The sand roads were still being paved on Main Street in Rosemary Beach when a young architect and designer stepped on the scene. Over the next two decades, she would design the first homes in Rosemary Beach, Draper Lake and Alys Beach, before launching an interior design and private label furniture line.
The year was 1996 and Julia Starr Sanford, the founding principal of Starr Sanford Design Associates, a residential design and development firm based in North Florida, had been courted to come to Rosemary Beach to join a small team in realizing the vision for the world’s second new urbanist town. “I was brought to Rosemary Beach to help foster interest and to illustrate the intent of various development codes,” says the designer whose bold modernist sense of style graces everything she touches.
“Since our beginnings in Rosemary Beach, we have worked to fill a demand for carefully conceived, legacy homes. The desire, by a few, for enduring and exceptionally crafted homes provides us a platform for timeless architecture. We strive to create sustaining and nurturing environments.” Sanford’s architecture recognizes an environmentally sensitive approach to residential design with “outdoor living rooms” enhanced by natural climate control, verandas, balconies, large windows and louvered shutters. The homes that she designed for Rosemary Beach were distinctive in their attention to historical proportion and detail; the designs are distinguished by their old world techniques of wood joinery, heavy timber framing, and authentic detail.
Ten years later, Sanford would be selected again. This time, to be one of ten international designers tasked with setting the vision for the first homes in Alys Beach along the pedestrian thoroughfare. Lots were hand picked for each designer and together they spent ten days in the ballroom of the historic Raleigh Hotel in Miami determining the look and feel of Alys. “We worked closely with DPZ and the founders of Alys Beach to design a deliberately restrained community of homes that are timeless, built to last hundreds of years, and in concert with their climate and coastal geography,” says Sanford who defined her style of new urbanist architecture on 30A by blending the regional traditions of the South with the Colonial architecture of the West Indies.
Also known for her feature film designs for Twentieth Century Fox, Universal, MGM and Walt Disney Pictures, Sanford’s entertainment-industry portfolio includes movie set designs for legendary films like The Legend of Bagger Vance and My Cousin Vinny. Take that and meld it with her well-known sensual use of artisan-crafted, natural materials in her buildings and interiors, and it comes as no surprise that Sanford would bring her simple, sensual and sustainable style even closer to home.
In 2014, together with her team of furniture and interior designers, the new urbanist architect and designer curated a collection of “coastal chic” interiors and furnishings for her latest design venture, Sublime Original (SO), an interior design and private label furniture line.
Designing furniture was the offspring of an architectural project. “We were designing Mahogany Bay, a boutique hotel in Belize for the Hilton Curio Collection and established a workshop there to prototype several pieces of furniture for the 400-room inn. “We felt passionate about reinvigorating the wood craftsmanship in Belize with its quality, durability and sustainably harvested wood.” Now, through SO, Sanford is bringing her creations from Central America to rest of the world. In 2016, she began importing the line to make the United States.
Like Sanford, the forms of her furniture lines are bold and modernist with a sensual side – hand rubbed finishes with natural curves compliment SO’s Belgian linen upholstery and visceral interior style. “Whereas the foundations of our architecture are traditional and structures are classically proportioned, the interior realms are very private and personal. SO shares the philosophy of enduring quality and legacy craftsmanship with fine art that folds into its ensemble. “The art adds original expression and underscores our reliance on natural resources while celebrating nature in all of its forms,” says Sanford of her carefully curated collection of artists.
“With SO, we’re blending casual yet sophisticated. It’s seagrass and suede, ancient and modern. Like its namesake, Sublime Original is destined to speak to that which is elemental but cannot be named or possessed.”
JULIA STARR SANFORD – starrsanford.com and sublmineoriginal.com
Photo Credit: Photography Michael LeGrand and compliments of Julia Starr Sanford