Sunny days, long walks on the beach and special times with family and friends make up the perfect coastal vacation, but what about the house, itself? It’s fun to dream of the ideal beach home, where a charming setting is part of the experience. We asked Courtney Dickey, an interior designer with T.S. Adams Studio, to weigh in since she helps pull together fantastic vacation homes.

“I think people want a beach house that’s different from their primary houses,” says Courtney, who also tackles more traditional houses in her home base of Atlanta but enjoys decorating Florida Panhandle houses for their special charm. “We like to create a beach house that isn’t a cliché … with clean lines and simple colors,” she says. Fortunately, Courtney adds, today’s plethora stain-resistant fabrics are just as chic as their regular counterparts, opening up all sorts of design combinations that are kid- and dog-friendly.

The following are two new T.S. Adams houses found in the Watersound and Watercolor neighborhoods in Florida’s Gulf Coast, and each are pretty perfect, but together they offer a primer on our favorite beachy features.

Take a look at this gorgeous beach house!

Take a look at this gorgeous beach house!

1. Porches — and porch swings

“I think all beach houses should have porches,” says Courtney, “and a bed swing for napping or reading!”  Architect Tim Adams designed this house for the Whelan family from New Orleans with a wide front porch. Twin swing beds are held by rope for extra charm.

“I think all beach houses should have porches,” says Courtney Dickey, an interior designer with T.S. Adams Studio, “and a bed swing for napping or reading!”

“I think all beach houses should have porches,” says Courtney Dickey, an interior designer with T.S. Adams Studio, “and a bed swing for napping or reading!”

“I think all beach houses should have porches,” says Courtney Dickey, interior designer with T.S. Adams Studio.

The swinging beds on either end of the porch hang perfectly from thick roping, a feature that is so very beachy!

2. Colors from the sea

The Whelans’ shutters and swings are painted Benjamin Moore “Kentucky Haze” to add a touch of aqua.

Inside, barstools from Lee Industries are covered in a soft blue fabric that’s perfect when grandchildren are around because the slipcovers can be washed. With the wide spectrum of blue and grays available — referencing the ocean and sand, respectively — coastal houses can incorporate these colors without all looking alike.

Barstools from Lee Industries are covered in soft blue slipcovers, which are easy to wash — a bonus when grandchildren have come to visit!

Barstools from Lee Industries are covered in soft blue slipcovers, which are easy to wash — a bonus when grandchildren have come to visit!

3. Playful art

“The Whelans’ dining area has a fabulous painting by Ashley Longshore of New Orleans,” says Courtney.  “The homeowner commissioned the piece of art to depict their family in the pool, so it’s truly one of a kind.” The art evokes a vacation state-of-mind without being so literal, such as using framed watercolors of the beach or sailing ships. To keep the focus on the art, a neutral-colored banquette is upholstered in faux leather, which can handle spills and wear-and-tear of everyday life.

This one-of-a-kind commission by Ashley depicts the Whelan family in the pool.

This one-of-a-kind commission by New Orleans artist Ashley Longshore depicts the Whelan family in the pool. It’s a whimsical addition to the beach home.

4. Fun light fixtures

A sculptural chandelier in the family room doesn’t detract from the view but definitely provides personality. “We liked this Currey & Company light for the size and because it resembles coral,” says Courtney. “It’s just a cool light fixture, perfect for the beach.” Similarly, a glass-cluster fixture in the kitchen is a large-scale that fits the high ceilings and adds a touch of whimsy.

The Currey & Company fixture resembles coral, the perfect play for a beach home.

The Currey & Company fixture resembles coral, the perfect play for a beach home.

5. Bedroom with a bit of glam

The master bedroom brings in a transitional feeling — not too modern, but not too homespun, either. A chrome four-poster bed by Bernhardt is a nice foil for the vaulted ceilings and wooden beams. A built-in window seat and fur-covered bench provide plenty of places to sit and relax.

This chrome four-poster bed by Bernhardt is a fantastic place to get a good night's sleep in preparation for another fun day at the beach!

This chrome four-poster bed by Bernhardt is a fantastic place to get a good night’s sleep in preparation for another fun day at the beach!

6. Minimal landscaping

Nobody wants to go to the beach and spend time on yard maintenance, so the Marcets — who live in Tyrone, GA, most of the time — opted for attractive hardscapes, a welcoming fountain and low-upkeep plants for their 30A house. A welcoming arbor breaks up the front yard. Meanwhile, the fantastic back of the house is all-natural in the plant department — the better for the marsh view to stand out.

The front of the Marcet's beach home requires little to no maintenance.

The front of the Marcet’s beach home requires little to no maintenance.

The back of the home features lush, natural landscaping.

The back of the home features lush, natural landscaping.

7. Slipcovered comfort

Courtney chose durable fabrics and easy-to-wash slipcovers for the Marcets’ family room, with walls painted a crisp white.

Durable fabrics and easy-to-wash slipcovers are a beach house MUST.

Durable fabrics and easy-to-wash slipcovers are a beach house MUST. The ethereal paintings above the slip-covered chairs are by artist Deedra Ludwig.

8. Room with a view

Every beach house needs at least one room where furnishings are minimal and windows are plentiful, and architect Paul Geary certainly delivered with this dining room. With a view of the water on all three sides, the space didn’t need anything to compete with the star attraction, so Courtney kept the look understated. “The dining room table and chairs are from Restoration Hardware, and the light fixture is from Currey and Company,” says Courtney. “We didn’t want anything to distract from the views, so we kept it very simple. We used Benjamin Moore’s ‘Divine White’ on walls, which has a little more color than a stark white.”

A room wrapped of windows provide ample opportunities to take in the outdoor beauty.

A room wrapped of windows provides ample opportunities to take in the outdoor beauty.

9. Natural woods

The zen-like feel of the master bathroom comes from simple building materials found in nature: reclaimed wood on cabinetry and pebbles used in the flooring. Every beach house could benefit from some aged patina, which is why you’ll typically find wood beams, ceilings and other accents in T. S. Adams coastal houses.

An aged patina in the master bath is accomplished with reclaimed wood cabinets and pebbles in the flooring.

An aged patina in the master bath is accomplished with reclaimed wood cabinets and pebbles in the flooring.

10. A kitchen for everyone

What makes this kitchen ideal for a vacation home? Aesthetically, the blue-and-gray scheme provides a nice alternative to an all-white kitchen, with a different take on sea-and-sand palette. Its design also makes everyday life easier for guests, with open shelves already stocked with common items. “Open shelves also make a room feel lighter, since you don’t have cabinets everywhere,” adds Courtney. Reclaimed oak used on the shelves is replicated in the adjacent family room.

Open shelving makes the room feel more open, and the grey cabinetry is a fresh take on the beach house aesthetic.

Open shelving makes the room feel more open, and the grey cabinetry is a fresh take on the beach house aesthetic.

Thank you to Courtney Dickey, with T.S. Adams Studio, for sharing her insight and expertise with us. And thank you to Tony Thagard for today’s beautiful images. See more of Tony’s work here.

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