This designer profile originally appeared in VMSD's January/February "Look Book" issue.
Competing with thriving metropolises may seem an insurmountable challenge for a design firm, but for Joni Vanderslice, Founder & President, J. Banks Design Group (Hilton Head Island, S.C.), being based outside a large city is what sets them apart and, ultimately, helps them prove the naysayers wrong. “The general thought process is that everything sophisticated and interesting comes out of New York and Los Angeles,” she says.
“Resort design, however, is our DNA. We live the lifestyle on a daily basis, and this in-depth knowledge takes us to some amazing places, allowing us to work on projects in Italy, Ireland, Mexico and throughout the United States.”
After earning a degree in Interior Design from East Carolina University, Vanderslice moved to Hilton Head Island for the summer, where she met Mary and Charles Fraser. Charles was the developer of The Sea Pines Report and is credited with transforming Hilton Head Island into the destination it’s known as today, says Vanderslice. It was their influence that lead her to stay in Hilton Head, which J. Banks Design calls home.
Recently, Sara Baldwin, Founder, New Ravenna (Exmore, Va.), who was featured in VMSD’s 2016 “Look Book,” approached Vanderslice about developing a new line for the tile manufacturer. “We
shared new ideas, our challenges in owning a business and [share the role of] female creative business owner,” says Vanderslice. Conversations between Baldwin and Vanderslice lasted about three years before they began the line, giving them ample time to be inspired and collaborate.
“My travel in Africa — specifically Tanzania, where we have built an orphanage for 23 children — was the influence and the point of view for the J. Banks Collection for New Ravenna,” she says. The response to and success of the line exceeded expectations. When it comes to collaboration, Vanderslice explains the critical importance of keen observation. “The interesting part of any collaboration is watching the design team with our partners interpret and use their knowledge of their medium in executing the design,” she says. “New Ravenna’s team took my ideas to an entirely new level, executing designs that exceeded my expectations.
“The time that we spent at New Ravenna was amazing as they had already started to put some of the designs together. For others, we took the ideas, sketched out our thoughts. Design is always better when you can evolve the design with other professionals.”