Beach houses are different things to different people -- retreats, family gathering spots, a base for recreational activities.
Apparently, the one thing they are not is boring.
"You look out the window and see the water. There are beautiful sunsets," says Roslyn Marett, who lives in a two-story, four-bedroom beach home with her husband, Harry Herz, on Oak Beach. "We go out in our boat two to three times a week. My husband fishes, and I read a book. There is always something to do."
Margaret Mateyaschuk, a broker with Daniel Gale Sotheby's International Realty, puts it another way.
"You're buying a lifestyle with a beach house," she says.
Being able to afford that lifestyle can be a challenge for people who want to reach the beach. There are some homes under $1 million, however, that can put sand at your doorstep and nature in your yard.
"You'd be fascinated by what's out here," says Marianne Conte, an agent with Eric G. Ramsay Jr. Associates who specializes in beach house properties and has a home on Oak Island.
"There are blue herons and all sorts of migratory birds. Each season is different in what wildlife it brings. If you're a fisherman, you can dig clams in your own back yard."
The casual, laid-back lifestyle is another attraction.
"Beach houses have that nice chill vibe of being one with the water," says Sheri W. Clarry, a broker with The Corcoran Group. "That's what makes a beach house a beach house. Some people go more formal, but it doesn't have to be fancy. It's always about the location."
That chill factor is appreciated by Marett.
"I feel very serene in this house," she says. "I know that sounds funky, but if I'm in a rush and all tense as soon as I get to this house, I go, 'Ahhhhhh.' "
She and her husband first got a taste of the lifestyle in a house on West Gilgo Beach, which burned to the ground in 2005. They fell in love with their current home on Oak Beach and bought it seven years ago, Marett says.
Now that she is retiring and they are becoming a one-income family, they decided to sell the home to downsize. A return to West Gilgo is in their plans, Marett says. Or, maybe not.
"We'd be happy to stay here for the rest of our lives," she says.
$998,000 -- OAK BEACH
LISTING HISTORY On the market for two months with one price change
ANNUAL TAXES $14,848
WHAT'S FOR SALE A two-story, four-bedroom, two-bath beach home in a remote area of Oak Beach's west end with views of the Fire Island inlet and the ocean. It has an eat-in kitchen, formal dining room, fireplace, teak deck, attached one-car garage, parking for six cars and beach rights.
LISTING AGENT Barbara McGinn with Eric G. Ramsay, Jr. Associates, 516-527-9627
$950,000 -- BAYVILLE
LISTING HISTORY Placed on the market last month with no price changes
ANNUAL TAXES $11,694
WHAT'S FOR SALE A three-bedroom, two-bath Colonial with views of Long Island Sound and Connecticut. The home has a great room, an eat-in kitchen, dining room, four skylights and a master suite with a balcony overlooking the beach. It has a full basement, a retractable awning on the deck and
LISTING AGENT Margaret Mateyaschuk with Daniel Gale Sotheby's International Realty, 516-972-1891
LISTING HISTORY On the market for three months with no price changes.
ANNUAL TAXES $6,993
WHAT'S FOR SALE This is a two-bedroom, one-bath cottage on the Great Peconic Bay with a dining room, a master bedroom, a fireplace, a large deck and beach rights.
LISTING AGENT Sheri Winter Clarry with
The Corcoran Group, 631-848-7730
Landlocked? Go for a beachy design
A beach lifestyle is much admired for its easygoing atmosphere, even among landlocked residents. How to compensate for a lack of waterfront? Put on your designer's cap and bring the beach to you.
One of the ways to start is by adopting the proper attitude, says part-time Water Mill resident David Scott, principal and founder of the Manhasset-based David Scott Interiors and author of the recently released "Outside the Box, An Interior Designer's Innovative Approach" (Pointed Leaf Press, $65).
"Beach style is casual, more carefree," he says. "It embraces nature."
One of the ways to embrace nature is by keeping the space simple, says Scott, who has added beach house ambience to a number of Manhattan apartments.
"The beach is also about the sky," Scott says. "Try to evoke that feeling of openness."
Here are some other tips:
When looking for design elements or furniture, choose natural fabrics such as linen, and colors you would find in a sea setting, he says -- such as whites and blues and blue-greens.
Get canvas slipcovers for your sofa and chairs, something that not only conjures up an outdoor feeling, but also helps extend their life.
Keep big items plain and put mattress ticking or awning-colored stripes in seaside shades on the throw pillows.
If you have wood floors, consider whitewashing them, then put down a sea grass mat to add an ocean flavor.
Instead of heavy window treatments, pick cotton or light sheer curtains -- "things that feel like they blow in the wind," Scott says.
Place seashells or pieces of driftwood around the room, or any weathered or rusting objects you find by the sea. Go to boat supply stores and buy nautical items -- like a porthole that you could turn into a mirror, or ensign flags that can be made into pillows.
Put photos with seaside settings on the walls, he says, "Or, even get a real anchor."
None of this should cost big bucks, Scott says. But if you want some luxury, buy a blue silk rug to mimic the sky, which can make a big impression.
After that, relax.
"Being by the beach is about not being too precious," he says.
Some downsides to beachfront property
People who own beach houses have no problem listing the pros associated with their homes.
Obviously, there's everything from recreation to a soothing ambience. They are great places to raise kids since it surrounds them with nature, homeowners say. And hardly anyone ever turns down an invitation to an on-the-water cookout, so they are family magnets, others add.
Naturally, there is exclusivity.
"God only made so much waterfront," says Realtor Margaret Mateyaschuk.
Let's see, disadvantages?
Storms are an occasional threat, both when it comes to property damage and possible harm to residents if they don't move fast enough. Ocean breezes that are relaxing to some can be an irritant to others. Salt air and constant sun mean beach homes need more maintenance than their landlocked counterparts.
Lastly, considering that beach homes can be separated from the mainland, they may require a few extra household chores.
"When we forget to pick up something from the grocery store, we have a five-minute drive back over the bridge to get supplies," says Barbara McGinn, an agent with Eric G. Ramsay, Jr. Associates, who specializes in beach properties and has had an Oak Beach home for 17 years. "Like that's the worst thing."