Diamonds in the Rough

Airbnbs have been on the rise in popularity in Savannah, and fortunately for the end user, hosts are getting more and more creative with their accommodations. This local couple has taken the internet by storm with their whimsical homes, offering truly unforgettable stays to all they host.

If you are looking for a stay in Savannah that is truly without equal, you won’t have to wander far to get off the beaten path. Three miles outside of the bustling historic district lays the old, quiet fishing town of Thunderbolt. It is here you will find ancient live oaks that cloak the streets, straight-off-the-boat Georgia shrimp, neighborly locals, and a slower pace of life.

It is also here that you will find the magic that Chad Faries and Margaret Emily Jones have created in their properties. These spaces, shared with visitors and artists from near and far, are so much more than places to lay your head. They are experiences—narratives of the couple’s relationship, travels, and dreams. 

Just up the road from their Bonaventure homes, next to an abandoned dairy farm, you will find Margaret Emily’s property, listed on Airbnb as JEM’s Duende. Loosely interpreted, the Spanish word “duende” refers to the spirit of evocation or the physical or emotional response to art. No matter which way you interpret “duende,” this charming bungalow exemplifies it. And that’s not even mentioning the communal tree house and the magnificent resident mini-horse Prince Mars, whose kingdom is the repurposed wooden stable in the yard. 

Entering the home, every square inch of space has a touch of Margaret Emily’s influence. From her handcrafted 3-D wall displays of reclaimed wood to the whimsical, vibrant décor ranging from skulls to florals, patterns, and Hail Mary candles, there is something to marvel at with every turn. 

“No education required… I just find these quirky things and throw them together. Then I’ll get bored and want to redo everything,” says Margaret Emily.

Original paintings by Whitney LeJeune, a local artist and friend of Margaret Emily’s adorn the walls alongside pieces that have been compiled from both near and far. 

“We’ve really curated our stuff from all over the world,” says Chad, listing out the far-off places the couple has traveled to including Vietnam, Cuba, Thailand, and Cambodia. “We just really go off the beaten path to get things, not just from stores but from rummage sales, out-of-the-way auctions, and conversations with people.”

JEM’s Duende has been a labor of love for the couple for a little over two years. While Margaret Emily and Chad have done a significant amount of the handy work and decorating themselves, their visions came to fruition with the help of their trusted co-creators, Tex and E, their English Mastiff, Storm, and of course, Mars the mini-horse. 

"We just really go off the beaten path to get things, not just from stores but from rummage sales, out-of-the-way auctions, and conversations with people."

Distinct character can also be found back up the road in Chad’s Diamond Oaks Treehouse. With only one look at it, it’s easy to understand why this home is one of Savannah’s most popular listings on Airbnb. While the magical tree house overtop might be what first piques interest, it’s the intricate details that make up the home: the trinkets, books, records, and friendly cats, that make it truly remarkable.

For his first 20 years, Chad lived in an upwards of 40 different houses. For the past ten years, which is the longest he’s ever lived anywhere, he has tended to his house in order to create a space unlike any other.

“I’ve taken this opportunity to just build something that is uniquely my own, something I feel is like a home that I never had,” says Chad. “Maybe I’ll never leave.”

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