We didn’t end up here by chance, ” says Julia Sledge from her wharf perfectly positioned 15 houses east of her parents and 15 houses west of her in-laws. Building on Ono was a big draw when Julia and her husband, Will, decided to leave New York City and head back home to the Gulf Coast.
The couple met in 2001 at an Alabama versus LSU football game while Julia was in her sophomore year at the University of Arizona and Will was working in the Big Apple. They dated on and off for five years, Julia moved to New York after her graduation and they tied the knot in 2006.
When they began thinking about starting a family, they felt a pull toward home. “Aside from having our parents in Mobile, the greatest deciding factor in our move was the proximity of Ono Island, a place where both of us were essentially raised and where we also wanted to raise our kids, ” says Will. He was able to keep his job as the managing director and principal of Mission Capital Advisors, and Julia accepted a position with Atchison Home, a decision that would greatly impact their home building and decorating experience. “I learned so much from Sylvia [Atchison] about design and was exposed to so many new lines and creative people, ” says Julia. “It was awesome to have an idea for the beach house and be able to go to work and really bounce it off the talented bunch at Atchison.”
In 2012, their dreams started to become a reality as ground broke on their new construction and Julia became pregnant with Thompson. “I can recall standing on the concrete foundation perched high on the dune, looking out over the water and feeling, on one hand, totally at peace with the tranquility of the place, ” recalls Will. “On the other hand, I was filled with excitement about building a dream house for Julia and our growing family.”
But at 25 weeks pregnant, Julia went into premature labor. She spent a month at USA Children’s and Women’s Hospital. Thompson would spend another month there after his birth. “It was a highly stressful period in our life, and it occurred midway through our first construction project, ” recalls Will. Julia did the majority of the interior finishes from her hospital bed, and thankfully the family was able to enjoy the new place after Thompson was released.
Two-year-old Kit has since joined the Sledge household, and the family now tries to spend as much time as they can at the Ono house. “On most weekend days, we wake up early, have a big breakfast and then go for a long bike ride up to the clubhouse for a swim or make a stop at the playground to let the kids run wild, ” says Will. For lunch, the family heads by boat to Sunset Grille. “The staff treats us like family and, frankly, lets Thompson and Kit get away with more than they should, ” Will adds. The Flora-Bama Yacht Club and The Gulf are other favorite spots to grab a bite to eat and let the kids play in the sand. Afternoons are often spent on Johnson Beach where the children swim and run the dunes between the Gulf and the Intracoastal Waterway. Evenings involve homemade meals or cookouts, followed by fishing by the dock lights.
The Sledges built with their family and entertaining in mind, and Julia encourages anyone building to really consider how they want to live in the house. “We have a lot of open space because we wanted people to be together but then be able to retreat to your quiet dark bedroom with your own bathroom for a little down time, too, ” she says. “Also, don’t ignore your punch list. It’s the little things that can really make a house function well, like the placement of a light switch or an outlet.” Will emphasizes the importance of finding the right people for the job. “Chad Loper, our builder, and Robert McCown, our designer, were phenomenal and truly rose to the occasion, especially when Julia was in the hospital and important decisions and approvals needed to be made to stay on time and budget, ” says Will.
Julia also advises those decorating their own abodes to ignore the rules. “I buy what I love and what I know will function well within our budget and for our family.” Because she took on the design and finishes on her own, Julia relied on Chad, Robert and Sylvia as mentors. “Working at Atchison Home really gave me the confidence to tackle this house myself, ” she says. “And I loved every last drop.”
“We wanted it to be open and spacious and very kid friendly, ” says Julia. Shiplap walls painted China White by Benjamin Moore Paints and exposed wood beams continue throughout the living room, dining room and kitchen. “I love watching my kids run the length of the room, jump on the couches or run to the porch to watch the boats go by, ” says Will. “There is no other place in the world I would rather be.” The living room sofas are covered in white, washable denim slipcovers. A blue, white and yellow printed pillow found on Magazine Street in New Orleans anchors the sofa. “Will had to have the ‘Hotel’ art, ” says Julia, and surfboards from Etsy now frame the statement piece. Leather puffs from Serena and Lily have been a big hit with the kids, who enjoy rolling them around, stacking them up and occasionally relaxing on them.
Julia thoughtfully selected accessories to reflect the beauty of Ono’s sand and sea right outside the windows. She purchased the navy ocean-inspired chair on Etsy. It is covered in a fabric that was dyed by a seller in North Carolina and delivered by Greyhound Bus south to its new home
In the kitchen, white tile walls and honed black granite countertops give Julia the clean look she desired. Her black and white color scheme also has pops of green. Caesarstone covers the large kitchen island with waterfall sides. In the entryway to the right, a black sideboard houses all the beach necessities. “The white leather chairs at the table are super easy to keep clean, ” says Julia.
Julia selected the table and chairs from Atchison. She filled the white urn, a gift from her mother-in-law, with faux plants from Atchison.
Pink and beiges and more of a beach theme was brought to the master bedroom. Julia selected the Ballet White paint color because it reminded her of the shade of sand. The side tables and lamps were Atchison finds, along with the throw over the chair.
“I had been dreaming of a striped bed forever, and I still love it, ” says Julia. “I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of it.” Julia found the navy upholstered bench with a wood frame at Southeastern Salvage. A printed rug from Lulu and Georgia is layered on top of dragon grass carpeting. White drapes with pom pom trim from Restoration Hardware Baby frame the windows. Julia scored a Teil Duncan painting from One Kings Lane, and Ashland Gallery framed the piece that now hangs above the master bed.
Julia wanted a master bath that was “spa-like and quiet.” Ballet White by Benjamin Moore Paints and white marble floors create minimalistic tranquility.
The outdoor shower is popular with everyone, but the kids love to run between the warm water, baby pool and beach. Viper’s Bowstring Hemp grow in planters beside the shower door, and despite Julia’s black thumb, they have done quite well there.
For Kit and Thompson, there’s no better place for summer fun and childhood memories than Ono Island.