Buzzards Bay Escape

For a seafront site on Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts, Robert A. M. Stern designed a striking Shingle Style house for a Boston family. It stands at the tip of a peninsula that extends two and a half miles into the bay, with incomparable views in all directions. The low rise it sits upon is, in fact, the bunker of a World War II U.S. Navy surveillance station that remains buried on the site.

Miami Mystique

“It’s Miami Modern with subtle Art Déco features,” architect Robert M. Swedroe says of the house he shares with his wife, Rita, on Biscaya Island, in Florida, which he renovated. With its cantilevered decks, long railings and porthole windows, it has the look of a 1930s ocean liner.

Not Your Everyday Beach Cottage

Architect Robert A. M. Stern designed a three-story beach cottage for Robert and Lisa Nesbitt in Seaside, Florida. Since high dunes block an ocean view from the first floor, Stern created an upside-down house that reverses the usual placement of rooms to give the public areas a better view.

Minimalism in the Hamptons?

“It’s modern but with a substantial quality; it’s not slick,” architect Alexander Gorlin says of a beach house he designed in the Hamptons. “It needed a presence to it that would stand up to the ocean.” The 12,000-square-foot edifice seems to float weightlessly between the sky and water. As Gorlin puts it, “You pay the mighty ocean the humble compliment of extreme simplicity.”

Italian Villa in Florida's Indian Creek Village

In the late 1990s Paul and Trudy Cejas began building an Italian villa at Indian Creek Village in Florida; however, initial construction was put on hold when he was made American ambassador to Belgium in 1998. Upon their return, the Cejases hired architectural designer Joe Brennan and designer Axel Vervoordt, who they had met overseas, to finish their Miami villa. Pictured: The waterfront terrace, furnished with casual wicker pieces, is off the sunroom.

East Hampton Hideaway

A New York couple commissioned Barnes Coy Architects to design a retreat for their waterfront property in East Hampton. Living in the Hamptons can be a precarious balance between exposure and escape, social networking and intimate downtime. The house maximizes its site with an unusual clamshell plan that serves as both a sheltering device and a kind of architectural viewfinder, open to the water and sky while still being protective and private. The house’s crescent-shaped design offers a sequence of views from different platforms, positions and carefully managed sight lines. “Every room sets up a beautiful picture,” says one of the owners.

Malibu Retreat

Inspired by the architecture of southern Spain, interior designer Michael Lee transformed a Malibu, California, beach house once owned by Mary Astor into a stunning waterfront retreat. “My beach houses before were right on the sand, and you could only use so many antiques, but here I felt like I could get all my things out of the warehouse,” says Lee. Still, it is a beach house, and indoors and out it makes the most of its spectacular setting.

Luxury in Long Island

Interior designer Alexa Hampton was commissioned to redecorate a 4,500-square-foot Francis Fleetwood-designed Shingle Style residence on Long Island’s South Fork. Situated atop a ridge with sweeping views of the Atlantic, the house, built in 1992, is a short stroll from its own beach.

Modern Malibu with a View

“When we walked into the house, we were so overwhelmed by the view,” Diane Kahan says of the 5,000-square-foot Malibu residence that she and her husband, Jim, now call their beach house. Architect Ron Goldman reinvigorated the street façade, above, by angling and adding windows to the stucco wall and elongating the curved window of the stairwell corridor. The main attraction, however, will always be right outside the rear windows. “We still go crazy when the dolphins go by,” confides Jim Kahan.

Hawaiian Beauty

“You can see the trade winds coming toward you across the surface of the ocean,” says architect Thomas A. Kligerman, of Ike Kligerman Barkley, who incorporated a romanticized Hawaiian aesthetic into the Maui retreat of film director-producer Richard Donner and his wife, producer Lauren Shuler Donner. The couple wanted a place where they could “come in with sand on their feet,” says Kligerman, so he installed stone floors that flow out to a lanai.

Concrete Fortress by the Sea

An oceanfront concrete, steel and glass house near San Diego was designed by Wallace E. Cunningham to make the most of an intimate site. “The first thing we did when my clients bought the property was to climb onto the roof of the run-down single-story house that was there and see what we could see,” explains Cunningham. “The view was everything,” he remembers from that exploratory visit. “To get that view corridor, we designed the house upside down, with all the principal rooms—the kitchen, the living and dining areas and the master bedroom—on the highest level.”

Santa Monica's Spanish Charmer

Architect Marc Appleton and associate Paul Williger reimagined a Spanish-style Santa Monica, California, house for Michael and Danielle Braverman. The architects took out the walls separating the kitchen and the dining and living rooms and raised the ceiling three and a half feet to create “one big great room with arched openings looking out to the pool and the beach,” he notes. Pictured: The pool courtyard, complete with a futon and a freestanding fireplace, “extends the whole living space,” notes Williger. A window-like opening and large gate connect it to the beach.

All-American Style in Nantucket

On Nantucket, Massachusetts, a couple commissioned Botticelli & Pohl Architects and interior designer Elissa Cullman to create their seaside retreat. Outside the living room is the wide rear porch, which offers a shady vantage point from which to gaze at the boats crossing Nantucket Sound. The stairs descend to the beach.