I’ve dreamed of visiting a Southern Living Idea House for probably as long as I’ve known of the idea itself. Fascinated with their magazine, I always read the Idea House stories, soaked in the advertisements inviting the public to come see, and desperately wanted to attend a tour. And then, this year the Southern Living Idea House was literally right next door to me! How could I not go?
I snagged up tickets in practically the same breath I found out about the events location. I live in on San Pablo Island, and just a few island hops north of me sits Amelia Island. Crane Island is a very small island within Amelia island… Have you ever been to such a place? An island within an island? I have fortunately, many times, and it never gets old.
Hop onto an island… and then hop onto yet another island… that is housed within the confines of and accessed by that larger island. Fascinating, right? Crane Island is its own island on Amelia Island.
To me, Amelia Island’s natural barriers seem like true southern low country. The tides practically touched the exterior of the home we toured, and all the surrounding properties on the quaint island. Breathtaking live oaks surround the islands exterior and draping over the roads leading there, along with nature at its best anywhere you look once upon Crane Island. Crane is a mere tiny little place, located right next door to the Amelia Island Airport. It’s somewhat off the beaten path, and with lots of round-abouts, difficult to find, without GPS.
We booked our tickets through the Eventbrite App - two tickets at $22.00 each, plus fees. It was worth every penny. Of course I took the hubby along - myself, going purely for the interior design and decorating features, and my husband, always interested in the architectural features of a home.
Back in Illinois, and prior to our move down south, we used to live in a home that was dated from 1840. A very old home by my standards, residing in a small strip of a national historic district… and always something wrong with it. So while I called it my very own Green Gables, it was also very much my very own version of The Money Pit. When we moved and sold our Green Gables, I was sick and tired of old. I just wanted new.
I also think that’s why I love the Southern Living Idea House. The whole concept of the Idea House is to showcase and put right out on display, both for tours and in print, the newest of the new ideas out there in architecture and design, appliances, and decor. My roughly 170 year old home in Illinois had definitely taken its toll on me, and us both, and I’m not interested any more in learning how in the strange and backward ways the pipes were set up, or how I couldn't renovate the bathroom into exactly what I wanted because my head already was hitting the roof while standing in the shower - and I wasn’t about to move the roof. That old house was a dream home, an ideal home, for a tiny bit of time. And once all the money kept leaving our wallets and then some just to keep it standing, the gray hairs it gave me were no longer worth it to me. I was glad to say goodbye to our old house, even though we did truly love it, with all its quirks.
And now we live in a small, but very new, apartment. New everything. New pipes. New walls. New electrical sockets. A cable hook up...Sigh... It’s nothing luxurious by any means, but it new might as well be luxury to my brains expectations, based on my brains past experiences.
So going from old house, to small apartments, it was great for my eyes to then feast on yet another way of life… how the other half lives… Ha. The Southern Living Idea House we toured this weekend is for sale… Yes, it’s for sale for a mere $4,300,000.
And with over 4,500 square feet of living space, and a half acre of property, right on the coast, I could never even begin to imagine the life of the future owner. How does anyone afford such a place?... That was sometimes the only question my brain could think and process while touring the massive home. I can’t even fathom how much money a person has to earn to purchase this life, or earn to maintain that said life??? But while I can’t grasp the financial implications of such a property, and nor do I even want to - I can grasp all the design. All the decor. Better yet… All the Christmas decor!
Honestly, that’s really all I was interested in - about the home itself. It was decorated BEAUTIFULLY!!! I can’t emphasize that enough! So tasteful, so modern, but classic at the same time. Nothing - not one thing in the entire home - screamed at me that it was going to be out of style any time soon.
I think that's why I love classic design. It’s classic because it stands the test of time. Some of my favorite pieces of wooden furniture I own in my own home are the oldest ones. The ones with history. The classic ones that match anywhere. I loved the feeling and vibe given off by all the furniture and design throughout the entire Idea House. I love how warm and inviting and cozy it all was. This Idea House had all of that. All of that and then some.
And the holiday decor was the added touch that made the entire home quite special indeed. It was heavenly to tour. I couldn’t help but think my mom would LOVE this outing if she was down here in Florida with me. Just come on down for the weekend and go with me? I thought.
Mom is the one who got me utterly and completely hooked on all things magazine. And while I’ve tried to change and adapt with the times to read digitally if at all possible, there’s just something not the same as holding a paper copy of a magazine to read. Flip through, and glance at all the pictures.
Reading a paper book or magazine to my is literally like that scene in Full House (the original, not the re-make), when little Michelle Tanner hears the ice cream truck driving past the house.
She screams, “Ice cream man,” on repeat.
She takes her piggy bank.
She shakes it. And shakes it.
She screams for money from her piggy bank. “Give me back my money, YOU PIG!”
She yells at her bank, shaking it still. But the bank is ceramic, and she doesn’t yet know how to release her funds from his belly. In the meantime, the ice cream truck is heard driving away and they miss him entirely. Her older sister DJ tells that they have ice cream in the freezer… just go eat THAT ice cream.
But it’s not the same,” says Michelle.
It’s not the same. It's definitely not the same thing as going to get ice cream, out of a truck, on the street, in front of your home. The action can’t be replicated. It’s not the act of eating said ice cream, it’s where the ice cream is coming from before it enters your mouth.
Michelle Tanner understood that much as a very small child. She knew how she wanted to spend her funds from her piggy bank. It was the experience that Michelle really wanted, not necessarily just the ice cream.
And sometimes digitally reading something is not the same as reading it in print… on paper.
Flipping the pages at your leisure.
Bookmarking your spot… and closing the cover.
And then looking at the beautiful cover as the magazine sits and takes a rest break on your coffee table or ottoman. Or putting the hard bound book back on the book shelf after finishing it. To keep the book after reading, add it to your book collection, and gaze upon it and dream of what adventures it holds inside its pages.
Paper is just not the same as digital, even though the content itself can be the same. Reading a paper magazine is the act of eating ice cream out of a truck - not just eating straight from your freezer.
And all my many years of reading about homes and their decor and their paint colors and swatches to match, while flipping the pages, in magazines such as Good Housekeeping, Better Homes & Gardens, Ladies Home Journal, Woman’s Day, Martha Stewart Living, Coastal Living, and Southern Living - studying home layouts, and countless before and after images - all of that does not compare one bit to seeing one of those described and written about and photographed homes - in person.
It was a simple outing. About just over an hour from home. $22.00 per person. But it was a dream. Realized.
Pulling up to the Idea House, walking in, and opening the door to be wowed by the visualization, was a real dream - come true.
The home was stunning. It did truly WOW me. Visually, the exterior was very natural, and seemed to camouflage into its surroundings. In fact, we walked out onto the slip to view the home from afar, and while the trees covered most of the homes vantage point from that angle all the way out on the water, I knew the home was right there, mostly nestled in and blended into its natural surroundings.
Living in Florida for a few years now, I couldn’t help but notice right away how high the water already was, and how very close to the home the water was sitting. If a hurricane came through, I do fear for the Idea House in that situation. New or not. Quality construction, or not. Newest building codes and hurricane proof windows, etc. etc. notwithstanding. I’ve now lived through a few hurricanes in the south, and that’s more than I ever want to. And all the building codes and 200 mile per hour wind proof this or that, doesn’t really matter to me - once one is bearing down on us. It’s a feeling of doom and gloom, either way, so I honestly didn’t care about how strong the house was, and therefore, didn't pay much attention to those features of the home… I only knew if a hurricane was heading its way, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere near its location, baby steps from already high and some choppy waters that day.
But regardless of the homes strength and quality construction, it was a fabulous set up. The home has a lot of stairs, so it’s definitely not for someone who doesn’t like a lot of exercise while hanging out at home. We entered through the foyer stepping directly into the great room - the main living room of the home. To the left is the master bedroom, residing on the same main level. With wrap-around patios and porches all facing the water... Every direction there was water - there was an outdoor porch for viewing and contemplation.
To the right is the kitchen and dining room as well as a massive beast of a laundry room. The laundry facility was so big, to me, it might as well be laundry for a large-scale hotel operation. Almost unimaginable to me, but at the same time, I loved every inch of that room. I do a LOT of laundry, and I actually think that room may have been my favorite part of the Idea House.
There are two set of stairs to second floor sleeping and more living areas - each set of stairs and second story does not connect to the other set of stairs or second level in any way. This leaves two very separate living and sleeping areas from each other. We were told it was set that way so one of the upper areas could be utilized as an in-law living arrangement, complete with its own bathroom, and slightly separated from the remainder of the home.
All of it, the entire home, was quite a set up. Not for me though, ha - much too big. Much too much to keep clean. Just the act of vacuuming all the sets of stairs would probably take me half a day. But of course, someone who can afford all that, can probably afford to hire a housekeeper to keep all of that very clean for them... I heard many people commenting while touring the home. Laugh out loud… I can’t even imagine such a life living in this enormous house.
And while my brain and imagination do have major difficulties visualizing and understanding the cost that goes into this home, its purchase, and its deep maintenance costs living directly next to salty waters and salty air, my brain very much aimed right into the decor.
I really enjoy seeing how a home is decorated, if merely to take some of those ideas, put them into puzzle pieces in the back of my brain, close that lid on that puzzle, and keep them ready for a rainy day. Pinterest in my brain. I’ll then take those ideas out of my brain closet and see how I can work something unique into my own decor. At some later date and well into the future, something will spark a memory, and two puzzle pieces will fit together into a fabulous project for me to complete on my own.
I loved all the holly/berry for the holidays mixed in with their everyday decor. And I was definitely inspired to find some holly of my own. I’m assuming I can find some quite inexpensively, as I have in the past, and make my own small swags for Christmas time to enjoy.
I was inspired by the wallpaper that was hand-etched into backsplashes and as a main accent wall feature. What a neat and modern twist to the old and very messy wallpapers of the past.
I loved the furniture and its placement throughout. Complete feng shui to my brain. Rooms set up to flow together, but defined and separate as well.
I absolutely adored the gingerbread house little accents acting as place settings on the dining room table. I’ve already put that idea directly into the back of my brain for a future project.
I loved basically everything about the home, really. I must say the only real thing I didn’t like about the concept, was of how much such a home and lifestyle would cost someone. That cost is really the only thing that I couldn’t shove into my brain, and wouldn’t want to, and definitely wouldn’t want to take home with me. But I adored everything else about the home.
PROS AND CONS ~~ OF THE EXPERIENCE ITSELF
While everything and them some I mentioned above was a pro, and the cost alone is the big and obvious con to me, I wanted to detail for you some features of the experience itself, in case you want to put the Southern Living Idea House tour onto your to-do list for a future outing, or even ahead to a future years Idea House. You’ll have some details on what to expect about the day itself.
And since any time I’m doing pro and cons I’m a fan of ending on a positive note if at all possible, I’m going to start here with my cons, and I’ll end with my pros:
***NON-TRANSFERRABLE - AND NO REFUNDS***
Rain or shine, your ticket is good only for the day purchased. Non-transferable, if you can’t come that day, there is no transfer or refund available. And earlier this week we had sort of a minor emergency in our household, so we both thought we were going to be out of luck and not get to go to the Idea House on our ticketed date - and we were definitely saddened by that. But alas, God answered my countless prayers this week to end our emergency, and the situation did end up working itself out, all was right in our world, and we could attend this weekend as originally planned. Just know, if you purchase tickets - no transfers - and no refunds.
***NOTE THE STAIRS - AND LACK OF RESTROOMS AVAILABLE FOR THE TOURING PUBLIC***
While I previously stated the cost didn’t break the bank, and I justified the cost in my mind… also in my mind, when someone pays $22.00 per person for something, I basically expected and assumed they would have a restroom available. And I was definitely not the only one under that assumption. Countless times I heard people asking where the restroom was. We traveled by auto ferry across the river, and hopped from island to island, drove over an hour in the car, onto Amelia Island and then onto the smaller Crane Island for this outing. And I’m sure others came from afar as well. I have an extremely healthy lifestyle now, and drink a lot of water, on the regular. When you pay for something like this, they really need to have a bathroom available to the public. And if there wasn’t going to be one, they should have mentioned it in the ticket specifications. I do read the fine print. It wasn’t there.
There were also a lot of older people at the event and I could tell the stairs were a challenge for them. If you’re going, plan for lack of restrooms and lots and lots of stairs. I’m not afraid to ask, so myself and many others had to line up and use the ‘unavailable’ and formal bow-tied toilet during the outing. So expect lack of facilities, or going where you technically aren't supposed to be going. With a whopping 5.5 bathrooms in the house, and charging what they do to get all the way out onto the sparsely populated island upon island, plus the lack of public facilities on Crane Island itself, they really need to have a facility available for the touring public. Note - I did share these opinions in my feedback survey they asked me to complete.
At $22.00 per person, I do consider the cost reasonable. I easily could have seen them charging roughly $40.00 per person, and getting away with it, before it became an unreasonably expensive outing for what you are paying for. And $22.00 is not cheap by any means, but at that price, I was able to really have a once-in-a-lifetime experience, share that experience with my hubby, soak in all of this beauty, and not break the bank too much.
The Southern Living Idea House is open and available to the public for a few months. Basically autumn through about mid-December. There are still tickets available, and many date options to choose from as well. The last available ticket purchase date on Eventbrite is for December 15th, 2019. If you are in the area, or this is something you are very interested in attending, I highly recommend going online now and buying you tickets… only a few weeks left! Plus, they were taking cash at the door, for anybody who just stumbled upon the place, or operates in last-minute mode. And cash at the door, I’m assuming, will alleviate the small fees charged by Eventbrite for booking, as well.
While the Idea House has been open for a few months, earlier this week there was another Grand Opening of the home - in its new holiday attire. The Idea House being decorated for Christmas in the South intrigued me immensely. As soon as I knew there was to be decor for the upcoming holidays, I knew I wanted to book my ticket for after that second grand opening so we could see the home decorated. And it was definitely worth it.
And while none of the frosted, sprinkled, and decorated sugar cookies put out on display throughout the home were for us to eat (yes, they did make a point of telling us that much) the event itself can’t help but get someone in the holiday spirit. Plus, I really can’t wait much longer now in anticipation of baking my own Christmas cookies.
Yes, there’s definitely something a bit extra special during the holidays, anywhere you go. And the holiday decor was in each and every room of the house, including the food pantry - which was stocked with peppermints, cookies, and Santa tins. You just can’t miss the holiday spirit when something is decked out in its finest of apparel.
All in all, it was one fabulous outing. It was a 100% Michelle Tanner eating ice cream directly out of the ice cream truck type of outing for me. One that I’m thrilled I was in the vicinity and location to attend for the first time in my life. I probably wouldn’t do it again though - as I’d probably spend my next $22.00 per person on something completely different altogether. But it was worth it - it was worth the travel and the cost to attend. I do very much highly recommend going if the opportunity presents itself. And if you can’t make it to this years event, watch and read Southern Living Magazine in anticipation for their 2020 location.
Yes, It’s definitely good to eat ice cream directly from an ice cream truck once in a while. After all, not all ice cream is created equal.
I now challenge y’all to get out there and do something similar - whether it’s something small like a delicious ice cream cone from an ice cream shop you don’t normally frequent, or something as big as seeing an IDEA House, or bigger - but either way, get out there and do something that your eyes have only ever seen in print, only gazed upon while flipping through the pages of a book or magazine. Get out there and feast your eyes on something beautiful - in real life. ~
**Editorial Note: All photos in this article are by Christine Pieper (Christine’s Floridian Dreams) and by Bryan Pieper (BEPREADY).
Within “The Beaches” area, as it's commonly known to both locals and tourists alike, reside the small towns of Atlantic Beach, Neptune Beach - and the town I now call my home - Jacksonville Beach. These three communities, along with a few more small towns, make up the modest coastal barrier island, that is both officially and unofficially, known as San Pablo Island.
San Pablo Island is located just off the eastern coast of Florida, and nestled next to the vast expanse of the Atlantic Ocean. The name of the island itself here is not known to most people… they tend to simply call home - The Beaches. And there’s yet even one other mysterious nickname given to our island home appropriately classifying it as ‘No-Name Island’ - very much reminding me of the funky, quirky, and strange and sometimes hilarious, names of some of the famous Key islands to our south.
But San Pablo Island has a rich and dated history going back hundreds of years, and even much, much longer. A vibrant Native American history lives and breathes here, and the Timucuan Indians lived here in the 1500’s, when a French explorer came upon the area. We now have the Timucuan Reserve named after them.
And while there’s a small and extremely old, weathered and worn, and really just a completely dilapidated sign welcoming you as much as you drive through our town - ‘You Are Now At San Pablo Beach’ it reads, (named after the San Pablo River)... I can only imagine how old that sign really is. And as the sign is so very old and worn, it seems to just camouflage itself to the natural grasses surrounding it. Many pass by daily not even seeing it.
We also locally have San Pablo Road, just off the Island and paralleling the intracoastal, and we have Pablo Avenue, right here at the beach.
A lot goes into a name… when you consider branding, logo, tourism, marketing, publicity, hotels and restaurants and newspapers and any press; history, town pride, changing times and culture, refrigerator magnets, tee-shirts, trinkets and treasures for visitors to take home, etc. Some years ago there was a push and really quite a major effort to help rebrand our area to more “officially” be called San Pablo Island. Hotels and the tourism industry in general liked the idea and I believe they still do. A name helps classify a location and familiarize those traversing to or through. A name slightly broad and confusing as “The Beaches” - plural - is not very brand-worthy it seems, except to those who already know the area and/or reside here.
And as those things tend to do, the effort and move to name-change seemed to stall, and fall apart in meetings and such. As many of those such changes and requests for changes tend to die out... Thus, today, we are still known as “The Beaches” to most, and confusion reigns for the tourism industry here.
In comparison, Amelia Island, located just to the north of us, is known as that - ‘Amelia Island.’ They seem to know their history, are ok with picking a name and staying with it, and they honor it well.
Princess Amelia, daughter of George II of Great Britain, is for whom the Island is named. But Amelia Island has a very rich and fascinating history as well, and they seem to be slightly more proud of it and they do a great job in educating the public of that history.
You absolutely cannot visit Amelia Island without learning upon arrival of the history of the eight flags. Signs will tell you as much and show you as much upon entry to the island. With my father being a huge history buff, I remember thinking at the time of learning about the eight flags that he would find it fascinating.
Amelia Island is famously known as “The Isle of Eight Flags” and is the only location in all of the United States with such a unique history. It simply means that the island has had power transferred through eight different flags before finally obtaining its current and official status as part of these United States. The history of the eight flags is known and proud on the island. When I first found that piece of information out I was utterly fascinated. And standing in great contrast is the tiny old and worn sign welcoming you to San Pablo Beach, here on San Pablo Island. It’s a welcome sign that really seems to get no care or concern, but it does its job every day and welcomes you to our island.
Pablo Avenue lies just a few blocks from our worn and ancient welcome sign, and its therein that lies The Beaches Museum. A Museum that celebrates Culture, History, and Community. And while our dated welcome sign doesn’t have much appeal, the Beaches Museum does. The history of this area is not very well-known to most, and this museum does an absolutely fabulous job of educating the public on our heritage and historical facts thereof. This historical marker and living piece of history is also a place most people drive past every day, and may not even know if its existence. In fact, I’ve lived right here in town just alongside it and had never visited it formally. Well, bring an Art Fest into town and I’ll go anywhere.
Hurray! Another Art Fest. And on yet another absolutely gorgeous autumn day in the South. All the variety of arts and celebration thereof here is actually one of the reasons I fell in love with Jax Beach.
This past weekend, The Beaches Museum hosted the 6th Annual Beaches Art Fest. It was a must-do for me. And while I had just recently attended the Jax Beach Vintage Flea Market some weeks ago, I had eagerly awaited this event all year as well.
This fest to me, supersedes any other fest around. The art on display is full of passion and color and depth. Every booth has the artist directly on hand to talk with as well which I especially love. And now, after being to many of these events, I’m recognizing names of artists that continue to come back and sell there each year.
I really enjoy how merely slowing strolling from one covered outdoor exhibit to the next that the eye immediately catches the difference in an artist's passion. One may specialize or have a passion for florals, and one may enjoy painting the many unique sunrise and sunsets of the coastal region. One booth was composed of entirely Japanese floral paintings. An artist may have blown glass, and one of the final tents I arrived at had on display works of art made entirely from origami paper. There were necklaces all beautifully arranged with tiny and intricately folded colored papers, making flowers, squares, any shape you could imagine, all folded out on her display table. Everyone, who once they understood what they were looking at, was completely wowed by it. It was a definite surprise to see, as I had never seen anything like it in my life, and it is for those reasons I relish with joy attending these fests each time they come around.
And I must admit I regret extremely not purchasing one of her paper origami necklaces. I also failed to obtain her card, thus, not being able to look up where she will be next. She explained the necklace I had my eyes on was only $29.00 and comes with a beautiful chain as well. A chain of length that I could custom choose. I walked on by, to think about it, and instead purchased a ring that I absolutely adore, from La Soucique Studio, of the aforementioned Amelia Island. It was $35.00 and I was so very pleased with my purchase. I know I can’t buy everything, and I reminded myself that money doesn’t grow on trees, but I do really very much regret not purchasing one of the origami necklaces. I can only hope to see her again at a future arts event and make that my purchase for the day.
While slowly we strolled both up and down San Pablo Street taking in the fest in its entirety, we also walked on through the property and grounds of Beaches Museum. It’s set up as a small historic village, spanning the length of the blocks next to the fest.
And as I had never been previously, I thought it an ideal day to check it out since we were already present literally at its location. Supposedly the museum is open 10am-4pm every Saturday, with free admission. We were somewhat disappointed to find many locked buildings. All we could do was take a quick peek inside most of the historic sites through windows, while the main building remained open and available to use the restroom facilities for fest-goers. We very much enjoyed walking the grounds though, and it was a most perfect autumn day in Florida to witness the natural beauty surrounding the facilities. The museum is home to parties, weddings, art exhibitions, the annual famous Polar Express, and many other such fun events for both adults and children alike. It seems The Beaches Museum has something going on year-round. I just highly recommend calling ahead to verify if you’d like to see the actual inside of some of the buildings.
It was an altogether ideal day in the South for me. And afterward, we ate breakfast, for lunch, at Beach Diner in Atlantic Beach. Every time I’ve been there the owner comes over to say a sweet hello. A much older man, whom you can tell genuinely loves his customers, stopped to talk with us as we ate our delicious meal. As we were paying up at the cash register on the way out I could see him still going round from table to table, smiling with and high-fiving each person he met. A most lovely Saturday on my very own Island… San Pablo Island. It made me smile as we walked to our car. ~
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