By Mark Stanley and Tracy Steely
Jaysa Hunter is the owner and operator of Avenue 117 Design, an interior design firm that serves the entire Emerald Coast. She provides the full range of services you’d expect from a designer, but says her passion and specialty is kitchen and bath remodels. The current trend along the Gulf Coast is still “Coastal,” and she is happy to work with her clients to provide that look, but her preferred style is a little different. She describes it as an “edgy, eclectic, mid-century vibe.”
But what really sets her apart is not her design style. When you choose to work with Jaysa Hunter, you are contributing to the support of those less fortunate, both locally and abroad.
Jaysa’s grandmother on her father’s side, Sara Anchors, once ran one of the first interior design businesses in our area. Jaysa grew up in Missouri but moved to Destin in the early 2000s and began cultivating relationships that would allow her to eventually thrive in the industry, taking on many of her grandmother’s past clients as referrals.
She left our area for a time and moved to California. She got married, had two kids, Adilyne, now 13, and Liam, who just turned 10. She returned to the Emerald Coast after a few years and picked up where she left off in the interior design industry.
Jaysa said the catalyst for her current business model was a flash of inspiration that occurred to her in August 2012. She had hit a low point in her life and was, she explains, searching for new meaning. She just happened to be reading from the Book of Isaiah while a documentary about sex trafficking played in the background. She came to Chapter 1, Verse 17: “Learn to do good; Seek justice; Help the oppressed; Defend the cause of orphans; Fight for the rights of widows.”
As she recounts in her website, the documentary she had been watching made her feel profoundly sad about the world situation. The verses from Isaiah gave her the inspiration to do something about it, “full force. No reservations. Totally and completely.” Interior design would be the avenue she would travel to fulfill the mission outlined in Isaiah 1:17.
Since that moment eight years ago, Jaysa has used her time, talents, and a considerable portion of her business proceeds to help where she can. After Hurricane Michael devastated our community she organized relief efforts through social media to get needed supplies to those most affected. She filled her dining room with donated food and other essentials and figured out how to distribute them in record time.
The following year she again used social media to provide Christmas presents to kids of single mothers who could not afford to buy them. The kids were able to create a wish-list of four presents each, which appeared in an Amazon wish-list distributed through Facebook. The response was overwhelming, and 40 underprivileged kids had a very merry Christmas.
More recently Jaysa has joined forces with an organization in the East African country of Liberia to design a pillow that is made from indigenous Liberian fabrics. The proceeds from the sale of the pillow are then used to help supplement the income of the women who created the fabrics in Africa.
These things are just the start of what Jaysa envisions for her business. She is working now on a plan to provide micro-loans to widows in Liberia and other third-world countries. The idea is to empower these women to produce marketable crafts that can be exported to places like the Emerald Coast, where they would be sold for a profit, thus helping to alleviate poverty in these vulnerable populations.
“But that’s the long-term goal,” Jaysa says. “The short-term goal is making houses pretty.”
For more on Jaysa’s vision, and visuals of her handywork, visit her website at avenue117design.com.
Tracy Steely and Mark Stanley are the hosts of a community website called The Faces of Walton County. The project aims to showcase the diverse residents of our community, one Face at a time. To nominate someone for an interview visit www.thefacesofwaltoncounty.com or call Tracy at 850-803-9822.