From the street, Allen and Kerri Rodgers' 1926 cottage looks like a predictable Avondale Estates abode with a sloped roof and a steep gable hovering over the front porch. Beyond the entrance, however, are some unexpected treats.
Located about 10 miles east of downtown Atlanta, Avondale Estates fancies itself America's first planned community. The neighborhood boasts Old English architecture, century-old oaks, and is a magnet for artists and intellectuals.
Inside the Rodgers' Clarendon Avenue home, original wood floors ground the cozy rooms. A rectangular stained-glass piece hangs in front of the dining-room window, spilling amber into the room during the daytime and pale, elegant blues in the evening. Besides a stately table in the center, a narrow wooden cabinet stretches the length of the far wall. The Rodgers use it to store wine glasses they collect from their travels, but it was first used as a pharmacy counter in the 1920s. On the opposite wall, two paintings hang from the ceiling, each anchored by a fork jammed into the upper molding.
What changes have you made to the home?
Allen: The window in the guest shower. It was about rotted out from all the water, and when Kerri's mom stayed here she was freaked out about this window because there's no privacy. So the order came down to moi. I took a JPEG file of one of my paintings of water lilies and took it to this place and got it printed on Plexiglas. So I built a new frame, put the window stops in and put that in place so it's like a stained-glass window.
What do you know about the families who lived here before you?
Kerri: There was a dentist who lived here for many, many years.
Allen: Yeah. I don't know a lot about him, but the Fotos were two owners before us.
And they were the ones who started the garden?
Yes. They handed down the garden book, which I have downstairs.
And what was the book's purpose?
It shows a diagram and lists out the botanical names and every plant they planted. If someone moved in who wasn't an avid gardener ...
Kerri: ... they wouldn't know what anything was. So we were just thrilled when we got it.
What changes did you make to the garden?
Allen: The big thing is I have a lot of artwork on the fence, permanent outdoor paintings protected with a special coating. We have a great viewing area from up here of the yard. This is Kerri's herb garden over here. [The landscapers] did a circle and a walkway to match the front yard. The pond and bridge was our design.
Kerri: The arbor was here and some of the hydrangeas and that giant gardenia ...
Allen: It's the biggest gardenia in the world.
Kerri: ... and that maple was here and the roses, but just about everything else we put in.
What about the saxophone in the pond? How'd you come up with that?
Allen: I saw in one of Kerri's gardening books there was a water feature in the middle of a pond and it was a baritone. They had it mounted on a pile of rocks with a sprayer head coming out of it. I said, "I can do that." I used to play sax. I had a con alto, gold with silver keys. I found one on eBay just like it. So I cut a hole in the bottom and stuck the tube in it.
Kerri: The dragonflies just go crazy over it.
Of all the projects you've done, which one has been your favorite?
Allen: Right now it's the pond. She travels a lot and I go in and work on my painting. I may paint for an hour and take an hour. I've been teaching it for 10 years, so I know you have to take a lot of breaks to keep a fresh eye. Now I walk out here, and it's so nice to sit on the bridge and put your feet in the water. The whole world goes away.
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