J. Banks Design
Joni Vanderslice founded her multidisciplinary interior design firm over thirty years ago. Since then, she has nurtured the Hilton Head Island-based operation into an internationally recognized force in residential and resort design. With a credo of luxury without pretense, J. Banks Design takes on a global portfolio of interior design projects that translate resort living to home—and home to resort living. She is also an established product designer, having licensed lines for brands from Kravet to New Ravenna.
THE VANDERSLICE STORY
Joni Vanderslice is the president and owner of Hilton Head Island-based interior design firm J. Banks Design. Ever since she was a child, Joni has known that she wanted to pursue this career path—and follow it she has, in spectacular fashion, designing award-winning resorts around the world, dream homes, and unrivaled golf clubhouses. Her secret is to tailor her projects to the unique demographic she’s speaking to, whether the millennial golfer or the baby-boomer homeowner. At the end of the day, she blurs the line between home and resort, as well as indoors and out. And to her, what matters most, are the relationships she forms along the way, with her family, her clients, and her extended connections throughout the world from Hilton Head to Tanzania, where she runs an orphanage with her husband, Dr. Rick Vanderslice. Beyond her project-based work, Joni has also forged a distinctive path as a product designer, creating lines for New Ravenna, Paragon, Kravet, Stanford Furniture, and Abner Henry, among others.
You wake up in the morning—what’s the driving passion?
The opportunity to create an experience that someone will never forget or that they will cherish. For example, it’s an honor to help form a golf club that then becomes the social hub of its members’ lives.
I worked on a project—Castello di Casole—in Tuscany for over 10 years, therefore my children grew up travelling to Italy and experiencing Europe. When I ventured back to Tuscany for meetings to start a new project there, my college–age daughters asked to return as well, specifically to revisit some of the same hotels and places that they had experienced as children; these places were and are so filled with memories at each. For me, to create such a space for others is truly a fantastic gift.
What influenced you to get into design?
I grew up in High Point, North Carolina. The design and the furniture industry was all around me, and were a natural source of daily inspiration. I decided that I wanted to be an interior designer in 4th grade and never looked back.
What makes working in the golf market so interesting for you?
I came to Hilton Head looking for a summer job and ended up working for Mary and Charles Fraser. Charles was the creator and developer of Sea Pines. Over the course of my time with Sea Pines, I met many people who have developed and designed some of the best resorts and golf clubs in the world. Charles would ask me to sit in on meetings, during which he would explain all aspects of what they were doing and how the guests would experience these spaces.
Hilton Head is obviously known for golf. I’ve had the privilege of watching how golf can bring people together, help them to experience the environment, and do so much for the psyche. When you add the clubhouse aspect and the gathering, fitness, socialization, and family events, such as weddings, that occur in these spaces, the result is a very unique opportunity to enhance people’s lives.
You’ve been most active in the Southeast USA — with particular emphasis in the Hilton Head Island SC area. What elevates that area of America for you since you also live there with your family?
Hilton Head was the first development to prioritize the environment. As a result, we have not only our beaches, marshes, and water, but an abundance of trees and bicycle trails. To come home from work and walk out on our dock or walk on the beach provides perspective and a level of relaxation that is difficult to find otherwise. Paddleboard, cycling, along with golf and tennis are all a step away. The diversity of the people who live here and their varied backgrounds and experiences make this island truly unique. Did you know that for the third year in a row Hilton Head Island was voted the best island in the continental U.S. by Travel + Leisure readers in the World’s Best Awards?
Let me say that while we are in SC, our current projects include Monterey Peninsula Country Club and Mayacama, both in California. At any given time we are working in 12 to 16 states, and our international projects have taken us to Canada, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, and the Caribbean.
What differences are there between what Baby Boomers seek and what Millennials favor?
There is definitely a push among the current generation for more casual dining and gathering experiences. Families today want to include their children. They value technology that evaluates their game and their overall experience. Fitness programs, fitness space, and pools that are designed for family experiences are all important to this demographic.
Customer service is often touted by both companies and individuals. Define the term and how you go about creating an environment where customer service is truly productive on all levels?
We are truly in a service business. Our designs can be amazing, but if we do not produce the results and quickly mitigate problems that arise during the construction or installation phases, our clients remember these details above the design. Relentless communication is key among all parties that are involved with the process. We take the trust that our clients give us to work with them very seriously.
If you could change one thing in golf unilaterally—what would it be and why?
I would create more opportunities for short games after work for mothers who work and have children, as well as more programs for retired golfers to work with children who have an interest and do not have the wherewithal to learn to play golf. (Hilton Head’s First Tee program—an international youth development organization that introduces golf to young people—has been amazing!)
You’ve been the spearhead behind the Valentine project—a mission to provide a safe, family-like home for orphans in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. What prompted your efforts to do this?
My husband first went to Tanzania on a medical mission trip 12 years ago. The relationships that were created from his trips included the Archbishop of Tanzania, who had a vision to serve orphans. The UN statistics state that there are over three million orphans in Tanzania. On my first trip, the diocese of Dar es Salaam offered the land and their support if we could raise the funds to build a children’s home for orphans. From there the Valentine Project was born.
We have 23 children from ages 4 through 12 who will grow up in our home, living with loving mamas and a community around them that offers encouragement and support.
If you were teaching aspiring students about the design field—what important lessons would you share with them?
You never learn it all. I still learn every day. Collaborate. Ask questions. Be a lifetime learner.
Best advice you ever received‚what was it and who from?
Mil Batten, the former Chairman of the NY Stock Exchange and a client, always advised “Play the hand your were dealt. Don’t look at or be envious of someone else’s hand.”