Herbst Architects’ timber-tastic Papamoa Beach House

Principal Nicola Herbst takes us on a tour of a home that expertly balances views and privacy.

This waterfront site in the Bay of Plenty’s Papamoa deserved something spectacular. And that’s exactly what it got.
Its owners called on the talents of the team at award-winning Herbst Architects (led by principals Nicola and Lance Herbst, and including project architect Andre Fourie) to design their beach house, and the result thrills them and intrigues passersby alike, whether viewed from  within, the street or the sand. It was also met with an enthusiastic response from the judges of 2020’s New Zealand Institute of Architects Awards, who declared it a Waikato/Bay of Plenty winner.

ABOVE Rising out of the dunes, the house affords a view from the sand to and through the front entrance on the left, while on the right (where there’s a concrete table and benches from Design Warehouse), you can see through the dining room and lanai to the grassed courtyard and garage beyond them. The sliding panels at the front of the home are made of cedar, which is also the prominent material chosen for the exterior cladding. Nicola says it performs very well, staying true, working with a stain and weathering nicely.

This retreat makes no secret of the fact that the rolling ocean out the front is the hero feature of the property. With the home’s entrance positioned closer to the beach than the road, it’s apparent from the word go. The architecture takes guests on a journey to the front door; the street-facing wall is on an angle and combines with the landscaping to lead visitors to the arrival point.
Opening the front door, the close relationship with the beach is obvious — you’re immediately wowed by the view framed by the doorway. There’s no need, says Nicola, to move through the house to reach a point where you can see the sea. 

ABOVE Connecting to the grassed courtyard (with the bedrooms doing the same on the right), the lanai is positioned to catch the afternoon sun and includes a built-in barbecue framed with kwila to match the decking. The Duffel ottoman is by Tim Webber Design and the hanging Outdoor Pod chair is by Thread Design.

The position of the entryway grants easy access to the public hub of the house, where the open-plan main living space ensures maximum enjoyment of the outlook. This objective is achieved through various means, such as the inclusion of a sunken lounge facing the water, which has built-in seating to keep it free of obstructive floating furniture and allow the kitchen behind it to fully capitalise on the blue view too. 

ABOVE The path to the front door traverses a landscaping zone and runs beside the bedroom corridor. At night, light seeps through the cracks in the screen, creating a lantern effect.

The sea- and street-side walls of this living space are made of glass, but the others are windowless, training the eye towards the horizon. The same approach is at play upstairs in the main bedroom suite. “It’s like a monocle effect,” says Nicola. 

ABOVE The back benchtop is stainless steel that rises up to meet the stained cedar that forms the splashback and the rangehood shrouded in black steel. The fridge and pantry are integrated in birch ply cabinetry on either side of the stove, matching the ceiling, while the island teams kwila with stained birch ply cupboard fronts. The Osso stools are by Mattiazzi from Simon James, the Muffins lamp in the adjacent living area is by Brokis from ECC and on the right is a ladder-like Verso Shelf by Hem from Tim Webber Design.

There’s little need for outdoor dining furniture at this address — not when the dining room itself can be opened to the elements by sliding and bifolding the east and west walls. Connected to this trans-seasonal space is an exterior one inspired by an open-ended Hawaiian lanai (outdoor rooms being a hallmark of Herbst Architects’ work). Here, the roof is made of cedar battens overlaid with translucent polycarbonate sheeting that lets the sun shine through, the warmth of which is taken up a notch in winter by the dining room fireplace.

ABOVE Dressed cedar clads the interior of the dining space, with its band-sawn counterpart beyond it; a Stovax Riva Studio 2 fire heats both the indoor and outdoor dining areas. Among the crafted accents here are a Leaves pendant light by Kateryna Sokolova from Slow Store, Spin candelabra by Tom Dixon from ECC, Cross table by Case from Simon James, Tokyo chairs by Bensen from Tim Webber Design and Egyptian rug by Armadillo from The Ivy House.

Along the seaside face of the home, the dining and lounge areas connect to a deck that’s fronted by a pair of sliding cedar panels. They take the bite out of the wind and are perfect for privacy while offering lovely light and an interesting spatial quality.

ABOVE Dark timber has been used inside the home to amplify the sense of warmth when looking outside towards the light, creating a heightened sense of summer. “It also offers a cosy, introspective experience in winter,” says Nicola. The Monuments magazine holder at the right of this shot is by Menu from Simon James.

Timber is very much celebrated at this abode. Cedar is king on the exterior and has a place inside as well; the ceilings, walls, cabinetry and floors are a mix of stained cedar, kwila and birch ply. Raw black steel and stainless steel are prominent and sophisticated inclusions to this pared-back material palette.

TOP The veiled-wall corridor leading to the downstairs bedrooms bears a likeness to Japanese shōji doors/dividers. ABOVE The sunken lounge’s structural posts are made of steel inlaid with kwila that softens the steel and echoes the shell of the built-in furniture. Side tables at the end of the sofas offer hidden storage and a perforated sheet of stainless steel conceals the TV. Some of the refined furnishings here include a Pivot coffee table by Tim Webber Design, Paragon rug by Armadillo from The Ivy House and Sparks wall lamp by Vibia from ECC.

Stained birch ply has been used on the kitchen ceiling and stretches across to top the sleep zone, where there’s a bunk room and two other bedrooms. All open onto a narrow deck that steps down to the lawned courtyard. Timber screens on this deck provide privacy between the bedrooms and from the lanai; also with seclusion in mind, horizontal battens below the soffit hide the bedrooms’ glass doors from view from the top storey of the house next door.

TOP Pale grey and charcoal porcelain tiles by Winckelmans from Tile Space clad this wall in the main bathroom, where a built-in ledge runs under the mirror designed by Herbst and handily continues into the shower. ABOVE Black steel and kwila combine again in the bunk beds, which have storage drawers underneath them. On the wall here are hooks found at a store in Clyde. The bedding is by Foxtrot Home and the Marigold rug by Armadillo is from The Ivy House.

In a break from the norm, the corridor to the ground-floor sleep spaces runs down the southern side of the house. It’s covered and walled (with battened cedar and polycarbonate sheeting) but not completely sealed, and wraps around to the angled front of the house, providing a veiled-wall ambience.
“It’s a ‘lay it bare’ approach, with the focus on the sensory,” says Nicola. “The idea is that you feel the chill or warmth of the outside temperature and the timber decking underfoot. It’s all specific to a holiday in such a location.

ABOVE With bedding by Thread Design, this bed in the main suite abuts a birch ply partition with cantilevered side tables that provides privacy for the dressing room behind it. The brass Halo vases on the ledge are by Powersurge.

“With beach houses, our approach is to delight with the connection to nature,” she continues. “The translucent sheeting lets the light through but can’t be seen through. Hidden behind it is a spa and garden with beautiful planting. There’s no roof here, so this area functions as an open-air courtyard.” An outdoor shower is located nearby.

ABOVE Sliding the panels at the front of the house shelters the deck from both sun and wind while letting light dance across the timber. These moveable elements allow the home to respond expertly to the changeable coastal environment. This spot links to the living area.

Everything about this home is gorgeous, even the timber-clad garage. “It’s a ‘quiet’ garage — we didn’t want the entry to scream ‘Cars!’” says Nicola, adding that working on this project was an absolute pleasure. “The clients are wonderful, as is what’s been achieved in terms of a distraction from the noise of life and a concentration on the sea. It’s focused on the light changing and sea changing — and that’s all you need.”   

Words Monique Balvert-O’Connor
Photography Jackie Meiring


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