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The Evolution of a Beach House

Just as coastal living has evolved over the years, so have the homes beach-goers choose to spend their days in. From a small summer shack on block foundation, to a 3-bedroom raised ranch on tall pilings, the progression of lifestyle—and family size–has shifted demand from the quaint little bungalow to true year-round designed second homes at the beach.

The summer shack was originally meant to serve as merely a home base at the shore, as really, all of the activities took take place outdoors including fishing, boating, surfing, mini golfing, kit flying and bike riding. Not much time was spent within the interiors of these homes. In fact, the furnishings and appliances were typically second-hand materials, and these homes were very modest in size. Rarely did they come close to the allowable height or setback restrictions.

Generally speaking, the old shack was inferior to its owners’ primary residence. It had little, if any, storage and floor plans featured a series of small impossible-to-furnish rooms, undersized kitchens and awkwardly designed bathrooms. Low-maintenance materials may still have been a priority, but the material of choice was the asbestos siding shingle. Interior finishes often included pine wall board, hollow core doors and asbestos floor tile. “Outdoor living” was standing around an old charcoal grill with a flyswatter. Undoubtedly the memories formed from these homes are still as priceless as those of their future counterparts, but if one fast-forwards to 2018, the beach house has indisputably undergone a complete metamorphosis.

First and foremost, the new beach house maximizes its setting to take advantage of every allowable foot in height and in area. Homes are as tall as they can be with roof decks that grab views from bay to ocean. Since coverage is maximized, when these homes are designed they can appear boxy unless care and attention is given to their aesthetics. With so much emphasis being put on the “look” of the new beach house, a tenuous balance between utilizing every cubic inch of volume and compromising space much be reached in order to be successful.

Another shift in the beach house paradigm is the fact that the second homes are nowadays often more expensive than their owners’ primary residences. As the local real estate market reaches dizzying new heights, these homes are seen as big investments with returns being dependent upon how their potential is realized. Understandably, the tendency for these newer homes is to subsequently be designed for year-round use, or at least for a minimum three-season living.

A desire for low-maintenance construction still pervades but the exterior materials of choice are vinyl or cellular PVC shingle siding. Interiors, which used to be forgotten spaces, are now designed with an emphasis on personal expression. Styles are often driven by HGTV shows and internet sites like Pinterest and Houzz. These sources offer an immediate cross-pollination of ideas, trends and desired appointments. Progressively, this access results in standards that continue to rise.

Open-flow floor plans, soaring ceilings and natural light have become the mantra of successful coastal homes. Natural materials are chosen to evoke a sense of casual living. These homes feature wide plank floors and wall surfaces that emphasize texture such as shiplap, v-groove and paneled wainscot. Custom cabinetry and the vast array of ceramic tile selection offer the owner unlimited avenues of self-expression.

Outdoor living standards now include screened porches, pools, fire features, pergolas and of course an outdoor bar. Outdoor kitchen appliances and weatherproof television screens are redefining the purpose of a backyard. The concept of creating a living space al fresco has become just as important, if not more, as creating that perfect ambience indoors.

The beach house continues to evolve and improve with every generation. Over time, families continue to spend time together and forge memories that will last a lifetime, even after their childhood beach house is torn down and replaced yet again. But deep down we all know— it’s the memories and people that make a home, not the structure itself or the materials inside.

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