Owning a home at or near the beach is at the top of many peoples' lists of most-desired places to live. Considering how old some coastal homes are, that dream has been a long-held one for many generations. The clean air, the soft breeze, the smell of salt with an occasional hint of sunscreen, the touch of ocean dampness, and the calming sound of waves with a distant foghorn continue to provide sensory experiences that lure people to the edges of continents.
A House for Every Beach Lover
Architectural styles for beach homes vary, often dictated by local materials, weather events (hurricanes), and the population and history of a coastal community. Many beach towns began as destinations near cities (think Los Angeles and New York), where people could own a second or vacation home. As cities spread, they caught up to the beach towns, making it possible to live in a coastal community and commute to work. Smaller towns—from Maine to the Carolinas and Florida to the gulf—have grown since their vacation getaway beginnings. Some people put down roots in once far-off beach towns, many continue to own vacation cottages, while others retire to places they've always dreamed about.
Like any type of house, beach houses vary in style and size, especially as they've transitioned from vacation to permanent homes. Enjoy a tour of 15 very different houses with one thing in common: they're all within steps of the beach.
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Beach Cottage with Pickle Court
An old fishing cabin on the beach at Whidbey Island's Penn Cove, famous for its delicious mussels, was torn down to accommodate a new home built with vintage architectural elements. Sykora Design of Seattle created a traditionally framed structure with cedar shingle siding and a composition roof. In a salute to the area's beginnings, the siding was installed in a historic pattern called the 6"/2" pattern, while interior walls and ceilings are covered with white-painted pine to give it an "old cabin" feel. Refurbished ship parts were also added, including light fixtures and authentic brass portholes installed in the beach-facing gables. For extra fun, the home has its own pickleball court.Continue to 2 of 15 below.
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The SeaFoam Bungalow
Working with the homeowners, who relocated from Texas to South Florida, Tuthill Architecture created a home located in one of Fort Lauderdale's waterways that captured the region's indoor/outdoor lifestyle. Together, they designed a home that's coastal, with a seafoam green color palette and accents of grey and white. Palm trees complete the picture of tropical perfection.Continue to 3 of 15 below.
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Beach Shack-Style Home
A remodeled beach shack feels bigger than its 2,000 square feet, thanks to some smart design ideas by Stephen Dalton Architects. Three distinct roof forms are arranged around a central roof deck, with the high-sloped roofs clad in standing-seam metal that creates vaulted ceilings in the main rooms of the house. Vaulted ceilings add height to the interior, along with oversized windows that also blur the transition from indoors to outdoors. The "shack" is located in Solana Beach, about 20 miles north of downtown San Diego.Continue to 4 of 15 below.
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Dana Point Beach Digs
A 1950s beach cottage in the small Southern California coastal city of Dana Point received a renovation and addition that was inspired by its Mid-century roots but designed with a modern aesthetic that now adds more room and updated features. The project, designed by MYD Studio, introduced angles, a flat roof, oversized black siding and plywood that accommodate a new side entry, larger rooms, and two new bedrooms downstairs.
The home's bold black-and-white palette highlights the juxtaposition of old and new, complementing the colorful, light-filled interior with an eclectic style that's reflective of its unique South Orange County location and coastal lifestyle.Continue to 5 of 15 below.
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Puget Sound Home
A former cabin on the waterfront side near Gig Harbor in Washington's Puget Sound was rebuilt as a new 3,200-square-foot shingle-style vacation home by BC&J Architecture. With a nod to its seafaring origins, BC&J added a whimsical crow's nest (a structure on the upper part of a ship or home used as a lookout and a 500-square-foot bunk room for guests that's connected to the main house via a bridge with built-in storage and a window seat. Nautical indoor details include paddles integrated into the stair rails, "weathered" flooring, marine-cleat hardware, and a boardwalk main entry with nautical lighting.Continue to 6 of 15 below.
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Rum Cay Cottage
Taking the concept of far-away seriously, this home is located on a remote sustainable island in the Bahamas called Rum Cay, where only about 55 people reside. Designed by Intelae, Inspired by Southern "dog trot" or shotgun-style homes, the off-grid home produces its own power, water, and sewer system. Located only 150 feet from the ocean, the home was lifted off the main dune to a height of 18 feet to avoid surge—especially from hurricanes. Designed to withstand winds up to 175 mph, the home has endured three major hurricanes with only minimal damage. For some, battling the elements is worth it for mostly beautiful days. "Even hummingbirds live on the island," says Intelae's Ronald Rickert. "It's a bit like Jurassic Island without the dinosaurs."Continue to 7 of 15 below.
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Rincon Point Home
Situated near Carpenteria between Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, this Rincon Point home evokes a sense of early California beach bungalows. Using a mix of influences, like late-1930s cabinetry and built-ins along with more Mid-century modern Scandinavian-influenced proportions and design, the new home was built without any drywall. Designed by architect CJ Paone or Archipelago Design in Ventura, the home is built with wood and corrugated zinc-type metal for the roofing.Continue to 8 of 15 below.
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Gold Coast Modern Home
Australia's Gold Coast—near Brisbane—is famous for its stretches of sandy beaches. Designed by Stuart Osman, this new one-story home in Broadbeach features a modern roofline and a private pool with decking, great for entertaining in the evening when it gets a bit challenging to swim in a dark ocean.Continue to 9 of 15 below.
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Elevated, Storm-Resistant Beach Home
In the same family for generations, the remodel of this beach shack near Florida's Anna Maria Sound faced many hurdles before returning to a place of fun and relaxation. Undertaking the project, Traction Architecture encountered flood zone regulations, multiple variances, nonconforming zoning, and a mess of power lines, the new design evolved into a storm-resistant, elevated reinvention of the former family vacation home. Drawing inspiration from ramshackle beach-shack vernacular, the home includes interior doors and beadboard salvaged from the original.Continue to 10 of 15 below.
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Alabama's Romar Beach
What began as a three-mile stretch of Alabama homestead beachfront property in the 1920s known as Romar Beach is now about 480 feet. Located in the larger town of Orange Beach, the area was severely damaged by Hurricane Frederic in 1979. As towns and survivors do, they rebuilt, and the town incorporated in 1984. Many of the original coastal cottages have been restored and remodeled, including this one with twin towers, designed by McCollough Architecture.Continue to 11 of 15 below.
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Florida Beach Home with Beautiful Pastels
As beach house homes go, this one is simple and straightforward; contemporary but definitely influenced by earlier wood beach cottages. Created by Mark Green Home Design, the white columns and trim framing the exterior are crisp and clean, setting off the siding's calming pastels. Located on St. George Island, Florida, the home was built on pilings, which creates a natural garage for two cars.Continue to 12 of 15 below.
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In the Midwest, beaches are at lakes instead of oceans but built with the same sensibilities. Belzowski Woodwork & Design masterminded the ultimate large lake house near Chicago, with a pool, deck and stairs that lead down to the lake.Continue to 13 of 15 below.
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Rhode Island Two-Story
Compact gambrel-roofed cottages were built in the early 20th century for residents and vacationers of Rhode Island's southern coast. In more recent years, new mansion-sized homes have sprung up, often dwarfing the original beach cottages. Property owners asked Polhemus Savery DaSilva Architects Builders to design them something in between: a comfortable family home that retained the cottage vernacular and was a fun, casual addition to the neighborhood. The new two-story features octagonal roof shapes with finials and an upper deck that offers ocean views and stairway access to the appealing yard.Continue to 14 of 15 below.
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Seaport View Home
In the historic seaport city of Bridgeport, Connecticut, Christensen Landscape Services designed a home that takes advantage of outdoor living with a flagstone patio, pool, and coastal views.Continue to 15 of 15 below.
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Modern Beach House with Many Views
A three-story oceanfront home in Jacksonville Beach, Florida, designed by Starr Custom Homes used cement board along with board-and-batten siding as traditional cottage materials. They modernized the home by using strong color blocking with a black-and-gray scheme contrasted with white horizontal railings.