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How to Get the Most Out of Your Beach House

by Robin Braithwaite

Built-in design features that make seaside living a breeze

The popularity of coastal living means more and more elegant dwellings are being designed beach side, to accommodate people migrating to coastal areas to live full time. In line with this trend, coastal style has evolved beyond the beach shack weekender, to the creation of practical and airy contemporary spaces. 
These dwellings require a unique approach in their architectural design to keep out the elements and make the most of coastal living. For those about to design their own beachside haven, here are some features that you might try to include to capitalise on any view, encourage comfort, and to keep sand and salt from being your constant companions.

Let it hang

Most times living near the beach in Australia means you’ll also be living in a fairly warm to hot climate. Shade is therefore necessary, to help keep your house cool. One way to create this shade is by incorporating deep, wide eaves into the plan of your home design, as seen in this two-storey weatherboard house near Clovelly Beach in Sydney.

Embrace the view

Install sliding or bi-fold windows and doors that can be thrown back and opened up, to seamlessly engage with the outdoors. In living spaces especially, don’t cramp the view by installing fussy window treatments. Keep the windows bare and the trims the same colour as the walls to make the view the hero of the piece.

TIP: Be creative about where you put windows. Take advantage of unreachable wall space and install windows above kitchen cupboards to harness the natural light.

Get expert advice from a window professional

Install an open-air shower

Without doubt, the most effective way to prevent sand being tracked into the house is to provide a water source near the entry to your house. Having somewhere to rinse off outside will mitigate most, though not all, of the sand. 

A shower can be incorporated into the initial design of a house, or be set up to be a stylish but functional addition after the fact. The key to success is that you shouldn’t have to enter the house to get to it. Place it by the front door, down the side path or near the back gate.

Curtail the corrosion

Carefully consider your kitchen and bathroom fixtures and fittings. Salt in the sea air is corrosive, and the designs of coastal homes need to take this into account. To combat this, stainless steel is one of the best material choices for indoor and outdoor fixtures and appliances, but it still needs regular maintenance to keep it in ship-shape condition.

Keep stainless steel clean and corrosion-free by regularly spraying it with vinegar and wiping it down with a microfibre cloth, or simply wiping it down with a mild detergent.

TIP: As discolouring from water spots can result from minerals in the water, dry-wipe the cleaned surface with paper towels.

Keep mozzies at bay

Flyscreen designs are very sophisticated and versatile these days. They range from retractable screens for indoor/outdoor areas, to magnetic screens that are easy to slip on and off for cleaning.

Flyscreens collect the salt air, so regularly take them down, give them a quick spray with the hose and a scrub with a soft-bristled brush. Then leave the screens to dry in the sun.

Let breezes blow with louvres

The choice of windows in beach houses should be all about views, cross breezes, filtered light and an indoor-outdoor feel. Louvred windows are an energy-efficient way to capture cross breezes for natural cooling, and they have a coastal-living look about them. They are also available with flyscreens to keep the insects out, and as the louvres are at an angle that will repel light rain showers, you can usually leave them open except in the heaviest of downpours.

Standalone sand room

If you have the space, create a buffer zone between the beach and your house by either building a sand room or converting a downstairs bathroom and adding access from the outside. Like a mudroom, this secondary access to the house can provide a change room and a shower, as well as hanging space for sandy belongings. If you can, incorporate the laundry into this sand room; it’s the perfect place to load dirty towels directly into the washing machine.

TIP: Install a tap fitting that will take a hose attachment, so you can easily hose the room out.

Trim your home with decking

Coastal living is all about the outdoors, so decks are front and centre in any successful beach house design. Done properly, decks extend your living area, particularly in the warmer months. 

Building a versatile outdoor space can be as ambitious as a fully functional outdoor kitchen and entertaining area, including barbecue and refrigerator, or something as simple as a quiet place to chill out and read a book. Whichever way you go, value-wise, you can’t lose when you build a deck. Most experts agree that decks are one of the features you can add to a home that will bring a 100 per cent return on investment.

Just remember, when you live by the coast you need to factor in moisture when you’re building with natural materials. However, there are some fantastic composite products available today, made using recycled materials, which look great and are incredibly low maintenance too.

See more popular patio designs on Houzz

Get council approval 

Once you leave the confines of our cityside beaches, many of our iconic beaches are accessed via national parks and bush roads. Building in these areas presents its own unique challenges.

The Local Government and Rural Fire Service building requirements are both long and comprehensive. Make sure you’re across their specific building and land-clearing requirements before you get too far down the building or renovation road. For instance, if you’re hoping to open up a view to the beach, make sure you are allowed to actually clear any ‘offending’ trees or scrub.

One of the easiest and quickest ways to put a dwelling into one of these areas is to install a prefabricated house. There are a number of companies building architect-designed, sophisticated and innovative houses. The beauty of prefab is that the bulk of the building is done in a factory to strict specifications, and with the strict building requirements you face in bush settings, this may be a great solution.

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Store your beach gear

Living by the coast means that you’re going to need to store a lot of beach paraphernalia. Surfboards, SUPs, kayaks and surf skis are the probably the largest items requiring attention. You really need to find a dedicated space for them, as they have a habit of multiplying. The last thing you want to be doing is tripping over boards and bits and pieces every time you walk into the garage. 

Boards need to be stored out of the sun and not in the hottest part of your house, in order to prevent damage over time. Erecting a smart prefabricated shed with board racks, hanging hooks and storage baskets will keep all your equipment organised and in one place. 

TIP: Make sure there’s a water source near the shed for washing down boards, and rinsing goggles, snorkels and other beach kit.