by Juliet Johnson // photos by Deremer Studios
Alison and Chris Sieburg have built the home we all want. Nestled into the banks of the St. Johns River, this spacious Florida cracker-style house enjoys a nature-filled landscape from every window. Driving by, you can see the river through the house. They have only spent one Christmas here so far, but already, the Sieburgs can’t imagine living anywhere else.
The Sieburgs had greatly enjoyed living on the Fox River outside Chicago. Returning to Jacksonville, they settled back into Julington Creek with a nice lot facing the preserve. There were deer, and the occasional stray cat, but Chris missed the lively kind of nature one finds near a river. Fortunately, a new set of lots was being developed just up from Colee Cove, an ideal location for Chris. As a transportation executive at an organic food company in St. Augustine, he commutes more often to the St. Augustine location than the Jacksonville office. Thirty minutes from the Oldest City and 45 from Jax, this area would work well.
After their first meeting, the Sieburgs felt they could trust the design team from Shawn Starr Custom Homes and haven’t been disappointed since. The ultimate-no surprises builder, Starr is the guy who has everything planned and budgeted before the team breaks ground. “This way, the homeowner can sit back and simply enjoy the process,” says Josie Myers, project manager and design consultant for the firm.
“It was enjoyable—exciting, too,” agrees Alison. “Shawn was onsite daily, following up on every detail. We appreciated the careful amount of planning the team does ahead of breaking ground. It makes the construction run much more smoothly than the horror stories friends have shared.”
Alison favors the current farmhouse look, though she recognizes this is a fad likely to run its course. Fortunately, the house is designed so that only cosmetic changes will be required to suit the next style that speaks to her aesthetic. The décor is elementally rural, steering clear of “farmhouse kitsch,” with the advantage that she can dress up the look or tone it down at whim. For example, the beams running the width of the house are not raw wood exposed, but wrapped in elegant white gloss-painted millwork. A sliding barn-door separates a home office that could easily become a fourth ensuite bedroom off the front foyer.
Alison is a self-taught designer, honing her skill through three foreign postings with the military in England, Holland and Germany. Says Myers, “She had a clear, heartfelt vision of the home she wanted to build.” Warm was a primary concept, but not the kind of warmth that requires a fireplace. Hailing from New York state, she and Chris know it’s not nearly cold enough for a fireplace in Florida.
The warmth the couple craved made its way to the tobacco-colored stain on the wood floors, as well as the bricks in the foyer and front gallery (the mudroom hallway) and carpet in the bedrooms. The color scheme in the interior mirrors the landscape outside, with rich slate blue combining with watery hues.
Imaginative lighting fixtures are prevalent throughout the home, from the kitchen pendants that resemble fireflies caught in fat glass jars to the elegant, open chandelier in the casual dining space (so as to permit maximum river views). In the living room, five reticulating black wall sconces are a key feature, playing off the vaulted ceilings and continuing over to the kitchen.
Most of the larger furniture pieces came from Woodchuck’s in Mandarin, while many of the smaller items were collected over time. Alison loves exploring large antique fairs like Renninger’s in Mount Dora—“Chris comes along fine, so long as I feed him,” she giggles. Indeed, Chris has proven to be especially goodnatured with the design of the couple’s home, making only two requests: that the garage accommodate his truck, and that the house have only one level. “The truck fits fine, but there are upstairs bedrooms,” he chuckles, teasing Alison. “For the boys, though,” she replies.
There are several design considerations made in regard to “the boys,” i.e. the couple's two sons. A side door from the garage provides direct access to a laundry room (so dirty clothes can be dropped off without ever making their way into the rest of the house). In lieu of traditional cubbies or benches, Alison included a recessed country china cupboard holding miscellany and a row of hooks for sunglasses. It offers a clean, imaginative and—of course—practical look.
The country flair extends through the kitchen, where there is a large “working pantry” holding fresh pots of coffee and a bread machine.
The pantry offers a layer of charm and warmth to the sleek kitchen area with its California island covered in a stunning slab of Cambria quartz in calacatta gold. Orange accents connect the orange, navy and white floral covered counter chairs to the blue and white sofas with orange accent pillows.
A master suite shares the same river views as the main part of the house, with vibrant blues mirroring the sky and water in varying shades. And then there’s the backyard, where the family docks their boat, and gets up-close-andpersonal with wildlife—snakes, alligators and raccoons are regularly spotted. Even when he’s away on business, Chris takes in the view, as Alison sends him a photo of every sunset.