Sunbright Inn Wins Design Excellence Award

Jul 2, 2024 | Businesses, Communities, DeFuniak Springs, Freeport, Walton & Beyond

Presenting the award image

Scenic Walton recently announced Sunbright Inn as the winner of its Design Excellence Award for the renovation of the oldest house in Walton County. 

The organization presented the award to owners, Patrick and Heather O’Neill, among their family and friends, including dignitaries involved with the project in DeFuniak Springs on June 28, 2024. 

Scenic Walton President Roger Hall talking with DeFuniak Springs Mayor Bob Campbell

Among a couple dozen guests, the ceremony opened with Leigh Moore, executive director of Scenic Walton,  explaining the purpose of the organization and the award. 

“We created this award for businesses and local governmental entities that excel in the areas of architecture, landscaping, signage and other categories related to scenic beauty in the built environment,” says Moore.

Scenic Walton recently revived the Design Excellence Award in 2024, originally debuting in 2017. The award helps to promote beauty and safety throughout Walton County by recognizing indisputable development and design excellence. “The efforts of the O’Neill family and Paul Rushing Construction have delivered astonishing renovations that not only restored a significant historical building in DeFuniak Springs, but also enhanced the beauty of Highway 331,” says Moore.

Sunbright Inn Exterior Image

Patrick O’Neill accepted the award with a heartfelt speech placing significant emphasis on the team behind the scenes who tirelessly pursued excellence in the renovation process, including his children.

“There is no better way to spend time with your kids than laying pavers in the extreme Florida summer heat,” laughs O’Neill.

The renovation was a family affair, with all hands on deck throughout the 27 month renovation. Not only the O’Neill family, but also their operation partners, Inn Keepers David and Heather Campbell. The Campbell’s young adult children are also involved in daily operations of the Inn. Staying on course, in thanking Paul Rushing of Rushing Construction for invaluable expertise in Victorian home renovation,  O’Neill also highlighted Paul’s son – “Bubba” – Paul Wayne Rushing II,  as having “the most blood, sweat and tears” in the project. In closing of the presentation, all attendees were invited on a tour of the home turned Inn, with 8 rooms that embrace the past but with modern amenities – “like plumbing,” laughs O’Neill.

Image of Leigh Moore holding award.

 “This award presentation was the first-ever to bring me to tears. It was heartwarming and embodied the importance of family and community. We are delighted to recognize Sunbright Inn and all the people who made this renovation possible,” says Moore.

To learn more about Scenic Walton, visit their website at Sign up for their newsletter for timely updates delivered directly to your inbox. You can take an online tour of Sunbright Inn, see a series of renovation images and make reservations on their website,


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