Design Tips for Homes with Waterfront Views

I’ve always wanted a house on the water. I do not have any. Twenty years ago I had a house in California with a swimming pool. More recently, during my time as a home stager, when I lived in six houses in four years, I lived in a house that wasn’t mine by a lake. Every morning I woke up to a view of the lake from my bedroom. I would look at this calm water and feel lucky. I would think, look what I can see! He never aged. At night, I often sat on the porch until the sky became so dark that the horizon disappeared and the lake and the sky became one.

However, when DC and I purchased the Happier Yellow House five years ago, a water view was not high on our priority list. It wasn’t on our list at all. Other factors, like location, number of rooms, access to good restaurants, price, a fenced-in yard for dogs, were.

A few years later, when we redid our landscaping, since I couldn’t manifest a view of the lake or ocean, I lobbied for a pool. I did a lot of lobbying. After all, we live in Florida, roughly on the equator. In the summer, it’s hotter than asphalt on Mercury.

“I had a swimming pool. I don’t want another one,” DC said. “It’s too much work.”

“I too had a swimming pool,” I said. “We can hire a service. In addition, swimming is good exercise.

“You never swim,” DC said. I hate that it’s so convenient.

“I would if I had a swimming pool!”

“Join the Y,” he said, not joking.

“But I want a pool just to watch,” I said, “and sit with my feet up and a fruity drink under the umbrella.”

“We are going to install a fountain. You can put your feet on it. I’ll bring you an umbrella drink.


Our landscaper has drawn up two plans, one with a swimming pool, the other without. We evaluated both. We looked at not only the cost of installing a swimming pool (a lot), but also maintenance, which according to surveys costs between $3,000 and $5,000 per year for upkeep, repairs, maintenance. electricity and water.

I couldn’t justify a pool either, but that didn’t stop me from wanting one. Not then. Not now. Some desires, including most of mine, are not rational. What’s rational about diamond jewelry and designer handbags?

We installed a fountain. Sigh.

Anyway, all this moaning is to say that when I was asked to review a new book, “At Home on the Water”, by Jaci Conroy (Gibbs-Smith, May 10, 2022), I jumped on it. If I can’t have a house with a view of the water, at least I can live voyeuristically through those who do.

The coffee table style book has arrived. I pored over its 208 polished pages. I’ve vicariously (and enviably) visited 12 coastal homes, ranging from a rustic cottage in Nantucket, Mass., to a grand modern revival home in Palm Beach, to a Spanish Colonial in La Jolla, California.

“What inspired this book? I asked Conroy, when I spoke to her on the phone at her home in Boston, where she lives with her husband, 11-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter. Turns out she doesn’t have a home on the water, but does have a second home on Cape Cod within walking distance of the beach.

“The idea came at the start of the pandemic,” said Conroy, a writer and editor of home magazines and current editor of New England Modern magazine. “We were all sitting at home with uncertainty and a lot of down time. I started to ask myself, where would I like to be now? And I started imagining the kind of house I personally wanted at the time.

This is the kind of house I always want.

She relied on her relationships with magazines to get contestants featured. Then did all his research, including interviews with owners, architects and designers, remotely. “Every house in the book represents an escape,” she said. His favorite is a house in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, featured in a chapter called “Past Presence”. It speaks to her because “it’s not too fancy and it’s move-in ready for a family with kids.”

For those lucky enough to live on the water, as well as those who just want to incorporate a seaside vibe into their homes, Conroy offers these design tips:

Make the view the star. Never obscure a view of the water. Many waterfront homes don’t have window treatments or the ones they do have are minimal.

Sober decor. Avoid any furnishings, including fabric, paint, or wall coverings, that compete with the view. “I’m a fan of bold design and risk-taking,” Conroy said, “but in a coastal home, I think you should tone that down.” The same goes for lake view properties. “Any time you can see a body of water, maximize it. That’s the reason to live there.

Capitalize on colors. Pull coastal colors indoors. Using shades of white, off-white, sand and blue is a good rule of thumb, Conroy said. Pale pastels like bootie pink or celery green can also work. “But I would avoid bright red or orange.”

Don’t be too kitschy. Resist themed accessories, such as exaggerated signs that read “This way to the beach.” While it’s good to choose throw pillows in coastal tones, avoid ones with anchor patterns. Likewise, go ahead and hang some artwork or photos of seascapes, but avoid nautical accessories like boat wheels and fishing nets.

Don’t underestimate maintenance. Waterfront homes do not require low maintenance. Coastal homes are hit hard by salt, sun and storms. Owners of waterfront properties often need to dredge their shorelines, and swimming pools, of course, require regular maintenance. Be careful what you wish for.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to put my feet on the fountain.

Marni Jameson is the author of six books on home and lifestyle, including “Downsize the Family Home – What to Save, What to Let Go”, “Downsize the Mixed Home – When Two Households Become One” and ” What to do with everything you Own to leave the legacy you want You can reach her at

About Raymond A. Bentley

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