July 2009

J. Banks Design Group • A showcase for style and sustainability

Author: Ann DeMart | Photographer: photography by anne

Sustainability, a hot topic these days, is applied most frequently to ecology, society or economy. If you’d like a living example of how the principles of sustainability work successfully in all three areas, look no further than Hilton Head Island’s renowned interior design firm, J. Banks Design Group.

With J. Banks’ new home office and retail store, Joni Vanderslice, president of the company, illustrates not only how to sustain a thriving business, but also how to sustain and nurture employees, the environment and our local and global communities. Her vision for their new office building resulted in a multi-use, LEED-certified building, a healthy environment for employees, and an international retail market that offers new opportunities for J. Banks, its clients and craftsmen around the world.

Anna Ruby, vice president of creative at J. Banks Design Group, was a gracious, entertaining host as she explained the company’s latest goals and conducted a tour of the retail space and design studio.

“Project trips to other countries inspired Joni’s vision for the new retail showroom,” said Ruby. “She wanted to create a retail venue that would offer the items that she fell in love with during her travels, but couldn’t get locally.” The new store does just that—offering items in all price ranges that Hilton Head residents and visitors won’t see anywhere else, including items from Europe, the Caribbean, and Mexico. In addition, Joni wanted to reach area brides by offering the largest assortment of unique tabletop, crystal, bedding and various home décor pieces. “The other great thing that J Banks retail offers is the ability for anyone to visit our store and create their own wish registry for upcoming ‘gift getting’ occasions,” said Ruby. “Loved ones will be able to purchase directly from the registry with the knowledge that the person will love it. And, we want to make every visitor feel comfortable and welcome.”

Comfortable and welcome? It felt like shopper’s heaven, with appealing items from around the world and friendly, knowledgeable service. You’ll notice the Italian influence in the store’s décor, and no doubt you’ll covet the Italian Bagni Volpi highest-quality, custom embroidered bed linens, the hand-painted artistry of Vietri dishes and wonderful artwork inspired by old maps. You’ll find ironwork candleholders and carvings from Guadalajara, unique gifts from Maison d’Objet in Paris, and antiques, furniture and accessories from around the world. No matter where you glance, from large pieces of furniture, inspired lighting and luxurious cashmere throws to a small deck of tapas recipe cards and place card holders in the shape of little fish, you’ll find something you’ll want to give to a favorite person or take home for yourself.

The space also serves as a showcase for the J. Banks Collection of custom furniture. “Manufactured by Stanford Furniture in North Carolina, the collection features wonderful transitional pieces and upholstery designed by Joni that can be mixed into any design style, whether it is a traditional or contemporary setting. Clients may choose any finish, fabric, and nail head option that Stanford offers, or we can send in the customer’s own material (COM) to tailor the furniture to their styles and personalities,” Ruby explained. “We feature custom artwork from various local artisans in our retail store and our interior design work. We also offer our own line of decorative pillows and custom wallpaper. The signature design, which is displayed on the walls, can be scaled down and created in any Pantone color.”

To help offer quality, custom products and design to a wide range of budgets, the retail store offers an interactive furniture kiosk where clients can design and visualize furniture. They can choose the style, length, width, number of cushions, and upholstery while ensuring that the pieces will fit within their floor plans. A retail designer is available to help with the decisions. There are many floor samples to test for comfort and scale. This is a terrific option for people who aren’t ready to embrace J. Banks’ couture line. “Of course, Ruby added, “our couture line and personalized design service can save money in the long run; we help you avoid mistakes by taking care of everything from design and orders to tracking, delivery and installation.

Ruby has to have one of the best jobs ever. She not only travels with Vanderslice to foreign destinations for buying and design projects, but she gets to work in a beautiful, ecologically sensitive building. The company’s new home is in the first and only United States Green Building Council’s LEED-certified building on Hilton Head Island, and only the twelfth in South Carolina.

“It took a big leap of faith to start the building project, but it was important to Joni to create a building that is healthy for occupants, good for the environment and the community,” Ruby said. In addition to the stringent building and environmental codes, some of their additional measures include: recycling all paper, glass, plastics, metals and cardboard; using trees cut down on the build site for paneling and trim; making non-wooden floors of recycled content and wooden floors from recycled heart pine barn siding; landscaping entirely with local, native, and drought tolerant plants; and installing bike racks and showers to encourage employees to cycle to work.

The 18,000-square-foot multi-functional space at 35 Main Street includes J. Banks’ offices, the retail store, design studio and warehouse facility as well as KPM Flooring, providing one-stop design services for clients. The warm, inviting Sienna Room, a lovely, Tuscan-inspired conference space, is used by J. Banks to extend their design expertise to others. “We want to share our knowledge and provide education on interior design,” Ruby explained. “We use the Sienna Room to host various events including bridal showcases, various trunk shows for our retail offerings and interior design workshops and seminars.” In this spirit of sharing, J. Banks also makes the Sienna Room available to the public for professional seminars, special events and private dining. Conveniently, Mainly Sandstone’s gourmet take-out and catering services are next door in the same building complex, providing on-site catering for all Sienna Room private occasions.

These smart business practices extend to the company’s staff. “It all goes back to continuing knowledge. Now we’re learning about international business,” said Ruby, who began working as Vanderslice’s assistant 10 years ago and grew in knowledge and responsibility every inch of the way to her current role as vice president. “Employees thrive in this environment. We have a sense of pride about the company and our work, not only by what we offer the public, but also how we work together. That’s important to Joni. She wants to nurture her employees and the community.”

Ruby said, “By constantly reinventing ourselves, yet staying true to classic style, we’ve continued to grow despite the current economic downturn. We never let ourselves become stagnant. We challenge ourselves to be ‘in the know’ and to find new, exciting vendors, whether they’re in Paris, Mexico, the Caribbean, New York, Atlanta or Las Vegas. By going to all these markets, we can get our hands on the newest things before anyone else has seen them, and we’re able to tap into many lifestyle products that normally wouldn’t be associated with a designer gift store.”
Now, Vanderslice is traveling to Africa, where her physician husband, Rick, has been involved in mission work. She’s helping local women artisans turn their design work into businesses, which helps the women develop their economy and brings fresh merchandise and ideas to J. Banks’ clients. “The big idea is that J Banks is a lifestyle, and that lifestyle is about enhancing design, business, people and our community,” Ruby said. Now that’s sustainability in the best sense of the word.

J Banks Design Group, Inc. is located at 35 Main Street. For more information, call (843) 681-5122 or visit jbanksdesign.com.

Let Us Know what You Think ...

commenting closed for this article