The world of coastal architecture and interior design is buzzing with fresh thinking, new technology, and innovative solutions to environmental challenges. As a result there’s never been a better time to imagine what the ultimate ocean home could be.

With that in mind, we asked some of the world’s leading coastal architects, interior designers, and outdoor-living experts to show us what the future holds. Here are some of the things they see emerging.

Kitchen Within a Kitchen

These days, the heart of the home is getting a little chaotic. Doug Kulig, CEO of the architectural firm OBM International, says the open-kitchen concept, and the natural gravitation of people into the kitchen, has exploded. It’s all good, except disorganization can result.

OBMI clients are asking for oversized butler pantries to mitigate any messiness. “Think a kitchen within a kitchen,” Kulig says. “An oversized butler pantry has become the workhorse of the kitchen, where dishes are stacked and cleaned, food prep is completed, and small appliances reside.” When the pantry gets out of control, Kulig adds, “simply close the door. Your large, open kitchen that flows into the rest of the home remains looking spectacular.”

Outdoor Game Room

Weaving together the indoors and outdoors is always a key component of the work at KAA Design in Los Angeles. The firm’s favorite spaces are those that reside in between indoors and outdoors, says KAA architects Grant Kirkpatrick and Duan Tran. Consider the appeal of the shuttered outdoor room, often equipped with a fireplace, heating elements, and television. Rooms with operable shutters are ideal, Kirkpatrick says. “Automatic shutters make these spaces even more usable on chilly evenings and give them a sense of scale and intimacy.”

On the lawn, look for another trend: bocce courts. According to Erik Evens, principal at Evens Architects (a KAA Design company), “We are increasingly asked to incorporate bocce courts and other classic outdoor games of skill into our landscapes. I believe that they are so popular because they provide great outdoor entertainment and integrate seamlessly into the natural environment of the garden. They are at once useful, beautiful, and fun.”

Green is Great

The changing climate and cost of energy have more homeowners investigating net-zero homes, which allow them to eliminate energy bills and the typical carbon footprint of homeownership through intelligent, energy-conscious design. Modern NetZero, a high-tech architecture and design firm headed by Anna and Marc Cléjan, based on Long Island in New York, believes that sustainable homes are good for quality of life as well as the environment.

“Our net-zero design is achieved by combining solar, geothermal, LED, insulation technology, and passive design, resulting in a sustainable lifestyle that is financially smart,” says cofounder Marc Cléjan. “Our homes have virtually no ongoing carbon footprint and won’t contribute to pollution or climate change. The only footprint you leave will be in the sand.”

Porches Pop

Although innovation steers design, tradition has stayed strong in some corners. For one, the high perch of the porch as a place to sit quietly or entertain hasn’t changed. According to architect Gary Brewer, partner at Robert A.M. Stern Architects, that is as it should be. “I’m happy to see our clients remembering porches as places for gathering family and friends,” Brewer says. “We always orient them to take advantage of views and size them to accommodate six for seating and six for dining, which is perfect for drinks, dinner, and coffee.” A few fillips are crucial, he adds: a pendant light fixture, ceiling fan, and sconces are essential to making a porch livable long after the sun has gone down.

Porches are also the perfect vantage point for a great view. Peter Pennoyer of Peter Pennoyer Architects in New York City says the potential of porches as the “outdoor living room” of an ocean home is continuing to expand. “This trend makes the architecture of a house intensify and exploits the great ocean views,” Pennoyer says. He adds one caveat: “I hope designers will stop using stains and coatings on materials that are better left natural; cedar shingles improve with age.”

While you’re on your porch or patio, soaking up the view and fresh air, make sure you and your guests are comfortable. “Focusing on outdoor living with views in mind continues to trend,” says interior designer Katie Ridder, who is married to Pennoyer and recently teamed up with him to author the book A House in the Country. Clients love fire pits and outdoor fireplaces, Ridder says, and she is with them 100 percent. “What’s better than relaxing outdoors, in a beautiful setting, around a fire?”

Local Flavor

Amanda Lindroth was in Norfolk, England, when she visited Houghton Hall, a grand country house. “I was so inspired,” says the designer. The home’s architecture and grandeur—plus what Lindroth calls “a treasure trove of details”—sharpened her awareness of and appreciation for good design’s storytelling power. She believes in allowing interior décor to weave stories about an area’s residents, geography, and culture.

But that comes as no surprise to anyone who’s seen Lindroth’s new book Island Hopping. It illustrates her design eye that has attracted clients from Lyford Cay to Antigua, Abaco to Belize, Harbour Island to Palm Beach, and Southampton to Great Cranberry Island in Maine. Her airy, relaxed, indoor-outdoor aesthetic is a hybrid that merges Colonial and local island influences.

At home in the Bahamas, Lindroth’s resort chic style is perfectly executed through goods that are “local, handy, and colorful,” she describes. Sometimes looking in your own backyard can unearth exquisite style potential.

Light Up the Night

Jeff Zock, a landscape architect with Ryan Hughes Design Build in Tampa, hears from clients who are always looking to up the wow factor in their luxury outdoor living areas. “This can be accomplished through custom-designed water and fire,” Zock says. “But the wow is also added through a complex system of lighting that highlights areas and takes the fire and water features to the next level.”

Much of this, he says, is the ability, through technology, to adjust color and luminosity to suit the occasion. One recently completed lazy river project in Florida was filled with engineered landscape lighting, including PAL pool lighting, strip lighting along expanses, custom LED waterfall lighting to create a defined spa recess, and FX Luminaire landscape lighting throughout tropical plantings and border areas.

Green Is the New Black

Tammy Connor of Tammy Connor Interior Design is seeing color palettes achieve a richer depth, especially with hues of green. “Shades of blue have long been a favorite in coastal design for obvious reasons, and I love blue as much as the next designer,” Connor says. “But I’m looking forward to seeing more green in interiors in the next year. Green plays on the ocean in such dramatic ways and is a fresh twist for a contemporary waterfront aesthetic.”

Less is More

While interior designer Susan Ferrier sees the ocean as the ultimate source of beauty and pleasure, she doesn’t like seeing inspiration overdone. “Having a house by the ocean doesn’t mean the décor needs to be trite or overly ocean inspired,” Ferrier says. Instead, she takes color cues from the sea and works them into rich, luxe interiors. “Imagine jewel-tone blues and deep grays with mirrored finishes and textured fabrics—it takes coastal style up a notch. I hope to see more of it across the board in the next few years.”