A New Zealand Architect Brings a Beach Shack Sensibility to His Family Home

Channeling the kiwi bach, architect Daniel Smith creates an address where a casual attitude—even in a sharp-edge structure—reigns supreme.
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Architect Daniel Smith had always envisioned building his own home. As an associate at Edwards White Architects, he had seen this dream come true for plenty of others, but it hadn’t happened yet for him. 

Housing costs in Auckland, New Zealand, where he and his wife Sam were based, were expensive. And they didn’t necessarily want to raise their son Grayson amid chaotic city life, either. 

Architect Daniel Smith dreamed of a home that was removed from the stress of city life, and so he built a property in the regional township of Taupiri in New Zealand. It sits next to a river and overlooks mountains. 

"We both resonated with the summer lifestyle of a holiday home, known in New Zealand as a ‘kiwi bach,’" Daniel says. "It’s a casual and informal place for laid-back living, where spaces are not defined and the outside landscape is an extension of the home." 

So the family took off toward this dream, landing about an hour south of Auckland in the regional township of Taupiri, where the population stands at about 450 residents. Once they’d arrived, Daniel found what he calls a "long, skinny site" overlooking the Waikato River and Hakarimata mountains. This setting was where Daniel’s dream of building his family's home would happen. The next step was, of course, construction. 

"Light and volume is key to the design of a small home, and we prioritized living spaces with great views," says Daniel. "The island bench is designed to feel like a piece of furniture, somewhere to sit and have a conversation. The back units have been integrated into a larger timber wall, seamlessly hiding utilities and doors within it."

Daniel wanted this stage to be something he could "get stuck into," which meant that he sought to be as involved with the process as possible. He, Sam, and the builder agreed that the best home for laid-back living would be one that had a small footprint, and that option would also be in line with their equally modest budget. They eventually determined that the home would be 1,065 square feet on the ground floor and about 270 square feet on its second level. Two bedrooms and a bathroom would split the downstairs floor plan with the common areas, while the master suite would have the privacy above. 

Plasterboard and pine—budget-friendly options—comprise two essential materials in this home, and were painted white for a clean, minimalist aesthetic. Smith used Resene paint for the walls. 

"We chose to prioritize the quality of the spaces and their materials by reducing the footprint of the home," he says. "Spaces like a garage were not essential to the outcome of living we wanted to achieve." 

One way Daniel prioritized the scene was by sloping the roof across the width of the home at 20 degrees, and then gently angling it back over the full length of the structure. This makes the house appear smaller at its entrance, then seem to grow in volume as it approaches the water. "And inside, a sunken lounge and mezzanine reach out boldly to the river, while the main bedrooms further back in the home sit intimately under a lower roofline," he notes. 

The built-in sectional in the living space features extra storage underneath to maximize every inch of the home’s small footprint. 

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The structure also makes for an intriguing kitchen, which Smith wanted to showcase as a calm centerpiece within a great room. Much like the rest of the home, Daniel sought to use a minimalist palette of textures that would complement the design and highlight the outdoors. "Basic, cost-effective materials like plasterboard and pine were painted white, and anything that was aluminum or steel were painted black. Timber panelling and flooring were kept natural," he says. "Because the kitchen is a hub—with vantage points overlooking the river and a link between the interior and exterior spaces—it opens up like a deck." 

"The exterior's cedar rain screen provides a clean form without the sometimes clunky junctions of what is a simply a cost-effective steel shed behind," Daniel says. "The panels can be unscrewed and oiled." Daniel uses Dryden WoodOil on the panels when needed. 

The home was completed in 2016, and Daniel feels as if the place he once envisioned is now a comfortable family home. But he also likes that it looks as though it belongs: "It is appropriate in scale, and embraces the surrounding landscape."

Related Reading: 10 Breezy Bachs That’ll Have You Running to the Beach

Project Credits:

Architect of Record: Edwards White Architects / @edwardswhitearchitects

Builder: McKay Construction

Structural Engineer: BCD Group

Cabinetry Design: King and Co. Kitchens

Cedar Rain Screen: Herman Pacific


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