Peek Inside Three of the Country’s Most Beautiful Coastal Homes

When you create a home around something you love, it can’t help but be beautiful, Nina Freudenberger writes in her new book, Surf Shack: Laid-Back Living by the Water (written with Heather Summerville, photographs by Brittany Ambridge; Clarkson Potter). For the folks she features, that passion is riding waves. She canvassed coastlines around the world to find 22 families who have made their home where the tide took them. On these pages, we share three inspiring examples, each one displaying its inhabitants’ own unique style and an easy elegance that flows from the outside in. 

Desert Homestead

Ojai, California

Channon Roe has been in the water since before he could walk. The actor and interior designer grew up during the heyday of Orange County’s surf scene in the mid-1970s and early ’80s. It was the creative, outdoorsy, vagabond spirit of that place and time that Roe and his wife, Bianca, were after when, six years ago, they turned their second home in the hippie hideaway of Ojai into their primary residence. “Moving was about getting back to the California I grew up in,” Roe says. It was also about giving his young son, Marlon, a childhood similar to his own. Ojai is known for its rootsy surf community, and Rincon, arguably one of the top five point breaks in the world, is just 30 minutes away. What the couple has created, though, is more than a home; it’s a mini bohemian universe. They have a 1976 Airstream permanently parked in their front yard, and it serves as part mad-scientist man cave (where Roe tinkers away on his latest design projects) and part guest quarters. There’s a teepee and a fire pit behind their midcentury ranch house. And then there’s In the Field, the on-site lifestyle shop they opened in 2014, which carries goods from local makers and friends as well as treasures they’ve picked up on their travels. (Their trips abroad always end with the same question: How are we going to get this home? They once lugged a set of 18th-century Basque church stools back from Biarritz, France.) At the Roes’, where life is a constant ebb and flow of family and friends, something brand-new doesn’t stand a chance.

Dune-Side Deckhouse

Amagansett, New York

Sea Levels: Top left: The master suite’s in-room tub has direct sight lines to the ocean. Top right: The slip of beach out front remains “uncrowded and scene-free,” even at the height of summer, says Netto.

During the school year, David and Liz Netto and their family live in Los Angeles. But come summer, the native New Yorkers relocate to their happy little house on stilts in Amagansett. Netto, an interior designer and writer, purchased the beachfront property, which abuts a nature preserve on one side, in 2006, when he and Liz, a writer, documentary filmmaker, and passionate longboarder, sold their apartment in Manhattan and moved to the West Coast. His motivation was simple: He wanted an excuse to keep spending summers out east, something he’s done all his life. To upgrade its ’80s aesthetic and make the most of its unique interlocking hexagon design, Netto enlisted his architect friend Will Meyer, of the New York City firm Meyer Davis. Meyer helped him add large casement windows, wrap the exterior in cedar shingles, line the interior walls with pale-fir planks, and blow out the top floor into a large master suite. Netto also designed built-in bed frames, night tables, and bookshelves; the stand-alone pieces are a mix of essentials (a sofa, a dining table) and personal objects, including David’s collection of eccentric vintage chairs, lots of artwork, and even more books. Post-renovation, the house’s distinctive layout — walking through it can feel like winding your way up a lighthouse — is more calm than quirky. “It has this sort of elegant identity now,” says Netto. “There’s a feng shui orientation between the house and how it relates to the dunes surrounding it and the ocean.” That makes it the perfect surf hideaway for Liz, and a harmonious retreat for the whole family.

Hilltop Hacienda

Sayulita, Mexico

A 2010 vacation in Sayulita persuaded Brittney Borjeson to trade her hyperfocused, hard-charging life in New York City — she had a career in television production and real estate — for a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants existence in the surfing village, which is located just north of Puerto Vallarta on Mexico’s western coast. Within a year and a half, she had developed a small-business plan that tapped into the very aspect of the town that she first fell in love with: the people. When she opened her workshop-slash-boutique, Evoke the Spirit, almost five years ago, the concept of selling locally handcrafted items didn’t exist in Sayulita; all the little souvenir shops carried Mexican” tchotchkes imported from China. Instead, Borjeson sells traditionally handmade wares by local Wixáritari artisans, like yarn-painted skulls, macramé wall hangings, and ceramics. Two blocks away from the boutique is her spare and tiny home. It has sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean and also happens to be a 10-minute drive from her favorite surfing beach, Punta Burros. Like most traditional Spanish houses in the area, Borjeson’s has cement walls and tile floors; it’s all the items that she’s brought in — reed mats, layers of wool rugs, and colorful cushions, plus live-edge wood tables and collections of feathers and dried grass — that add warmth, color, and homespun charm. Borjeson likes to joke that back in New York, her furniture would have been refined, polished, and perfect. In Sayulita, perfection is an unfettered life with the ocean firmly at the heart of it.