Living in the city certainly has a myriad of benefits. There are history and modern art museums with world-class exhibitions, stellar coffee shops with Instagram-worthy décor, and five-star restaurants (let's not forget the shopping), but the pace is definitely frenetic. This faster way of life is exhilarating and fun for the most part, but eventually, we all need to dial it back and find calm after the storm. One place where this happens all year round is the coast. There's nothing quite like the healing energy of the sea, and our human instincts often draw us to its shores for a dose of Mother Nature's home-grown remedy.
It's this powerful force that attracted interior designer and founder of Haus, Nina Freudenberger. But there was one aspect of this laid-back coastal lifestyle that she really fell in love with: surfers' beach shacks. They inspired her so much that she went on a global search to document them all in her stunning new book, Surf Shack: Laid-Back Living by the Water. After moving from NYC to L.A. two years ago, Freudenberger was "totally blown away by the surf culture." She adds: "I saw it everywhere—people just taking their boards down to the beach on a bike, strapped to the roof of their car. It is so engrained in California living that I wanted to see what else it was affecting."
As she started digging, she began to see that surfing was clearly not just a sport and that it seeps into all aspects of life. "Surfers make lifestyle choices to accommodate their passion," she says. "That includes how they live and where they live. That just felt so inspiring to me." Starting out with just three homes, through an amazing feat of social connectivity, Freudenberger ended up connecting with another 20 surfers all over the world where she traveled and photographed their homes and their stories. Ahead, she outlines a few simple tips to achieve this relaxed vibe at home and in your life, even if you don't live anywhere near the beach.
So what is it about the surf lifestyle exactly that intrigues us all so much? There's something uniquely magnetic about their homes, and it draw us in every time. For Freudenberger, it's all about the authenticity. "I think people are tired of the perfect, overstyled interior and want to get real," she explained. "While making the book, the moment I entered these homes, I could see how they lived in it, nothing was hidden or disguised. Their favorite chair looks a little worn, their wood flooring has sand on it, the side table that has been in the family for years had some scratches, but everything was still totally beautiful."
Freudenberger was also fascinated by how the homes were put together, the exciting combinations of old and new, and the found accessories and unusual fabrics. "Being an interior designer, I wanted to find inspiration 'out there'—something real, natural, and fresh," she revealed.
Incorporate Natural Materials
If you're considering a beach look at home (but you live nowwhere near it), then there is one key design elements every surf shack has: natural materials. Think indoor plants, indoor/outdoor living, and a place to store your board, of course. "Actually, there are quite a few homes featured in the book that are not directly by the beach, so this look is achievable no matter where you live," says Freudenberger. "The most important thing is to keep your design flexible and relaxed. Nothing should feel trendy. All materials should be chosen because they are comfortable and durable, and do as much as you can to bring the outside in and the inside out."
Ditch the Rules
While we never truly agree with sticking to rules anyway, the surf shack style really throws it all out the window. In fact, throwing out the rule book was one of the common threads that tied all of these homes together whether they were in Ojai, Australia, or Japan. "There is a natural ease in the design," Freudenberger explained. "Nothing felt overthought. Nothing felt precious. Things just felt right together, but there were no rules being followed. It was the homeowners’ confidence to express themselves through their design that really stood out to me no matter where I was." So let your imagination run wild.
Decorate With What You Love
While traveling the world to meet and spend time with the homeowners of these chic, eclectic surf shacks, Freudenberger took away a major design lesson. "Do what you love and build your life and home around that," she noted. "And keep things as simple as that—remove everything else that complicates this." Sage advice, if ever we heard it.
Don't Be Too Precious
When you're approaching the design of a laid-back look, it pays to relax during the process too. That also means ditching perfection and letting go. "They were all different … and I can say something I noticed was that nothing was off limits," she said. "There was no chair that was too 'important' to sit in or too valuable or too precious. These homes all had life and energy in them—a real soul." So if you're keen to give surf chic a whirl, Freudenberger has one final piece of advice: "Be confident in your style, take risks, and make sure to accommodate comfort."
To see inside more of these insanely cool surf shacks around the world, shop the book below:
How do you incorporate that coastal vibe at home?