Tarpon Tides

With deep roots in Fernandina Beach, Shannon and Mike Straughn inherited a double lot with a cottage at Main Beach and decided to build their dream house on it, creating a striking three-level home with expansive views of Main Beach Park and the Atlantic Ocean.

While Mike and Shannon Straughn built their dream house, Tarpon Tides, at Main Beach, people would stop and ask them about the unusual design. Rising out of a group of traditional beachside cottages, the house is modern and dramatic.

The house sits on a double lot which has been in Shannon’s family for more than sixty years. The house was planned to be a luxury rental, and later the Staughns retirement home. The main house is 3,300 square feet, with two full kitchens, two master suites with private bathrooms, and two additional bedrooms, including a bunk room. A rooftop deck tops the house, perfect for sunrise and sunset views.

Shannon’s family has deep local roots locally. Her grandparents were Ira and Mary Hall, who bought the lots in 1962 for $875. Shannon has fond memories of the island, and she has been visiting all her life. Once married, she and Mike came back and stayed in the beach house that was originally on the lots. When Shannon inherited the lots, the couple decided to tear down the old cottage and build their dream house.

Maximizing the location of the house and capturing the incredible views the lot offered were a priority. Mark Akins with Rice Architect met the challenge with his one-of-a-kind design. The couple lives in Chicago, so it took many Zoom and face-to-face meetings to come up with a design that would incorporate the specific details the Staughns wanted.

The unusual orientation of the house is for a good reason. Once in the house, it becomes clear why the house is sited the way it is. The views from each floor capture a large expanse of Main Beach Park and the ocean beyond. It is public land, so there are no worries about future development. The couple wanted the house as tall as possible, so it was built to the 35-foot maximum allowable height.

Steve Pickett of Pickett Construction met the challenge of building the unique home at Main Beach. Pickett is known for his client-focused homes on Amelia Island. Exterior detailing utilizes rich dark boards of Ipe wood (pronounced e-pay), which is similar to teak. It is a very hard wood, very durable, and it withstands the salt air. This is the first home in North Florida to showcase James Hardie “Reveal” siding, which offers a great alternative to stucco and provides a contemporary look. The home is built to be wind-resistant, with structural stainless steel for support.

Larry Johnson of Gordon & Johnson worked with Shannon on the interior of the house. Gordon & Johnson, originally located in Jacksonville, moved to Amelia Island in 2021. They specialize in new construction projects, with many on Crane Island. Larry describes the Tarpon house as very organic, something more than a typical beach house.

The interior design is rental-friendly, with performance fabrics and well-built furnishings that will hold up in time. The third-floor ceilings are pecky Cyprus to add interest and texture to the main living area. The color palate used in the home is soft and beachy. Several paint colors were used purposefully because the colors change as the light changes throughout the day. The colors include Sherwin Williams Oyster Bay, Sea Salt, and Wickham Gray. Ceilings are painted subtle colors, sometime hardly noticeable at first glance, but the fifth wall, as Larry calls them, are just as important.

The first level of the house has ten-foot ceilings. A well-designed multi-purpose room opens to the pool and jacuzzi area. A full kitchen, television, seating area with a 72-inch television, and a generously sized bathroom convenient to the pool complete the first floor.

The second floor has a master bedroom and two additional bedrooms. A bunk bed bedroom offers expanding sleeping options and will be ready for grandchildren. The master bedroom has an incredible view of Main Beach Park, the beach, and the ocean.

The next floor up is the main living area, with a sitting area, large screen TV, kitchen, and dining table. Shannon has incorporated prints and pictures belonging to her parents when they lived on the island. Special treasures are pieces of driftwood her father dug up on the beach. Shannon smiles as she points out the large pieces of driftwood that have traveled with the family in moves from Florida, Tennessee, Illinois, and finally, back to Amelia Island. It has come full circle!

Like most new construction, the house is a “smart” home. Mike Straughn handled the technical side, and most things in the house are controlled by apps, including the Jacuzzi, the pool temperature, raising and lowering blinds, and adjusting the thermostat.

The couple leads a busy life, with both working full-time. Mike is vice president of sales for a manufacturing company in Chicago, and Shannon is the HR/accounting coordinator for her local park district. They have two daughters, 23 and 20. Although their amazing house is currently a rental unit, the couple can’t wait to retire on Amelia Island and family and friends on the beach they love.