The height of summer has us dreaming of escapes: shady mountains and forests, languid lakes, and miles-long coastlines.
If you can’t make an escape of your own, the next best thing is a little armchair travel. From cozy cabins and desert oases to stately cottages and houses on the beach, the best getaways stay with you far longer than summer. Here are a few of our favorites.
Karen Curtiss, Stinson Beach, California
Stinson Beach, California’s beach and local hiking trails were what initially drew architect Karen Curtiss and her family to the oceanside town, but a 1958 kit home convinced them to make it their regular getaway.
Dubbed the “Thanksgiving House” because of the the family’s wish to have a place where they and their friends could have Thanksgiving together, the home sits on a quiet, secluded site at the end of a winding drive, and offers plenty of space, indoors and out, for gatherings.
Chad DeWitt and James Cook, Sea Ranch, California
When Chad DeWitt and James Cook found their dream home 113 miles north of Oakland, California, in pedigreed Sea Ranch, it seemed to good to be true. Sea Ranch, a design enclave like no other, is a circa-1960s planned community along a short stretch of the Sonoma Coast. At 684 square feet, the cottage was one of the model homes that architects Joseph Esherick and George Homsey created for the community. DeWitt and Cook made modest changes, keeping their adjustments in line with the house’s original spirit. For both DeWitt and Cook, the finished home is a source of pride—and a refuge. “I love that we were able to update the house and leave it the same,” says DeWitt.
The Joy House, Marfa, Texas
A spartan, calming home in Marfa, Texas, was conjured as a retreat for Lye, who goes by a single name, and Joy Ohara, his ex-wife. While the phrase “turn-of-the-century adobe” likely brings a certain romantic picture to mind, that’s not what the home looked like when the couple purchased it. Architect Michael Morrow of Kinneymorrow Architecture reimagined the classic house, which was originally a row of adobe brick units, by adding modern additions and creating courtyards between them. The new aesthetic takes a cue from some of the world’s oldest buildings: temples and monasteries.
Kate Orne and Bill Sand, Highland, New York
Nestled on 13 bucolic acres—land that was once a dairy farm—Kate Orne and Bill Sand’s 1811 stone-and-wood farmhouse in upstate New York has an understated elegance. The fieldstone structure’s previous owners updated the house with a cedar-shingled addition and brought it back to a near-original state. Orne and Sand were committed to keeping it that way. After hiring Brian Kennedy, a contractor who specializies in restoring historic homes, Orne and Sand’s simple kitchen remodel became a whole-house restoration. For Orne, the true luxury of the place isn’t in its finishes or furnishings, it’s the quiet it offers.
Jason Koxvold, Upstate New York
Jason Koxvold’s history, heritage, and passion are woven into the 320-square foot library-cabin he calls Hemmelig Rom (Secret Room) in upstate New York. Koxvold commissioned architect Brandon Padron, principal at Studio Padron in Menlo Park, California, to design a guest house and a contemplative, book-filled getaway that used recycled materials. But he wanted the design to be simple enough to build himself. The monolithic black-painted structure sits quietly in the woods, with an air of mystery and sophistication—blending in in the summer and standing out in the winter. While the outside is a dark, windowless facade, the inside has the warmth and charm of a cozy cabin.
Jeanne McWilliams Blasberg, Watch Hill, Rhode Island
When Jeanne McWilliams Blasberg (author of the novel Eden) and her family approached architect Thomas A. Kligerman of Ike Kligerman Barkley about building a modern, flat-roof home in Watch Hill, Rhode Island, he asked them to rethink the concept. Classic Shingle-style homes dot the landscape of Watch Hill, and Kligerman convinced the family they could incorporate the aesthetics they admired from their time in Switzerland—clean lines and uncluttered interiors—inside a Shingle-style house. The result of their collaboration is a home that overlooks Block Island Sound and respects the region’s architectural tradition while catering to the families style and needs inside.
Stephanie and Craig Carpenter, Long Beach Island, New Jersey
Hurricane Sandy changed the trajectory of the design for Stephanie Carpenter’s Long Beach Island, New Jersey home, but she and her husband Craig found a silver lining. New regulations in the wake of the hurricane meant that the scheme that architect Scott Specht of Specht Architects had come up with was no longer going to work, and set the project back by 20 months. While they kept the modern aesthetic they were going for inside and out, they upgraded exterior materials to weather future storms. The family’s life at the beach and, therefore, in the home, exists in sharp contrast to their day-to-day in New York City. At the beach house, each room is designed to focus on the dunes, waves, and sky.
Bridie Picot and Harry Bugden, Narrowsburg, New York
Homeware designer Bridie Picot, founder of Thing Industries, and her husband Harry Bugden share this petite cabin lovingly dubbed “The Shack,” in a tongue-in-cheek reference to its 502-square feet. The structure, a newly built “micro-cottage” purchased from design-build firm Catskill Farms, comprises one bedroom, an open-plan kitchen and living room, and a narrow loft for a single bed located under the eaves and reached via ladder.A bit of paint and adding a few appliances made it move-in ready, and the home’s symmetry and decks give it a classic summer camp vibe.
Ben Erickson and Ayana Leonard, Montague Township, New Jersey
The sounds of wildlife fill the country cottage of furniture designer Ben Erickson, his partner Ayana Leonard, and their son August in northern New Jersey. A chorus of bullfrogs sings by the pond at night, beside which sits the family’s house, which is painted black on the outside and includes a deck that opens up onto the surrounding landscape.