I have never forgotten Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s comments about the appeal of simplicity when it comes to shelter, as well as to other basic needs in our lives. In Gift from the Sea, she writes with such appreciation about her time on a Florida island, where she escaped the very busy routine of being a mother of five, with a career, living in the North. In a beautifully poetic way, she allows the seashells she finds on her daily beach walks to stimulate her more general ideas about life.
“One does not need the airtight shelter one has in winter in the North,” she writes. “Here I live in a bare sea-shell of a cottage. No heat, no telephone, no plumbing to speak of, no hot water, a two-burner oil stove, no gadgets to go wrong. No rugs. There were some, but I rolled them up the first day; it is easier to sweep the sand off a bare floor. But I find I don’t bustle about with unnecessary sweeping and cleaning here. I am no longer aware of the dust. I have shed my Puritan conscience about absolute tidiness and cleanliness. Is it possible that, too, is a material burden?”
Despite the freedom that can be found in this view of how a simple, small house can suffice in a warm island setting, many people who build along Florida’s Gulf Coast still seem to be determined to bring urban complexity to their lives here.
Of course in the 21st Century, people are going to want central heat and air and a modern kitchen. But it’s still possible to have such things in a minimalist beach house. Huge trophy homes with complicated technical amenities and systems go much further than that. As Lindbergh puts it, “ …for the most part, we who could choose simplicity, choose complication.” Architects and builders seem very ready to support people who want elaborate designs and large-scale homes.
Fortunately, Anna Maria Island real estate still is smaller scale than that of much of the Florida Gulf Coast. People who seek small, simple homes that are affordable and simple to maintain still have some very good options in the island real estate market. At today’s deflated prices, there is the opportunity to buy a simple home then upgrade without enlarging. A fine, simple lifestyle is still available here.