Ocean dreams

I’m sitting here in a sunny house with the roar of ocean in my ears, and sunshine flashing off water before my eyes, and all around me is my family.  It’s our week at the beach, a big long exhale of relaxation for us all in the midst of the busy-ness of life.

ocean view

Here my kids have time to play pinochle with their grandparents, and work on puzzles together.  Kids are playing video games.  This morning John and our youngest girls have been trying out a skim-board on ocean waves.  I’ve snuggled with grandbabies and carried then around long enough each day that my biceps are sore.  We’ve read stories and played games and eaten meals together and cleaned up afterwards together.  We’ve shopped and watched TV and lazed around eating too many snacks. We’ve taken long walks on the beach. We’ve even celebrated a certain kiddo’s third birthday.

Always this time is a highlight of my year, a time where we actually slow down for awhile and enjoy each other.  Ahhhhhh……

And now I’m sitting here trying to get brave enough to tell you about our big crazy-audacious ocean dream, one that John and I have held close to our hearts for a lotta years.

Ever since our very first vacation trip to the Oregon coast on our honeymoon,  we’ve been dreaming of having our own house near the ocean. It sounds crazy and pretentious to even write it, and–  I know, I know–  not frugal in the least.  But the beach has always been our happy place. One of the reasons we drive old cars and go to thrift stores and cook at home is so that we can afford this much-anticipated week or two at the beach each year.

For the past five years, as we’ve gradually gotten closer to paying off our own house, we’ve been looking at land on the Oregon coast, wondering if we could have a space here all of our very own.  And finally last fall we found a lot on a hill looking out at the ocean listed at a really doable price.

We bought it, and we’ve jokingly christened it our mid-life crisis.  It’ll be a few years before we build, but it feels really good to be moving from the dreaming stage (gradually) toward the doing.  First up is to pay off of our current house– 9 more months should do it!  Then we’ll save up a good solid down payment for the new build and go from there.  We’re so excited!

IMG_1984 (457x640)What we’re planning to do is build a house on the lot that would work well for large groups like our family.  Times together are so precious, and I love the idea of designing something that would wisely utilize a space for maximal efficiency for a big group, and make time together easy and comfortable.

In a decade or so of renting vacation houses for our clan,  we’ve learned a lot about what works and what isn’t essential.Sure, size is nice, but layout of the space, and location of bathrooms is a lot more important.  We’ve stayed in homes where the master suite is a palace, and all the other bedrooms are microscopic.  That’s not what we’re going for.  We’d like space where many people can feel comfortable, with great places to gather and also comfy places to be alone. It’s a different kind of frugality, I think, to make every square foot be functional for a big group. If you follow me on Pinterest you’ve seen some of the home ideas that have caught my eye.  I’ve also had help from a really neat computer program called Chief Architect Home Designer .  What fun it’s been to design and dream and rearrange on the computer screen.

The current rendition of our dream plan is 6 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms, and 3200 square feet.  Big, yes. But there are no mega-closets, no mega-master suites, no two-story entries. It’s a comfortable two level home with kitchen, dining room and living room on the top level so we can sit and see the ocean while we visit.  (The very first photo in this post is actually a picture of ‘our’ view as close as we can get it so far, from the next door neighbor’s deck.  🙂   And to tell the full story, we’ll be looking over the neighbor’s roof tops to see that view of ocean.  But it’s a big lovely view anyway.

We’re thinking to build the house with three master suites so several couples can have private space, with one of those suites being wheelchair accessible so folks can travel with their elderly parents or others who are in wheelchairs. We also plan to  install a stair-chair to make the entire home accessible.   There are bunk beds and extra sleeping spaces  for cousins, and John also has ideas for a really neat play space that I’ll tell you more about later.

KiteOur hope is to offer the home as a vacation rental during the parts of the year that we wouldn’t be using it ourselves.  Best case scenario: it could provide us a bit of retirement income.  Or who knows? Maybe it will only  rent out every now and then, and simply defray a bit of the cost of our own vacations.  We’ll be doing some of the building ourselves to keep the costs affordable.  And I’ve been doing tons of research about vacation rental properties.  I love the idea of making a beautiful welcoming space that would be a place where wonderful memories are made for many families, not just our own.

It’s SUCH a big dream that it feels audacious and nutty to even tell you about it.  But we’re going forward step by step, and waiting to see when doors open finance-wise.

I’ll keep you posted on the whole process. In the meantime– I’d love to hear from those of you who’ve rented homes before, or even considered it.  Do you ever vacation with a large group of friends or extended family? What features are essential to you?  What kinds of things are deal-breakers? I’d love to hear about what’s important to you when you’re vacationing with loved ones.


  1. We have stayed in Rockaway Beach, OR every year for fifteen years. We love the OR coast. We have five kids and don’t vacation with other family so we don’t rent any of the big homes. Our must haves for beach houses…..beach front property and/or view, washer/dryer, stocked kitchen. That’s about it. We have rented several houses over and over. We like a small house that has enough beds for everyone. Clean!!!! That is a must. I like the houses that have a family’s decor as long as it’s not over the top with dusty knickknacks everywhere. Two bathrooms is perfect for us but we survive with one if it’s the perfect beach front house. We play on the beach and eat snack type food and just enjoy each other and the beautiful coast!

  2. Debbie H says:

    We’ve taken several vacations with all our kids and their families, which at this point is a total of 10 people. I love your idea of the upstairs living areas for the view, several master suites, wheel chair access and a stair chair. I’ve had both knees replaced and prosthetic knees aren’t really made for stair climbing.

    One thing I’d suggest is a kitchen with space for several cooks. We’ve rented houses with spacious and not so spacious kitchens, and since we usually all help with the meals, it can get pretty crowded in a galley style kitchen, even if it isn’t tiny.

    Hoping your dreams come to fruition soon!

  3. How exciting! What area is your property? We are about an hour away from Florence on the Oregon coast and often go to Yachats area. Would love to rent your place for our big family some day!

    • Our place is just north of the Waldport bridge, about 20 minutes south of the Oregon Coast Aquarium. Not far from Yachats at all!

      • Oh good, I stayed in Waldeport once and been to the aquarium. Beautiful location!

        We stay at my husband’s boss’s vacation home in Sunriver, OR sometimes. It has 4 bedrooms with bathrooms and then there’s a kid room- 2 sets of bunks and an air hockey table (cousin time!) -so that’s lots of fun for a big group. Also, we love that it has a big kitchen with 2 dishwashers!

  4. This is so exciting!!! We’ve only stayed in one VRBO on the beach but here are things that are important to me: our kids are little so… nothing too fancy. If so, I can’t relax, because I know we are going to ruin/break something. I’d have/install an outdoor shower. It doesn’t have to be private; it is just to rinse of the sand before going indoors to shower/and change. Furniture that won’t be ruined if a little one or two sits on it w/wet bathing suit. I’d love an outdoor deck/balcony w/chairs to sit and enjoy the view/outdoors. Congrats on almost having your home paid-off!!!

  5. I’m so happy for you, Mary! Sometimes frugality means you get to reap the freedom to do something amazing – like have ocean property. I can’t wait to hear more about it.

  6. becca banana says:

    How fun! We’re from Salem and may need to be renters someday! 🙂 I love the comfy “home” stuff that the owners provide — books, movies, games, bikes, or whatever is fitting for the area (beach toys, etc). So great to see your dreams come to life!!

    • Hi! I’m in Salem too!! My husband and I love renting in Newport and Lincoln City. For our anniversary (without the kiddos) we prefer to have a hot tub and more of a place to cook and just relax and enjoy the ocean view. We have Yours, Mine and soon – Ours so we have a need for something big but not too big. I’m loving your dream coming true!!! 🙂

  7. Hi Mary,
    I am happy that “Ocean dreams” has become “Ocean reality”!
    This lady rents her house to finance her vacations. She has a blog and a book you would like I believe.

  8. I have no suggestions — we’re travelers but not vacationers, if that follows — but I hope you can document your build progress here! I so love building blogs.

  9. Ruth Hansen says:

    Mary – I love your ocean dream and that you are one step closer to reaching that dream! I have quite a large extended family and we love big house rentals so I will be excitedly following the completion of yours. We have one favorite house that we keep going back to in Utah that features 2 kitchens (a smaller one downstairs which works perfectly for those in the family who want to keep food separate from other food – celiac’s disease). There is a super fun play area that the cousins all seem to want to camp out in – a little room almost like a cave under the stairs that has little windows carved out in the wall. The roof in that hide-a-way space is slanted. The house features a ping pong table and plenty of TV’s for dancing games and other fun activities. It also have a theater room that you pay an extra fee to use (or they just lock the door and you don’t have to pay extra). They also rent the upstairs and downstairs out separately if needed but we have just always rented the whole thing – plus the theater room. Such fun and family memories! I also love that there is lots of comfortable sleeping and privacy space. I really like your idea of 3 master suites. The house we love only has the 1 and it’s always up for grabs who is going to get the master room. Good thing the other rooms are comfortable too. 🙂 Laundry amenities are greatly appreciated!

  10. What a beautiful view — so happy for you! Here’s my only contribution to the house layout: Having a kitchen space where people can also hang out is a favorite feature of mine. Either a padded window seat, or a loveseat/couch area, along with a snack bar/prep surface with stools allows people to talk with the cooks and clean-up crew. And an extra smaller sink, for washing veg, filling pitchers, etc. or doing a quick hand-wash during dinner prep. 🙂

  11. Elizabeth says:

    Our family rents a house on Lake Michigan beach year. All of the things you mentioned sound great for your house! I’d also add a stocked kitchen since we cook all our own meals, comfortable seating, and comfortable beds. Sounds like a fun dream is becoming a reality!

  12. We are in the process of doing the same thing on the East Coast! Sounds very similar to your dream. 3100 sqft house, 6 bedrooms, 2 master suites, and walking distance to the beach. The living area is big and open with the kitchen, living room, and dining room combined. But, there is still a den if people want quiet time.
    We were expanding an existing beach cottage, so we did work with an architect to ensure the old house and the addition worked/flowed well together.
    And, we are also doing most of the inside work ourselves! Good Luck on your adventure and keep us posted.

  13. chantel says:

    Congratulations on your purchase! My husband I are from OR and looked into buying a vacation rental in Lincoln City, Newport, or Florence. After MUCH research, including talking to property managers, current vacation rental owners, and real estate agents, the return on our potential investment were bleak. After we paid a property manager, paid lodging tax, and considered that the average days for rental at the coast are about 100 days total per year, we would most likely just break even, at best. (Summer or course would be booked but the rest of the year is hit and miss.) House cleaning of your rental after each visitor, lawn/lot maintenance, and the initial furnishing of the rental would cut into any potential profits we would make. With that said though, your lot is for the enjoyment of your family, which is totally different than buying property for profit. So excited for you and the memories that will be made for years to come in that home!

  14. Kristen Penny says:

    I think you should also start a photography business specializing in beach photos. I’m from Cape Cod, and there are several studios there that specialize in photographing large families and groups on the beaches. Your photos are always so beautiful. Thank you for sharing!

  15. It sounds lovely! And the ideas in the comments are all great! My two thoughts…

    Thought one…My husband and I frequently gather with a bunch of folk musicians at a rental property for a long-weekend or week. One place we stay has a private bathroom for each room, and several rooms are accessible to folks with physical limitations. The kitchen is fairly small, so cooking is done as teams, but is an open space at the edge of a large “great room” with fireplace and lots of great seating, with a large island/bar space dividing the two. Great for sharing with what is going on in the big space and for buffet style serving. There are decks and a loft seating area for privacy, plus at least one comfy chair in each room, so lots of options for time gathering together and time for quiet. The other place we stay is actually an old double-wide trailer home with assorted sleeping for 9 with 2 bathrooms, expansive kitchen and a “bunk-house” for additional sleeping accommodations. That one has a massive fire-pit with seating, a big deck and a patio area for various groupings. Both have their charms. And work well for families as well as groups of singletons.

    My other thought is opening up your home for other sorts of gatherings, not just families, but maybe Women’s Craft Retreats, Acoustic Music Retreats, Adoptive Moms Retreats, etc. Thinking of those potentials before building may cause you to rethink some of the space but, may make everything even more flexible and desirable for various uses for you, your family, and renters.

    Sounds wonderful!


  16. Can we book it now? 🙂 We started renting houses for vacations, probably on your recommendation, a few years ago. So much better than a hotel with our 4 kids. The big issue I’ve come up with on the times I’ve researched bigger houses for groups – is that they may sleep 12 people, but when you look at the pictures, you only see meal seating for 6. I know family meals are important to you, so you’ll probably think of that yourself!


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