Jonathan Stoner’s vision was clear from the outset. He intended to create the perfect vacation home for his family.
This home would be an escape from their busy lives in Gainesville, Georgia, where he works in residential commercial real state and his wife, Leesa, leads a large logistics company. St. Simons, where the couple came on dates nearly a decade ago before their marriage, offers the ideal beach getaway they can now share with their three children, the oldest of whom is 8.
After purchasing a house in a neighborhood near Pier Village in November 2020, Jonathan Stoner began asking around about the best local designer to support their renovation vision. He needed a local contact who could oversee every detail of the project.
Taylor House Interiors, owned by Gail Butler, emerged as the most recommended option.
“We started by going through and deciding what we wanted to do,” Stoner says. “Initially, it wasn’t going to be everything.”
The project evolved, though, and over the next year the house underwent a total renovation. Every wall was repainted, new flooring and new furniture added, every bathroom redone and more.
“If you want to get a high-end finished product, you’re going to have to start with opening yourself up to trusting someone’s opinion,” Stoner says. “… Vision is so hard for people to see. If you can’t be willing to take that in and use the experience of the person you hired, then why are you hiring them in the first place?”
Butler begins this kind of project by having an in-depth discussion with her client. Her local storefront and storage space are important assets in the overall services she’s able to provide.
“Because he didn’t live here, if I saw something that came in or I found something that I thought he would like, I would send him photos and he would say yes or no,” she says.
The family named the house “The Blue Heron,” in homage to the coastal bird and to the shades of blue design elements throughout the home.
A family trip to the house for this year’s Fourth of July holiday was the first time all but Jonathan saw the new vacation home in person.
His wife and children were impressed by the spacious, beautiful house that will be the setting of many, many future trips.
“This is really supposed to be a place where we can bring other families and kind of share the island with them,” Stoner says.
He chose St. Simons to be the location of their vacation home with his family in mind. Their busy work lives combined with their children’s schedules means downtime is a luxury they try to make the most of.
“We had to slow the pace down a little bit,” Stoner says. “The island provides a great family atmosphere. It gives you a place where the community is small enough that you can get to know folks, and it’s safe and the beaches are so close.”
Walking down to the village for dinner or ice cream or driving their golf cart down to East Beach and other fun spots along the island are just some of the ways the family is able to enjoy their time away from work and school.
“There’s so much to do here on the island that they stay entertained,” Stoner says.
Butler says she’s proud of the work they’ve done.
“There’s nothing I would change,” she says. “It’s really beautiful.”
The family worked solely with Taylor House, 3079 Frederica Road, to furnish the house as well.
“We didn’t buy from any other vendor,” Stoner says. “Everything came directly through Gail, and she could source all of that in a time when COVID had hit … That was almost impossible across the country to do.”
The house was completed in a timely manner during a period in which supply chain shortages and other delays were frequent everywhere due to the pandemic.
Stoner encouraged others who are creating a vacation home on St. Simons to work with Taylor House. The staff, he says, were consistently helpful and professional.
“They were there to make sure that any questions I had were answered, and that was an attribute of what Gail is, who she is, and that carries all the way down to the people that work there,” he says.
Taylor House staff went above and beyond on the project — checking security at the house frequently, having daily conversations with contractors — to ensure all went smoothly.
Butler always had an answer to a question or a suggested resource for whatever need arose, Stoner says.
“It was always ‘I’ll call you with a name tomorrow,’ or ‘I’ll send it to you tonight,’” he says. “We talked at 11 o’clock at night, we talked at 7 in the morning. It didn’t matter when. If it had to be done, she picked up the phone and made it happen.”
The master bedroom on the first floor is around the corner from a movie room designed to entertain children and guests. The house has three upstairs guest bedrooms, each of which has a private bathroom.
Artwork in the house includes two original pieces created by his mother, Susan.
The family plans to add onto the house, constructing a three-floor addition that will include additional bedrooms and an outdoor dining area on the ground floor.
“The house will sleep 22 people when it’s finished,” Stoner says.
This was a project of longevity for Stoner, who says he anticipates making many wonderful memories during trips to beautiful St. Simons.
“To be able to do something like this and share it with (Leesa) and have it with her is the highlight of my life, and I told the guys before we started working my purpose was for my family,” Stoner says. “I wanted to use everything I know how to do, but I also wanted to source the best people around me that I could because I had to have it at that level.”