On the Beach

By Jill Simpson / July/August 2015
July 10th, 2015

Beach House Happy: The Joy of Living by the Water by Antonia van der Meer ’79 (Oxmoor House).

Holger Eckstein
Antonia van der Meer '79, author of Beach House Happy. 

This will come as no surprise: according to an unscientific survey by Antonia van der Meer ’79, beach houses make people happier.

Van der Meer may not be a scientist, but as a former editor-in-chief of Coastal Living magazine, she knows something about beach houses. Her new book, Beach House Happy: The Joy of Living by the Water, is an oversized, beautiful paean to these waterfront homes; browsing its pages is like a mini vacation in itself. In a novel approach, van der Meer surveys current research on overall happiness and applies it to the joys of living by the water.

She identifies six key elements of happy lives that she believes apply to coastal homes—Balance, Color, History, Sharing, Surprise, and Nature—and then uses them as a framework to organize Beach House Happy’s wide range of enviable houses. From a house in the British Virgin Islands that is almost completely open-air (Nature) to a Nantucket home filled with every hue in the crayon box (Color) to a spa-like retreat in Puerto Aventuras, Mexico (Balance), these are places that no doubt bring a great deal of pleasure to their lucky owners and guests. In his foreword to the book, designer Jonathan Adler ’88 writes, “This beautiful book is my new happy place.”

“Given how hectic and fast-paced our lives are,” van der Meer says, “people often need to make a conscious effort to relax, which a beach house encourages, whether you own it or just go for a visit. We’ve become disassociated from nature, and the beach house is a way to realign that relationship. Being close to water—the sounds, the smells, the view of the ocean—really does help to alleviate stress. Even keeping a bowl of shells you’ve collected on your desk—it isn’t necessarily about spending money, it’s about carving out space in your life.”

Van der Meer grew up in New London, Connecticut, about 1,000 feet from the ocean, and her own New York City–based family now weekends in that same childhood home. Her editorial career (she has been editor of Modern Bride, among other magazines, and has written numerous books) had its start at Brown, where she was an English concentrator and a lifestyle writer for the Brown Daily Herald.

In her travels, van der Meer has fallen under the spell of many beautiful beach communities. She includes Hermosa Beach, California; St. Barths; the Outer Banks in North Carolina; and Mykonos as just a few of her favorites.

“Every person I interviewed talked about how important their beach house is to them and their families,” she says. “They might sell their primary residence, but they wanted never to part with their seaside home.”

What do you think?
See what other readers are saying about this article and add your voice. 
Related Issue
July/August 2015