The problem with living at a popular beach resort year-round is balancing everyday needs with the barefoot beach informality of summer vacations. Add in a couple of generations of family visitors and a lively social life, and it takes some smart planning to pull off a home that works for every need.

The owners of this full-time home in New Zealand called on architect Will Tatton, known for his respect of the archetypal Kiwi bach, or beach house, to create the hybrid home they needed. The result is a relaxed beach spot to host extended family that also serves as a personal and functional home for the owners when the crowds have gone.

A Lesson in Midcentury Modern Style


New Zealand 1: Marshall Masters, original photo on Houzz


Photos by Marshall Masters

Houzz at a Glance

Who lives here: Empty nesters with a blended family of grown-up children and grandchildren

Location: Mount Maunganui, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand

Size: 3,230 square feet (300 square meters); three bedrooms

Architectural designer: Will Tatton Architecture


Tatton’s clients had lived in the Pacific islands for some time, and he describes them as full of life: the husband an avid surfer, the wife a social worker, and together a couple who always had foster kids and loads of people in their lives. “This new house had to be more than a family house,” he says. “The whanau [Maori word for ‘extended family’] room was to be open to wider family. It was about people mucking in together, the feeling of an old family bach with bunk rooms.”


New Zealand 2: Marshall Masters, original photo on Houzz


This plan shows the layout of the house.


Tatton took as inspiration New Zealand’s flat-roofed bach forms from the 1940s to 1960s, when beach houses were cobbled together from whatever was at hand. These have long since disappeared from the area, but Tatton designed a modern version. He settled on multiple flat-roofed forms grouped around a central courtyard in carefully scaled heights.

Wide pathways ensure the house remains connected to the sand dunes, which was trickier than it looks since the builders had to fill a steep bank left by the removal of the original house on the big site. Judges who highly commended the home in the 2016 Architectural Designers New Zealand regional awards loved how the careful landscaping highlighted both the breadth and the nooks and crannies of the house, saying, “The overall effect of the relationship between house and landscape is to reconcile the ideas of beach house and permanent abode.”

The designer scaled up the materials to smarter versions of what was used in old-school beach houses: The garage doors are a twin-wall polycarbonate that glows from the inside when it is lighted at night. The owner put it together himself, ensuring a weatherproof home for all his beach toys. The entrance to the house is to the far right.

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New Zealand 3: Marshall Masters, original photo on Houzz


One of Tatton’s tricks was to group sections of the house around a courtyard, giving the comforting effect of a village. Rooms, arranged in staggered rectangles, were kept simple so that people could trickle off to quieter spaces away from the main social areas.

A workshop and surfboard storage area open off this space to the right, while the back wall of the third bedroom and office are to the left. An enclosed courtyard sits at the end of the boardwalk.

Steps lead down the side of the house to the beach from the surfboard room off the garage.

“People go ‘Oh, it feels like a bach. I can walk right in and out to the beach,’” Tatton says. “But then they go ‘Hang on a minute, this feels quite big.’ It’s a mental shift, the way we’ve played with proportion and scale.”

The cedar siding is another example of upscaling: The boards are wider and thicker than usual, with the careful addition of a black detail line to add heft. Two sets of slim louvers on the left ventilate the whanau room.

On one side of the courtyard is the whanau room, where overflow crowds also can bunk down. The generous family bathroom and separate toilet are across the hallway. Light fixtures are vintage, a nod to the owners’ midcentury furniture.


New Zealand 4: Marshall Masters, original photo on Houzz


Tatton always designs the kitchen layouts for his clients, but in this case he said the creative owners were hands-on. They worked with Mount Joinery to get the beachy feel and fit in enough work surfaces for guests and hosts. The owner particularly wanted the colored upper cabinets, a reference to the retro colors of old beach houses (that often used whatever old paint colors that could be found). They mixed favorite woods on the island and sideboard.

Pendant lights, purchased from Spain by the owners, help to mark out the dining zone in the generous open-plan area. The design of the kitchen cabinetry is seen in the sideboard materials and design.


New Zealand 5: Marshall Masters, original photo on Houzz


In the open-plan living room and kitchen, Tatton played with ceiling heights and scale. The big room seems in proportion because of the raised ceilings, the warm recycled tawa floors and paler poplar plywood ceilings. A decent fireplace was a must to keep the house warm throughout the winter. The door beyond the fireplace leads to the master suite.

Having the master bedroom off the main living room means that the owners can live in just this wing of the house when they are on their own.


New Zealand 6: Marshall Masters, original photo on Houzz


Seen here, the master bedroom shares the spectacular sea views and a deck that steps down to the beach.


New Zealand 7: Marshall Masters, original photo on Houzz


The bathtub in the master bath has a picture window for close-up sea views, while louvers provide tropical-style ventilation.

The walk-through shower and custom woodwork keep the space airy and light, as do the floor-to-ceiling white tiles and large windows.

In the family bathroom, half walls between the shower and the vanity mean that more than one family member can use the room at once.

Maori palisade-style fencing combines with tropical plantings around the house.

Builder: Warwick Aitken of Beachside Builders

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