Modern Beach Homes



At the beach, people want as few barriers to the water as possible.

So when it comes to modern beach houses, views, light, and outdoor space are at the top of every buyer’s wish list. Oversize windows, glass walls, and open layouts are integral design elements, as are covered porches, decks for entertaining, and seamless indoor-outdoor spaces.

Jan Eric Horn, executive director of the architectural division of Pacific Sotheby’s International Realty in Del Mar, California, says there are two defining characteristics of today’s contemporary beach houses: “One is that they have walls of glass, and the reason they have walls of glass, obviously, is to maximize views,” he says. “And the second thing is the trend for the last 20 years—and I don’t think it’s going to stop—toward great rooms.”

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Seamless indoor-outdoor spaces are popular with buyers in today’s market.

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Mallorca Sotheby’s International Realty

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Those open layouts, where the kitchen, dining, and living areas are all combined into one large space, have caught on throughout architectural styles, Horn adds, but “it’s especially prevalent at the beach.” People can’t help but come together in the great room, but they are also an efficient use of space that helps keep things bright inside

Open layouts and huge windows are in vogue on beaches in South Africa, says Steve Neufeld, manager principal of Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty, based in Plettenberg Bay on the country’s southern coast. “Large windows are definitely a must,” he says. “The view is critical to value, as is direct beach access.”

And people don’t just want views from the great room, they want views from every room. That includes eating areas, according to Frank Bodenchak, a Sotheby’s International Realty agent based in Bridgehampton, New York. “We’re seeing dining areas that are a little off the kitchen, with three walls of glass surrounding them,” says Bodenchak, who also designs Hamptons homes through his company Bodenchak Design & Build. Formal dining rooms are less important, and some new builds don’t have them at all.

These trends are on display at beach homes in Spain, as well, according to Mirjam de Boer of VIVA Sotheby’s International Realty in Mallorca. “The Mediterranean lifestyle is very much focused on the outdoor spaces,” she says. “Our clients love to unite the indoor with the outdoor spaces, with large terraces to have lunch or dinner. Also, the highly Instagrammable infinity pools are incredibly popular.”

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Ibiza Sotheby’s International Realty

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In addition to patios, decks, and covered porches for parties and barbecues, today’s beach builds have rooms that convert from indoor to outdoor with the touch of a button. One Hamptons home that Bodenchak helped design has a corner room with retractable glass doors that open to the lawn and pool area. He is currently marketing this nine-bedroom, 10-and-a-half-bathroom mansion in Water Mill, New York, which is listed for just under US$11 million.

Creating a seamless indoor-outdoor experience is essential for homes in South Africa, as well. “Usually, homes have at least two outdoor spaces so that the outdoor spaces can be enjoyed regardless of the prevailing wind,” Neufeld says.

Some beach houses also now have a “wet room” of either concrete or cement, Horn says. That’s where sandy kids can rinse off and leave the beach behind them before coming into the house. “Then you don’t have to worry about the mess,” he says.

In addition, sustainably built homes are “slowly getting traction in South Africa,” Neufeld adds. “Many beachfront homes are incorporating solar energy systems, heat pumps, and the like,” he says. “Green credentials do add value.” The firm is currently representing the sale of land at Solar Beach, a coming eco-estate with 14 sites. The project’s architectural guidelines “require strict adherence” to green building standards and to protecting the shoreline.

There are even environmental benefits to the trendy open layouts and large windows, according to Horn. Innovations like those can help make a home more efficient and environmentally friendly, he says. And the floor-to-ceiling windows, sliding doors, and skylights that so many beach homes boast promote air flow and let in natural sunlight. “If you do the three of those correctly, you can have a tremendously well-circulated, naturally lit solar home,” Horn says.

Maximizing views is of utmost importance in a beach home.
Maximizing views is of utmost importance in a beach home.

Technologies like solar panels and collectors (which will be mandatory on new homes in California starting in 2020), tankless water heaters, and green insulation are other options for conscientious homeowners, Horn adds. And designs are incorporating more natural materials, such as bamboo and cork flooring.

Sustainability has become a bigger issue for clients, who want to lessen their footprint but don’t want to compromise on aesthetics, Horn explains. For him, the biggest trend is “toward what we call architecture as art.” These homes may have a unique design, or could just be a rectangle, but they have been exquisitely executed. “It’s not just a house, but a house that when you look at the facade, from the front or the back, it looks like a work of art,” he says.

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