cleveland, Alabama. She’s a little over a year old now.”
Tallulah, who Laura said is more into eating than into snuggling up on the couch, will be on hand to greet tour-goers – from the backyard.