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From Epiphany to Ash Wednesday, Jasyn Fowler and Jamie Avera’s home is festively decorated for Mardi Gras, with garland and ribbon strung along the white picket fence, lights and ornaments hung in the front yard and more elaborately festooned garland over the front door and on the mantels – plus a 10-foot-tall Christmas-turned-Carnival tree standing in the corner of the dining room.
“I don’t want it to end,” Jasyn says of Mardi Gras season. “It goes by so fast. Winter is so dark and bleak anyway, so why not?”
When Jasyn and Jamie first looked at the apricot-colored historic cottage on South Lafayette Street in midtown Mobile, they were somewhat aghast at the purple and red walls. But then, they stepped into the kitchen, where Jasyn spotted the steeple of their church, Dauphin Way United Methodist, through the window.
“It was a sign,” he says. “That was all I needed to know this is where I belong.”
The walls have long since been repainted, and the couple has tackled numerous projects in the years since they purchased their home in 2005. “We’ve done a lot of work, from the exterior to the back yard,” says Jamie. “As we restored it, we tried to keep it as original as possible.”
With nearly 3,000 square feet, the two-story house is larger than it appears, with three separate attic spaces for storage. Jasyn and Jamie were delighted to uncover a transom window between the dining room and the back hallway, where they also pulled out a lowered ceiling, revealing tongue-and-groove paneling.
“You can see the different decades, where it’s been added on to,” Jamie says. They found some original windows in the attic and used them to create charming fronts for the kitchen cabinets. Jamie recently created a coffered and paneled ceiling in the master bedroom that looks like it’s been there forever.
Beyond the original part of the house, there’s a den that was added in the 1960s, and a carport that’s been converted into a sunroom where, in the summertime, they like to relax and admire their large, lushly landscaped back yard.
The couple displays their collection of antiques throughout their turn-of-the-century home. They have so many interesting items that they sometimes loan them to local theaters. “People can ask for the most random things, and we have them,” says Jamie.
Among the family treasures displayed in the dining room are a silver tray and four portraits that Jasyn says were wrapped in burlap and buried in a potato patch outside his relatives’ home in Gaffney, S.C., during the Civil War, in order to save them. Included in the photos are his great-great-grandmother, a redhead like Jasyn and an exceedingly strong woman who would go out into the fields at night and bury the soldiers who had died there during battle.
They also have a ghost in residence who likes to turn off the lights when someone takes a shower. “I like it,” Jasyn says, “because I know something is here watching the house.”
As much as they love their home, they adore their neighbors, too. Lafayette Street is “so tight-knit,” says Jamie – with porch parties on the first Friday of every month, an annual block party and the Lighting Up Lafayette event in December that resulted in eight large boxes of food for Little Sisters of the Poor.
This year’s Mardi Gras decorations actually have been “edited,” Jasyn says, because he and Jamie have been so involved in their Carnival organization.
They were crowned kings of the Krewe of Phoenix at their ball. “It was so exciting to have our family and good friends there,” says Jasyn. “Next year is our tenth year, with lots of pageantry.”
Every year, Jasyn, a visual designer for Belk who has a degree in textiles, designs and sews costumes in his upstairs workroom. Jamie, who owns a real estate marketing firm, also has an office upstairs. “I made a queen’s train when we first moved here, and from then on it’s been full-tilt,” Jasyn says. “We love costuming. It’s part of our culture.”
Jasyn and Jamie love the tradition involved in Mobile’s Mardi Gras celebration. “It’s one of the things we love about Mobile,” Jamie says. “We live lives few people in the world understand.”
Because they usually attend about 10 balls per season, they have their formal wear “on ready at all times, with the studs in,” says Jasyn. “I love it. I love tableaux, and the theatrics. That night, everybody is equal. It’s just fun.”
It’s no wonder they prolong the joy of Carnival by filling their home with colorful reminders of so many fun events.