“Know your ‘why,’ and your ‘how’ will follow,” promise Jenny and James Schaffer, who recently moved into their brand-new oceanfront home—a dream come true. The couple found Amelia Island in 2014 as they traveled back from Key West to their home in Augusta, Georgia.
“We saw Amelia on the map, thought it sounded interesting, drove the beach road into downtown, looked at each other and said, ‘We could live here!’” The duo, full of vision and willing to work hard to realize it, added Amelia to their 10-year-plan.
No surprise, the family moved to Amelia in a matter of months, calling an Airstream travel trailer home. “An offer was made on our Augusta home—which was not for sale, by the way—that we couldn’t refuse,” they laugh and reminisce. “I guess it’s Amelia,” they agreed, but Jamie, as his friends know him, couldn’t break away from his real estate business so quickly.
“We purchased a rundown house in downtown Fernandina, and the girls and I lived next to it in the Airstream while I managed the historic renovation of the home.” It was during the quiet nights after Indy (13 years old today) and Aurora (11) were asleep that Jenny was overwhelmed by a new inspiration.
“I decided that we could build a real estate business here, and the name Summer House came to me.” Of course, Jamie, a veteran in the industry, was wide-eyed at Jenny’s idea. But, if you know Jenny Schaffer, you know it’s smart to give her ideas a go! Fast forward to 2023, and Summer House Realty is producing its third year in a row of the highest-volume sales in the area.
Luckily for Amelia Island, Jenny’s inspiration didn’t stop there. “I remember strolling with the girls downtown and daydreaming about the potential of our Historic District.” Take a drive down Ash Street and you can see the beautiful restoration the couple completed on the Summer House Realty building, which had been a 1920s-era transmission shop. In addition, they’ve refurbished properties all over the island and are in the process of bringing a new restaurant, coffee shop, boutique hotel, and rooftop double-bar to the historic Standard Marine building on North 2nd Street.
But it is the inspiration Jenny had for her home that captivated her the most. “I experienced a snapshot vision of an inspiring space where we were raising the girls and happy. I was standing right here at this kitchen island, Indy was laughing with Jamie in the corner, and Aurora was finishing homework at the dining room table,” she describes.
Jenny tucked this vision away until a piece of property she’d never noticed before, right beside their favorite beach access, suddenly manifested a “For Sale” sign. “I whipped my car around, called Jamie, and said, ‘We have to find a way!’” It was tricky, but they knew their “why” and “how” were shaping their journey.
Through a partnership of architect John Dodd, builder Dougherty & Company, Mooney Custom Woodworks, and many others, the Schaffer’s new address is a 4-bedroom, 4.5 bath custom home with breathtaking views of the ocean. Complete with an oversized kitchen featuring double islands adorned with Balinese woven pendants, a butler’s pantry, a wealth of cabinetry, wine cellar, abundant outdoor living including a recreation space, and one of the island’s only infinity pools, no details were left unrealized.
One remarkable aspect of the design is the inclusion of authentic design from a variety of eras, including furniture of the 1800’s; 1930’s-inspired tiles; 1940’s curves, handles, and knobs; a mid-century alabaster fireplace; 1950’s art-deco details; 1960’s trim; and vintage posters, all creating an entertaining aesthetic. While there are nods to designs of late, the team incorporated plenty of what matters to the family today.
“Indy chose her favorite bed, Aurora the ombre tile in her shower, and we insisted on an elevator and double-handrail, illuminated stairs to support Indy’s cerebral palsy. I am in love with the trash/recycling chutes, and the home technology is amazing; I can turn everything off with the press of just one button!” says Jenny.
“We had so much fun through the entire project, working with the team, selecting special pieces at our local antique shops, and seeing the vision come together,” the couple shares.
After almost one year in their new home, Jenny and Jamie wake up to the sunrise each morning grateful, pinching themselves, and full of anticipation for how they will make memories as a family that day.