BlogSeptember 2021Beach House Blueprints: An Architect Shares His Secrets

Beach House Blueprints: An Architect Shares His Secrets


Jim Kissling of Kissling Architecture offers insights on designing coastal homes.

For Jim, a beach house requires creature comforts that include a cool bedroom after a hot day in the sun and a porch where he can relax. But he's most interested in learning what his clients want. After designing more than 50 houses at our community, he’s integrally involved in our newest village.

We asked Jim to share a few secrets about getting that perfect beach house blueprint. We have a number of available homesites, and you can start dreaming of what you would build with his ideas in mind. 


Vacation living influences on design.

Jim encourages clients to think about how they live at the coast. "It’s a different lifestyle," he says. He asks clients to think about how they'll use the home, with questions such as "Do you go straight to a living room when you come in from the beach, or do go to the bedroom for a nap?" Think about what happens upon return from pool or beach time: where  you'll put wet beach towels, the gear, the ice chest. All of those details affect the design details of your plan, including:

     ~Storage. Jim cautions against too much unconditioned storage space on the coast, where things can rust in a flash while you're away.
     ~Outdoor Showers. Most of the homes at Cinnamon Shore have them, but they play a crucial role in protecting your home from corrosive sand.
     ~Drop Zones. These areas have the hooks you need for beach towels and hats, flip flops, beach bags, and more.


Make design decisions that work well on the coast.

Jim designed the 2015 Coastal Living Idea House at Cinnamon Shore, shown right. And with all the families he's worked with here, a few trends have emerged over the years for vacation homes like those at Cinnamon Shore.

  • Luxe master suites and bunk rooms are popular, but Jim recommends transferring some square footage from bedrooms to common areas for larger gathering spaces in a vacation home. "Our [firm's] bedrooms are not big, lavish spaces," Jim says. As much as he loves a private bedroom retreat, he's found most people want to invest in spaces where families and friends gather during vacation time.

  • Using porches serve as “release valves” helps the indoor/outdoor flow of a home. Porches help accommodate groups from two to 20 or more, and while Jim loves the privacy a porch gives an individual for some alone time, he also sees them as crucial for controlling movement while entertaining a crowd.

  • Windows connect to the outdoors, showcasing sea and sky. “It’s why you’re there,” Jim says. “But windows also allow a room to expand and help it live larger.” Every window receives thoughtful consideration, and Jim's firm draws on historic principles for proportioning, opting for small panes, structure between the panes, and a balance of windows to wall space.


Each homesite informs the floor plan.

Whether it's along a walkway, a site line, or at the end of a block, each site has requirements that contribute to the community's overall aesthetic. For example, some sites require a plan to have tower or a rear-facing garage—each purposeful detail tied to the master plan.

Jim has a long-time relationship with Urban Designer Mark Schnell, who created Cinnamon Shore’s master plan and reviews all home designs before construction. He calls Mark at the start of each design to discuss the site for each project. They discuss its topography, site lines to any Gulf or lake views, natural light, etc. “Mark has been extremely thoughtful in outlining a recipe for each site,” Jim says.

With that background, Jim can help his clients understand how their home design fits into the overall goals of the community.


The Design Code promotes steady property values.

When people come to Cinnamon Shore, they can sense the architectural unity among the public buildings and houses. And that's a result of adhering to the Design Code by Urban Designer Mark Schnell, who also created the community's master plan. With certain requirements and a design review required for every home plan, the houses complement one another.

“The guidelines help maintain value,” Jim says. “There’s a culture at Cinnamon Shore of  consistency, and that speaks volumes of the organization,” Jim says.


Every home contributes to the overall community.

“Every building, every fence, every structure matters,” Jim says. “That’s been the big success of Cinnamon Shore…[Homeowners] are part of a bigger picture.”

Jim calls the overall aesthetic at Cinnamon shore “Texas Coastal Transitional.” It calls on classic architectural design from the East Coast and Northeast coastal towns in Maine and Newport, R.I., such as a mix of shingle siding and board and batten. But many homes have some contemporary interiors, as well. “History still plays a role…but we practice a little bit of whimsey, as well,” he says.

Ultimately, Cinnamon Shore is really all about family, Jim says. The design of the whole community has a created the sense of belonging. Here, families feel safe, comfortable, and very at home.  


Understand how an architect's design process works.

Jim starts a new project every 3 weeks. “Every plan starts on my desk,” he says. Then, after the client’s blessing on the initial design, it moves on to one of five Kissling Architecture production crews, architects and designers who finalize the details under Jim’s frequent review. "It's all part of quality control," he says.

At the beginning of the process, Jim gathers as much information as he can about what clients want. He gives them a 12-page questionnaire to understand their likes and dislikes, from number of bedrooms to which floor they want the family room. He also asks the homeowner to show him 10 photos of spaces and homes they love. “Not 100 images, just 10,” he says, adding that the process gets them to narrow down the look and feel they’re going for in their beach home. He keeps client budget in mind, as well, presenting options that keep cost per square foot in mind.

With high demand for Kissling designs and projects all across Texas, it's a three- to fourth-month process to design and finalize a Kissling home plan.


Take advantage of buying ahead of construction.

As Cinnamon Shore grows phase by phase, there’s a waiting period for some new property owners before construction can start. That period gives them plenty of time to work with their architect on designing the home and refining the details. “As we’re waiting for the engineering of the site to happen, it allows us time to digest the plans,” Jim says. He encourages homeowners to:

  • Think about specific ways you’ll use the home to drive design elements.

  • Ask whether you’ll join our Vacation Rental Pool, which could mean adding an owner’s closet and making other design moves.

  • Interview contractors. “Don’t wait,” Jim says. ”See if chemistry and personality work. Ask to see recent projects, and make sure they understand the science of building in the coastal environment.”

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