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Summer Reading’s Best Beach Houses

A roundup of some of the best beachfront real estate in this year’s summer reads. 

No beach read is complete without a cozy spot for characters to come home to after a day in the sun. This can be a cabin, river house or full-on beachside mansion. Of course, a porch, stocked refrigerator and bar and water views are also required. To find out more about what makes the perfect beach house, we talked to author Kristy Woodson Harvey. Aside from writing charming Southern books like this summer’s Slightly South of Simple, she blogs with her mom daily on Design Chic about how creating a beautiful home can be the catalyst for creating a beautiful life. In her novel, daughters Caroline, Sloane, and Emerson all come home to their mother’s beach house in Peachtree Bluff, Georgia, to escape the reality of their daily lives.

Kristy says the most important decision when designing a beach house comes in the form of a question: “Do you want it to be bright, colorful and full of energy or a soothing retreat inspired by the palette of nature?” From there, she advises choosing your colors and fabrics accordingly. “In a beach house, especially, I always recommend keeping the accessories light,” she adds. “The less clutter, the more time you’ll have to enjoy family, friends and the beauty outside your door.”

Go inside some of the beach houses from our 2017 Summer Reading List, and then find a spot of your own to escape to before summer’s end.


Beach House for Rent by Mary Alice Monroe (out now)

Out this week, Mary Alice Monroe’s latest novel is a “story of two strangers and the power of the places we call home.” Cara Rutledge, 50, and Heather Wyatt, 26, are at two different stages in their lives, but Cara rents her beach house called Primrose on Isle of Palms, South Carolina, to Heather for the summer.

The beach house sat perched on a dune overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Small and yellow, it blended in with the waves of sweetgrass and sea oats and the delicate yellow primroses for which the cottage was named. For eighty-five years it had endured the fury of hurricanes, the rush of tidal surges, and the ravages of the salt-tinged air. It had withstood the test of time. The beach house was a survivor.” – Chapter One

As Beach House for Rent opens, Cara’s husband is working on an outdoor pergola and she shows her brother the other improvements they’ve made to her mother’s house. Cara says she cleared away the clutter as soon as she inherited the house and “painted the rooms a soft ocean blue trimmed neatly with clean white.” The result is a restful space with a clear view out to the ocean.


Slightly South of Simple by Kristy Woodson Harvey (out now)

Mother Ansley is an interior designer, so of course her renovation of her grandmother’s Peachtree Bluff home is top-knotch, but can the house withstand the chaos of her three daughters and their children? Everyone is looking for a respite back in Peachtree, especially Manhattanite Caroline whose marriage is falling apart, and even though Ansley welcomes her brood back with open arms, she still has a few secrets she needs to keep safe.

Caroline calls the house “the brightest jewel on a very shiny street,” with a kitchen updated to “hardwoods, white marble, Thermador appliances, pale blue walls.” With that many people in the house, the kitchen and refrigerator are well-used, but Ansley knowns how to play host. One evening, the wide-plank table on the front porch gets set with “my hand-painted Anna Weatherley china, my great-grandmother’s monogrammed linens, the English sterling silver.” Caroline even creates flower arrangements in silver goblets lined down the table and filled with blue hydrrangeas, bells of Ireland, sweet peas and gardenias.

While Ansley’s house quickly becomes more about function than form, its proximity to the water and Starlite Island allow Ansley to let the tide carry her troubles away. See Kristy’s idea of what Peachtree Bluff looks like here.


The Bookshop at Water’s End by Patti Callahan Henry (out July 11)

Located between river and ocean, the river house in Patti Callahan Henry’s latest belongs to Bonny Blankenship, who spent idyllic summers there with her best friend Lainey. With her career and marriage crumbling, Bonny convinces Lainey to return to the house for one last summer before she puts it on the market to sell. The pair, known as the “Summer Sisters,” are reunited with bookshop owner Mimi, already entangled with their past.

Bonny’s daughter Piper admits the house is “super cute—white shingled with the brightest blue shutters and doors … The floorboards seemed to be held together by sand. The doors didn’t close all the way, warped like they’d been underwater for years.” Behind the house is a tributary of the river, with the beach across the street. The dock where Bonny and Lainey sunbathed and shared their dreams still stretches across the water, and the local bookshop is a short walk through Watersend into downtown.

Chat with Patti Callahan Henry on Twitter July 7 to learn more about Watersend and her cute river house.

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