No doubt the coronavirus pandemic has forced us to place a greater value on the places we lay our heads at night–one only needs to look at the beaucoup profits racked up by retailers like Lowe’s and Home Depot during the lockdowns to see we are, as a society, investing in home improvement.

It’s something that Matt Titone, graphic designer and architecture-obsessive, was thinking about a lot this spring when he sent the second volume of his gorgeous coffee table book Surf Shacks off to the press. “It’s important to note that this book has been finalized in the midst of a global pandemic that has changed the lives of everyone on the planet,” Titone writes in the book’s introduction, before arguing that the hardships have served to “shine a light on what truly matters: Where you live, the physical space you call home, who you share it with, and the community you surround yourself with.”

Like its handsomely designed forebearer, Surf Shacks Vol. 2 is nearly 300 pages of style-y architecture and funky interior design, distinctive tchotchkes and vintage ephemera, lots of surfboards (of course) and unapologetically surfy characters, who, as it turns out, are the distinguishing feature of a surf shack, more so than any particular aesthetic.

As capable a graphic designer as Titone may be, his curatorial skills–his artful selection of which characters to feature–are what make Surf Shacks Vol. 2 (like Vol. 1) sing. For every tan (and almost annoyingly good-looking) couple vamping in their midcentury modern chairs or sarape-draped couch, Titone sprinkles in a colorful and disparately decorated bungalow like that of madcap surfboard shaper Peter Schroff, whose eight pages serve as a Dadaist performance art piece among a book that’s otherwise a white-walled gallery show.

Tony Caramanico among his functional art, as seen in Surf Shacks Vol. 2

Titone and Read McKendree tackled the majority of the photography for the new volume, a workload that took them from Hokkaido to Tofino, Byron Bay to Harbor Island, Hawaii’s North Shore to the northern reaches of Long Island, among other ocean-adjacent locales.

Though he now lives in southern California, Titone attended Flagler College in St. Augustine before graduating from the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia. His wife, Courtney, grew up in Jacksonville. It’s not surprising then that Northeast Floridians are again well represented in the new volume, though First Coast-natives like Karina Petroni (Bahamas) and Robert Glover (Ventura, California) have made their surf shacks elsewhere.

I am interested in people who do their own thing and have a perspective that is different from everyone else.

If you’re a fan of creative print design, unique interior decor and architecture, or are simply keen on a dose of escapism, Surf Shacks Vol. 2 is a worth a look.

We recently caught up with Titone and asked him about this newest collection of surfy abodes.

Surf Shacks Vol. 2 is available at the Void retail shop, during our Friday Pop-Up sale, every Friday from 11am-6pm. We highly recommend heading over to Indoek.com and nabbing a copy directly from the creators. The folks at Indoek are also offering signed editions, which come with a hemp tote. Very cool!

Volume 1 was well-received (and rightfully so). I’m wondering how soon the wheels were in motion for this second volume? Had you already stacked photos or had a list of folks you wanted to see in a follow-up? 

Thanks! It’s funny, after the first book went to press, I never wanted to hear the words “Surf Shacks” ever again. I was just exhausted, trying to get caught up on my daily grind of design work for clients, and to me the project was complete. I was happy to leave it at that.Then, once the book launched, people started to reach out about doing book signings and release parties, which was really cool and unexpected–I couldn’t really say “no” to any of that. When I would do these book events in different cities, I met a lot of interesting people. I was traveling to different places–mostly coastal towns with surf communities, so it seemed really natural to keep shooting more stories for the Surf Shacks project as those opportunities presented themselves. When I was in Australia for a couple book release parties, I ended up shooting like seven different stories. I basically had enough content for a second book just from this haphazard book tour. At the same time, more people were coming out of the woodwork because of the exposure they had to the first book, which opened a lot more doors to me getting subjects who I wanted to feature in the second book. It was definitely easier to get more people I wanted to feature after they had seen the first book, so I just kept it going. Traveling and meeting all these new people because of the book really got the motivation back up for me to do a second book. Coincidentally it ended up taking about the same amount of time as the first book to put together.

In your introduction to the book you note that it was sent to press in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. I think a lot of people would agree with your saying that this global health crisis forced us to place greater value on our homes and communities. Have you had some more time to reflect on what this book is all about given the context? Do you see it as a vehicle for inspiration to improve our homes? A form of escapism, perhaps? 

Yes, it’s weird. I actually think about this a lot. When I wrote that intro and I was in the midst of finalizing the book, we were still pretty early on in the pandemic, but it feels like a lifetime ago. At the time, the pandemic seemed like the main focus for everyone in the world. The deeper social and economic symptoms of the pandemic hadn’t really hit yet. I still think a home, your local surroundings and community matters a lot more given what we are all going through, but really so much more matters right now. Saving our planet, slowing and reversing the effects of climate change, racial equality, social justice, access to healthcare and healthy food, education, the list goes on and on. Our system (in the US especially) just feels broken right now and we seem to be digressing as a society. The idea of glorifying peoples’ homes with this book feels superficial to me at times, but it also does feel like a form of escapism–which I think is also healthy and what we all need to some extent. I do hope the book helps inspire people somehow to improve their own homes in some way that brings them joy. I am inspired mostly by the ways in which some people in the book are living sustainably off the grid, or finding ways to live in smaller spaces and grow their own food, etc. For me it has never really been about the living spaces themselves though, but rather getting to know interesting, creative people through their homes.

When Vol. 1 came out, I asked you to describe what makes a surf shack and you said it was more about the “characters” inhabiting the house than any particular architectural or interior design. Now that you’ve got two volumes under your belt, have you picked up on any threads that tie the architecture or interiors of these surf shacks? Anything that keeps popping up in all the houses? 

I can’t really think of a general theme architecturally or with the physical design or curation of the homes featured. As I’ve said before, it really is about the creative characters and eclectic personalities in the surf sphere. The homes just happen to be the common thread of this particular project. I am interested in people who do their own thing and have a perspective that is different from everyone else. I look to those creative surfers for inspiration in my own life and that is who you see featured in the Surf Shacks books.

Cole Barash lets the light into his surfy photo studio in New England, as seen in Surf Shacks Vol. 2

Again, Northeast Floridians are well-represented in this volume, though many of them live outside of the region. Does it strike you as interesting that this oft-overlooked surf hamlet produces so many “characters” with neat houses? Tell us how how cool we are!

[Laughs] I will gladly tell you how cool “y’all” are. First off, I love St. Augustine, it’s where I first became a real surfer, found my creative voice, decided who I wanted to be and what I wanted to do with my life. Flagler College was a great hub for young creative surfers from all over the east coast trying to find their way, so it was only natural for us to feed off each other and grow / branch out from there. It was a pretty energizing and positive environment, but everyone also seemed pretty motivated to move on to bigger things at the same time. I think a lot of folks I knew from those days probably feel the same way.
There is a certain level of Texas outlaw style or care free pirate living that exists in Florida. I am still fascinated and inspired by it. I also feel like Florida and its citizens are often the brunt of a joke by most of the country, so I often find myself burdened by proving them wrong by featuring thoughtful, creative and progressive people from there.
I actually didn’t notice until you asked though about how many ex-Floridians there are in the book on top of the folks who actually do live there–like Karina, Rob, and Lyndsey [Lee] for instance. I don’t know how to explain it, but a lot of just really cool people come from your neck of the woods, I suppose!

Can you pick a favorite shack from this volume and tell me why? 

I’m not one to pick favorites, but I will call out a few homes in Volume 2 for different reasons. It’s basically a toss up between Jeff and Kara Johnson’s A-frame in the hills of Santa Barbara, the McKinley bungalow in Montauk, and the Goodwin family compound In Kauai for homes (and locations) I would most want to live in. Other than that, I was really inspired by Jamie Smallwood’s self-built, off-the-grid container compound in Byron, the sheer outlandish style of Peter Schroff’s Venice pad, and I have to say, the classic beach house simplicity of Scott Richard’s home in Newport. Like me and my own family of four, they live in close quarters–under 900 square feet, one bathroom. It just goes to show that the American Dream isn’t always about “bigger” equating to “better.”

Surf Shacks Vol. 2 is available at Indoek.com (Click the image to head to their site) and at Void Magazine’s Friday pop-up shop in Jacksonville Beach.