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The Hunt is On for a Beach House!

June 10, 2024

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A few weeks ago, I shared in Love Letter (sign up here so you don’t miss any future revelations!) that I got this overwhelming feeling that I want to design a beach house. It happened while I was snorkeling on a recent trip to Bora Bora, and the colors that I saw just inspired me, but not in the way you’d think!

It wasn’t all pastel blues, whites and beige — there were these bold, moodier colors all around. The sea evolved from cerulean to dark-green blue. I saw this moss-green coral that had these bright periwinkle spots. There were these striped fish swimming around that got me thinking about a black and white-striped sofa. All of that to say, nothing I saw screamed “coastal decor” to me. I immediately wanted to create a beach house that reflects the natural elements I saw!

Chris Loves Julia | The Marcum family at the beach

So now we’re officially on the hunt to find a beach house in North Carolina to renovate. While we’re going to look into a beach house for our family at some point, we really want to have a CLJ beach house that we can Airbnb and anyone can come stay in it! Pretty views are important, but we weren’t sure it HAD to be waterfront until our most recent trip to the coast where we stayed at a beachfront property and it was very nice and convenient and healing! Maybe three bedrooms. Proximity to good restaurants is a plus — I want the house to be part of a whole experience where we can share a little itinerary of all of our favorite spots for our guests.

Chris Loves Julia | Twin built-in bunk beds in a nautical-themed room
Cute bunk room in a home we stayed in.

We’ve been to a few North Carolina beaches so far, and they each have their charms. Growing up in Pennsylvania, we went to Duck every summer for our beach trips, and a few years ago we took our family to Nags Head. Designer Lauren Liess just released a beautiful book, Beach Life: Home, Heart & the Sea that showcases Corolla, her favorite spot in the Outer Banks, and it’s just stunning. There’s so much waterfront to choose from in the OBX!

Chris Loves Julia | Chris and Polly looking at the ocean at breakfast with a box of donuts on the table

For Memorial Day this year, we took the family to Oak Island and just fell in love with the idyllic beach town. It doesn’t have any chain restaurants, and we discovered some really great local spots — the kids loved everything from OKI Scoop Shop & Donuts. We did cruise around a little to see what’s available in the housing market, and while I didn’t see something I thought would work, I’ve bookmarked the location!

Chris Loves Julia | Chris and Julia walking along the beach toward a pier.

Some of our team members rave about the charms of Southport and Beaufort (North Carolina, but South Carolina’s is supposed to be beautiful too!) Topsail also has a following — Southern Living calls it “Mayberry by the Sea.” It’s like the sky (I mean sea?) is the limit when it comes to finding a spot to make our style!

For now, I just have a dozen Zillow alerts set until I come across “the one.” We’re taking the summer to scope out different beach towns and feel out vibes and see where our family wants to own a little piece of the beach.

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What do you think?

  1. Debra Zelov says:

    check out Bald Head Island

  2. Linda says:

    . We have a place on the west coast I’m planning to redo. I’m looking forward to following your process for inspirations

  3. Sue Gilman says:

    We love Holden Beach,NC.

  4. Miranda says:

    Hello! So excited to follow this journey! Bald Head Island is my favorite place on earth in the summer; however, in my opinion not the best rental investment option because the island closes (all except ferry and market) outside of the summer. Great place for family summer house, but a little tough for year round rental appeal.

  5. Christine Berry says:

    Consider Duck, NC in the outer banks. Such a quaint little town and walk to shops, restaurants and a sound side boardwalk.

  6. If you change your mind and want to look on the West Coast of Florida, specifically Indian Shires or Indian Rocks Beach, I am a Realtor and I would be more than happy to help you!
    Cheri Thompson
    Plumlee Gulf Beach Realty
    315-664-0757
    [email protected]

  7. Mary Dalmaso says:

    Oh so exciting- we bought on Edisto beach SC ( I think it’s worth a look for you) quirky – unspoiled- but good rental market (no hotels or chain restaurants ) excellent dining …. Take a look (you can stay at our place if you can wait until august 😬)

  8. Ann Christian Ray says:

    Check out Bald Head Island! (The ferry leaves from Southport). It is one of our all-time favorite spots!

  9. Ellen Molls says:

    Please choose Corolla! Love that part of the Outer Banks!

  10. Connie says:

    Do you need a good realtor for oak island, Southport, holden etc? I have the very best one I’d love to refer to you.

  11. Sulaih Picorelli says:

    It’s already a guaranteed sensation! I’m so excited!l and can’t wait!

  12. Sherry Sudderberg says:

    Emerald Isle is also a beautiful choice.

  13. Jill says:

    Bald Head Island!!!!

  14. Sandy Ford says:

    Check out Ike’s of Palms,SC. Beautiful low country beaches, restaurants and Charleston next door.

  15. Arlene says:

    How exciting! We own a beach townhome in Carolina Beach that we rent on Airbnb and just purchased a lot for our forever home in Kure Beach. It’s a beautiful, small beach town with candy-colored beach houses. I can’t wait to start decorating and already have my mood board in Google slides! Good luck on your search, check out this area!

  16. Myra Weare says:

    Any “beaches” that are affordable??

  17. Caroine says:

    I went to Rodanthe during the fall of last year. It was lovely even then! I hope you find a wonderful beach house. I’m sure it will be beautiful.

  18. I love the idea of a beach house and also a place you can share as a Airbnb. I am a referral agent for the beach 🏖️ and can put you in touch with a seasoned expert depending on the beach town you decide on, or someone to help you narrow it down. I personally love BHI – Bald Head Island! So pretty! Not as easy to get to. You do have to have items brought in on barges and there are limited restaurant options – but it gorgeous!

  19. AJ says:

    “Mood board! Mood board!” her coastal fans chanted ;)

  20. Susie says:

    We have always loved the charm of Sunset Beach. It has our heart!

  21. I love this! We just purchased and decorated our Oak Island beach house this spring. Its called Puffin Run. It has been so much fun and a life long dream. We are renting out in the high season and enjoying it in the off season. Check us out.
    https://www.vrbo.com/4037046
    I hope you find your dream spot as well. Best wishes!

  22. Nicole says:

    Sullivan’s Island in South Carolina is another great beach town. I’M SO EXCITED FOR THE CLJ BEACH HOUSE!!

  23. Kristen Williams says:

    So excited for this new chapter and can’t wait to see what you come up with!
    Here is a great house in Topsail for a little inspo 😀 https://www.vacationsontopsail.com/rentals/treat-yo-self

  24. Tara Sumanaseni says:

    We live in Raleigh and have a beach house in Emerald Isle. So many NC beach towns are glorious, but many aren’t forecasted to do well with climate change, sadly. We chose Emerald Isle, for many lovely reasons, but also because it’s predicted to do a little better. Check out NOAA’s coastal flood exposure mapper to search by address. Good luck.
    https://coast.noaa.gov/floodexposure/#-8581946,4116179,16z/eyJoIjoic2VhTGV2ZWxSaXNlfDF8MiJ9

    • Renee says:

      Great advice! I am a insurance agent & it’s getting harder and harder to insure coastal homes. I have a park model 2nd home at EI. I feel from EI to AB are safer areas . It’s really heartbreaking to see the beautiful house that have fallen or about to fall in the ocean.
      Good luck Julia can’t wait to follow this journey.

      • Tara Sumanaseni says:

        Yes, the company that insured our EI home just stopped insuring the coast :( We were able to find another company, but it’s scary.

    • Krista says:

      Agree on this – I feel compelled to say that the vast majority of communities that are currently beach-front (or even, in some cases, beach adjacent, somewhat inland) are likely to be totally gone due to sea level rise – and some communities will be wiped out within just a few years. Even right now, homes in OBX are literally falling into the ocean. For example, the owners bought this house just three years ago for $500k. https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2024/05/28/rodanthe-home-collapse/
      Please be careful!

      • Marion says:

        These are great and important considerations. Years ago we went to Sunset Beach after hurricane Hugo and it suffered little damage compared to the surrounding areas (we had friends at Pawley’s Island that lost their home to the sea) because of setback building codes. I don’t know if Sunset still has them but I’d sure be checking if you want waterfront.

    • Ashley Rummage says:

      So happy you brought this up! They mentioned so many waterfront options in OBX and that is for a reason. We bought at the coast but far back – one day we will be oceanfront LOL

  25. Renee Scott says:

    I have vacationed at OBX and Oak Island and lived in Beaufort. I would highly recommend scoping out the “Crystal Coast”, which includes Atlantic Beach, Pine Knoll Shores, Salter Path and Emerald Isle.

    We worked with Mary Cheatham King to ssell our home there and HIGHLY recommend you contact her team if you choose that area.

    I can honestly say the Crystal Coast is unique from any other beach area I’ve ever visited. There are so many layers and the culture, food and history of the area are, in my opinion, unmatched.

    • Christine Cinalli says:

      We’re in Atlantic Beach now and have family building in Emerald Isle soon. This is our 3rd summer coming here and fell in love with the area day one. Highly recommend!!!

  26. Kim says:

    We travel from Ohio. Ocean Isle and Holden Beach are family favs! Been there several times!

  27. Amy Monroe says:

    Bald Head Island ❤️❤️
    Debordieu in SC

  28. Sara says:

    Please please pleaseee check out Fripp Island in SC. Edisto Island is also nice but Fripp takes the cake IMO.

    • Liz M says:

      Did you see the house that @philip_or_flop just built on Fripp? Its amazing. You should follow along as he upgrades it.

  29. Krys says:

    Lived in NC for 9 years and still trying to find our “feels like us” beach and potential beach home location. So excited to watch where you decide to buy/build here!

  30. Cameron says:

    Debordieu in Georgetown, SC is a hidden gem to try!

  31. Brenda says:

    this is exciting!! I’ll be here for the adventure!

  32. Stacey says:

    We love Wrightsville Beach and Ocean Isle Beach!

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