It was the summer of 2012 and Jason Hawk was cruising the winding roads of Davis Shores in search of paradise. He and his wife, Marla Christon, had just moved to St. Augustine and were staying with Marla’s parents in Crescent Beach while trying to find a new home that met their criteria. “I wanted something move-in ready and he wanted a pool,” says Marla. “The only thing we really agreed on was the style of house we wanted – a Mediterranean revival.”
The couple was surprised to find that unlike South Florida, which is filled with the Spanish revival-style influences made popular by famous architects like Addison Mizner, St. Augustine’s residential communities held few traces of the red tile roofs and stucco exteriors that they had in mind. But on that one fateful drive through Davis Shores, Jason spotted an empty rental bungalow that was about to go on the market.
“I looked in the windows and instantly I knew this was it,” says Jason.
He brought Marla to see the house the next day, and though it didn’t have a pool and was far from move-in ready, the couple agreed it was the perfect place to raise their family. They bought it four days later and embarked on a ten-month renovation project, during which time Jason and Marla discovered that their dream home-in-the-making had an interesting backstory.
In 1925, famed Florida real estate magnate D.P. Davis chose Anastasia Island as the location for his third major development – a planned residential community with a golf course, casino, and yacht club. Despite amassing $50 million in sales, the collapsing Florida real estate economy and D.P.’s untimely death kept the Davis Shores development from ever coming to fruition. Only 12 residences were built, and ten remain still, including Jason and Marla’s house.
“Jason had a vision right from the start,” says Marla. “We knew we wanted to stay true to the house.”
Keeping the character of an older home while also making it comfortable for a family of three is no small task, but Jason and Marla managed to bridge the gap with beautiful results. The dark-stained oak planks spanning both the floor and cathedral ceilings of the great room were refinished, along with the tapered stucco fireplace. A new chef’s kitchen with stainless appliances, a copper farmhouse sink, and granite-topped island was outfitted between the formal living area and new den.
Just off the great room, three small bedrooms were paired down to two, one for the couple’s five-year-old son, Jarret, and one master suite with a new bathroom, soaking tub and walk-in closet for Jason and Marla. To make up for the lost bedroom, they decided to convert one of the three garage bays off the den into a spacious guest suite that would also double as Marla’s home office.
On Mother’s Day 2013, Jason, Marla, and Jarret moved into their little slice of paradise. Though there were a few things they would’ve done differently and a few items still on the wishlist (like Jason’s dream pool) the family was happy with their new home – right up until an unwelcome visitor named Matthew arrived in October 2016.
Before Jason and Marla even returned home from evacuation, their next-door neighbors and close friends, Brian and Rachael Hanson, were already in action.
The Hansons, owners of West to East Builders, helped their friends launch a second renovation project on their dream home. Brian not only restored Jason and Marla’s house to its original state but helped the couple complete a few new projects including a game room, second guest room and office, an outdoor kitchen, and (finally) a gorgeous pool with a built-in waterfall.
Inside, Rachael, an interior designer and proprietor of the West to East boutique, helped Marla furnish the house with pieces that matched its Mediterranean feel. A careful balance of neutral tones and dark wood grains kept the house light and airy, while still intoning a bit of the romance inherent to Spanish Colonial style.
Brian also helped Jason and Marla match the original style of their home with a few special touches like the cypress plank accent wall in the game room and the handpainted terracotta tiles in the courtyard. Six years (and two hurricanes) after he first peered in the windows, Jason now sits outside beneath a string of lights, with a beer in hand, glad to be home after a long week of business travel. “For me, I start to feel it as soon as I come over the Bridge of Lions,” Jason says. “My blood pressure just drops.”
With Marla and Jarret at his side, Jason flips on his favorite feature of the backyard remodel. An enormous piece of coquina, salvaged from a nursery in Jacksonville, now sits beside the pool where it’s been repurposed as a gas fire pit, perfect for cool spring nights.
“We finally feel at home,” says Marla. “We love the neighborhood, love the city, and even after dealing with a couple of hurricanes, leaving this place was never even a thought. We’re here for the long haul.”
Photography by Leonard Blush