The allure of living within sight of a watery horizon and the sound of rhythmic waves appeals to almost everyone. But the cost of obtaining a slice of seaside land and the challenges of designing for such a demanding environment up the ante for the architect and client alike. And how do you tread the line between luxury living and the relaxed vibe of the beach bum lifestyle?

The designs seen in the accompanying slideshow achieve that tricky balance and more. Living next to the ocean means building durable structures to resist storms, pervasive humidity, and corrosive salt air, and the best of these efforts also maintain a graceful stance that’s respectful of  their delicate sites. Sturdy exterior materials reflect sandy, rocky, or even concrete ocean-front surroundings and cool, sleek interior finishes offer respite from sun and wind. Floor plans optimize outdoor connections with grand openings, but the houses are also often designed to completely close up when owners are away or when hurricane season hits. And although designs are as varied as the locales, all of these beach houses let nature’s architecture take top billing.