Jay Geier has watched the Emerald Coast grow up. From visiting the area in high school to finally finishing his gulf-front Seagrove home in January, things have changed a lot during his 30-year relationship with 30A.
“We bought our first house when the kids were young. We were at Miramar Beach,” said Jay, who has three adult children with his wife, Diane. Their first home on the Emerald Coast was purchased from his parents when they relocated further south. “So, we come down a lot and we’d wander over to 30A. There wasn’t as much there at the time.
“And, then there was a period of about 10 years where we didn’t visit as much. We traveled to other places with the kids – the Caribbean, the islands, the Bahamas. It gave us an opportunity to kind of look around at everything that was available.”
But, it was the lure of the Sea – Seaside, to be exact – that drew the Geiers back.
“I had actually designed a home for a lot in Costa Rica, but I’d almost forgotten how great the beaches are right here. You just realize when you come back how beautiful everything is.”
The Geiers abandoned their plans to build in Costa Rica, instead purchasing not one, but two lots in Seaside to build their beach home.
“I wanted to wake up and see the water and I wanted a waterfront pool. That was mandatory,” he said.
Seaside’s specifications on pools on the gulf side of a home made the purchase a challenge, according to Diane. They also had concerns about obstructed views of the gulf, but they craved the walkability of the New Urbanism communities.
“We had to buy two lots to get a pool, which meant we were going to be the most expensive dirt owners in Seaside,” she said, laughing. “I just kept saying, ‘This is never smart. This is never smart.’ But, Jay just insisted and said, ‘You know, if we’re going to do this, I’m going to have a pool.'”
The couple, who own residences in and around Atlanta near Jay’s business, were headed toward a serendipitous moment.
“I went for a jog. We were staying at WaterColor and went for a jog down the beach and saw these lots and I called Chris [Abbott] and said, ‘Hey, can you find out who owns these?'”
A few phone calls later, Jay had his answer. The lots’ owner was also in Atlanta. The two men met and, at the property owner’s suggestion, consulted with T.S. Adams Studio Architects at its Atlanta office. The owner of the lots was wary about selling, telling Geier he wanted both homes – his and any other – built, essentially, simultaneously.
“It was one of those perfect timing things where I said, ‘Listen, I’m in. I’m ready to go,'” Jay explained.
The Geiers, who had prior experience with other architects, were not hesitant to try something new.
“I didn’t want to use the architect that had done our main house and our lake house. I kind of wanted to just get a different look,” Jay said. “Diane wanted a Seaside-looking house. Something elegant and sophisticated that, since it was going to be our primary residence, wouldn’t feel like you were at someone’s weekend beach house.”
So, the approximately four-year project got underway. What Diane had envisioned as a three-bedroom beach cottage became an extraordinary four-story home with a rooftop deck. The home is outfitted with four master suites and two bunk rooms that sleep six and eight, respectively.
Jay said that every level of the home lives appropriately-sized, adding that each level feels much smaller than its combined 7,000 square feet. He traveled from Atlanta often to oversee the build, a decision that resulted in many onsite changes.
“We took out a lot of walls. We actually took the roof off and changed the roof line,” he explained. “There was a lot that looked good on paper, but when I got there and I was looking at a wall instead of the gulf, I just wanted to keep adding windows.”
Diane worked on designing the home with the assistance of Atlanta-based Beth Webb Interiors, aiming for traditional, light, airy and crisp, with the gulf as the primary focal point.
“We didn’t want anything to compete with that,” Diane said. “We wanted the focus of the entire house to be on the gulf.”
The Geiers opted to incorporate some of their favorites from their Atlanta home – Carrara marble, bluestone and touches from their recently-renovated Design Galleria kitchen and closets. Diane said each of their homes, from the lake house to a downtown Atlanta condo, is right for its area and wanted their Seagrove home to be no different.
“The No. 1 thing had to be about the water and the sand and the sky,” she said.
The Seagrove home incorporates other personal touches from the Geiers, a process that Jay called time-consuming but made all the difference.
“A lot of this just had to be done onsite, from what the rails were going to look like so they didn’t block the view to the glass catwalk we decided to build on the fourth level,” he said. “These were things that were both frustrating and rewarding at the same time, but I don’t regret it because we got exactly what we wanted.”
Jay said he favors the way the entire back of the home opens up on its ground level, marrying the outdoors with the home’s interior. Diane’s favorite spot is a small study area in the master bedroom where she can sit at her Lucite desk and look out over the water. And, they both love the rooftop deck where, on a clear day, Diane said, you can see from Destin to Panama City Beach.
Away from the hustle and bustle of Atlanta, the Geiers enjoy the simple things: biking or jogging on the beach in the cool of the day, throwing the shades back each morning to get that first daily glimpse of the gulf, paddleboarding, walking to favorite lunch spots or church, sitting and watching the sunset with a cocktail in hand.
“My wife was convinced it would drive me crazy being here and it really hasn’t,” said Jay, chuckling. “I’m still running my company remotely, from far enough away that I can’t just drive to the office. When I’m here, I’m fine to be to bed early and start it all over again the next day.”
“The home really is exactly what I thought it would be and just honestly, even more lovely. I probably for the first two weeks I was still saying, ‘Pinch me,’’ Diane said. “I know it’s because it’s so lovely and we feel so fortunate.”