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Beach House Bucket List

Beach House Bucket List
With a shady screen porch and a sunny balcony, this home offers
My wife and I just returned from our latest beach vacation in Rehoboth Beach, Del., where we looked at several homes, new and existing. Rehoboth is only two and a half hours from our home in the suburbs of Washington D.C., making it an ideal spot for us to buy or build a beach house. As we approach retirement age, the house-hunting exercise seemed more serious than usual. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find the perfect beach home, one that fills a bucket list that expands each time we rent there. Here’s what we’d want in a beach home. Maybe some of the same items show up on your list. It’s a good time to start planning next summer’s getaway.

A useable front porch
It’s amazing to me that builders still market new homes in resort locations without enough room on the front porch to hang a swing or even put out a small table with a few chairs. When you visit the beach, the front porch often becomes the center of the vacation universe. Some of our best vacations were spent on screened front porches bigger than the living rooms inside. At the very least the porch needs to offer some decent cover from the brutal summer sun. For year round enjoyment, I’d consider a system of windows and screens and heater for the roof. The cottage plan at the top of this post, Plan 901-120, combines the best of both worlds – a first floor screened porch and a second story sun deck open to the elements. It even has a balcony in the back with a viewing tower.

Here’s a bigger Craftsman-style plan with a usable front porch, a screen side porch (which connects to the
dining room), and a nice back terrace, Plan 928-4. Several small second-story bedrooms could accommodate bunk beds in case of a large headcount. 

If you don’t expect a horde of guests, this traditional charmer might be all you need, Plan 56-619. Despite a

floor plan that measures less than 1,500 square feet, it doesn’t sacrifice bedroom count or social spaces – witness the front porch large enough to hold a couple rocking chairs, and a large back reading terrace accessible from the master bedroom.

Plenty of beds and bedrooms
We met one couple closing on a new home with a huge bedroom full of built-in bunk beds for their grandchildren. The room, which was shown with a game table in the middle, was offered as an option over the garage. Judging by the homes that had been built in the neighborhood, everyone seemed to be taking it. That’s the thing about beach houses: You can never have enough beds. At the last minute, someone decides to bring a friend. Having a second master would be important, too, since you’d want to plan for married guests or children to visit.

Bedrooms, including masters, don’t need to be huge in a beach house. The emphasis in the floor plan should be on spaces where you can socialize and enjoy the summer weather. I’d want space to comfortably read a crime novel, do a 2,000-word picture puzzle, and play a board game with five other people. Here’s a larger design, Plan 928-11, that has it all – including two bunk rooms and a guest suite over the garage that 

could be rented to help pay the mortgage. A large mudroom would be great for shaking off the sand before 

entering the main living areas of the home. And the fun would never end in the large game room on the basement level.   

Maintenance-free exterior
I’ll never forget a vacation many years ago when I realized that most of the Victorian homes in downtown Rehoboth were cloaked with vinyl siding. Most visitors may not even notice this. But owners do – vinyl frees from endless repainting of an exterior battered by sea air.   When you go to the beach, you don’t want to spend half your time doing maintenance. It’s important to pay attention to every exterior finish. We’ve rented homes with rusted metal door locks that barely function, wood decks with so many splinters it wasn’t safe to walk on them, and windows warped beyond operation.  Most home plans intended for the beach consider exterior maintenance – check to make sure.

A decent walk-in pantry and laundry room
Beach homes sometimes sacrifice important utility spaces for bedroom count. I would want a decent-sized walk-in pantry for bulk storage. So that you wouldn’t have to go shopping for staples the second you arrived for a stay. Outside storage would be another must-have. Some items – beach chairs, umbrellas, and toys come immediately to mind – aren’t meant to be dragged inside. A shed with enough room for bike storage, including helmets and other gear, would be essential.

Also, the laundry room in many beach rentals – often no more than a small closet -- seems like an after-thought. It needs to include counter space for folding clothes and ironing. 5’6 x 6’6 is about the smallest you could get away and incorporate a minimal folding area. Even better would be to have 5'-6" by 7'-6" room.

That way you could put the washer and dryer along one wall and a 5'-6" counter on opposite wall. The second-floor laundry room in Plan 901-130 would do the trick.

Responsible kitchens and great rooms
Most of the new homes we looked at featured very large kitchens, with cabinets climbing several walls and islands big enough to park a hovercraft. I understand that the kitchen is the hub of the home activity, especially at the beach, and the importance of the kitchen to resale value. Even so, as an aging boomer with aching joints, I’d want to keep things within reach. Who wants to run a track meet to cook a meal? Having the refrigerator, sink, and stove in close proximity is important. I can’t imagine bringing enough appliances and flatware to fill the cabinets in many of the models we visited.

Here’s a flexible great room layout, Plan 536-5, with a modest, functional kitchen and strong connections to outdoor spaces. The multi-purpose room on the first floor could one day become our primary bedroom when the stairs get tough to walk. Most of the second-floor bedrooms include usable balconies.

A great back patio or deck
Beach dinners often center on the barbeque. It needs to find a home on a back patio big enough to accommodate a table large enough to seat 10 people. I’d want to wire the deck for electricity, audio, and video to make it a complete party experience. It’s always 5 o’clock at the beach. Here’s a nice beach house

design with a back patio, Plan 901-121. It hits a couple other hot buttons as well, including a large walk-in pantry, and a laundry room big enough to accommodate a stacked washer/dryer and a folding area.

For a collection of vacation home plans click here.

Boyce Thompson is the former Editorial Director of 
Builder Magazine and the author of The New New Home.

Beach House Bucket List Inspiration

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