the simple life


all you really need is a beach chair.

David Brooke Robinson


April 9, 2021

I read something today that gave me pause.

There are 300,000 items in the average American home, and the average size of the American home has nearly tripled over the past 50 years.

I thought, damn, that’s a lot of luggage to be carrying around through life’s journey. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a consumer as well, and didn’t exactly avoid Amazon over the last year or so, but that’s an awful lot of stuff. Do we really need so much to live a fulfilling life? It got me thinking about living a bit more simply. And when I say simply, it’s not so much about “giving” something up than it is about “freeing” something up…for the things that really count.

We sure have lots of stuff! This is the contents of a typical storage unit, used to store everything we can't fit in our houses.

For as long as I can remember, when getting ready for trips to the Jersey shore and other coastal locales, whether it be a day, a week, or more, is that I really didn’t need to bring along very much. What? Shorts, a tee, a bathing suit and a beach chair, maybe? Well, perhaps that is over-simplifying it, but hey I’m trying to make a point here ; )  It doesn’t take much to be content along the coast.

Anyway, those trips are always a reminder that some of that baggage could be left behind, and living near the sea welcomes exactly that kind of attitude. It’s sandy feet, grilling outdoors, and ocean swims…an easy, salty kind of living. Not that you can’t get dressed up to go out and enjoy a nice dinner or a local live music gig, but living along the coast almost calls for one to slow down, embrace easy, and let the clutter fall away.

As a matter of fact, it’s almost unavoidable. When I originally moved south of the Driscoll Bridge, I couldn’t help but notice a palpable drop in the intensity level of the, how do you say?…the vibe? It went from Black Sabbath to Jack Johnson in the distance of a few miles. I vividly recall a double rainbow on the horizon, as I came over that bridge on my first commute home…yes, that really happened. And it seemed like a true welcome to a different kind of life.

Since that time, 20+ years ago, I have raised a family and am now leading draw, a scrappy, progressive architecture firm in Monmouth County, NJ. And when we are thinking about good design and architecture, as we so often do, this idea of the simple life also translates to the places and things we build along the sea.

Simplifying things sure can make life a lot easier.

And those places and buildings reflect an easy way of living, with flexible planning for one or ten; visual and physical connections to the outdoors; beach-ready design finishes and detailing; all with deep consideration for human well-being, resilience, and the unique identity of the locale. It’s also more “good” than it is “big”…quality over quantity, you might say. It is thoughtfully designed spaces that connect people to each other and to the places they inhabit. Cool, easy living.

So for me, it’s not likely to be an overnight transformation, but I embrace continued learning and sharing…and look forward to designing, building, and living a simpler, more rewarding life. I hope you will join me.

Here’s to a simple outdoor shower in the salty air!

Original Article: Joshua Becker,