Bethells Beach, or Te Henga, to give it its proper Māori name (translated as sand), is a coastal community situated approximately 30 kilometres west of Auckland City, at the mouth of the Waitakere River as it flows into the Tasman Sea. It is one of several popular resorts in the area where holidaymakers go to enjoy fishing, hiking, sunbathing and a wide range of water sports.
It is in this location that the similarly named Bethells Bach House, offers a contemporary display of modernist design’s emphasis on the home’s physical connection to its environment. A small family home recently completed by Herbst Architects in 2016, it is notable for its conspicuously open design and a subtle, yet rich colour palette that echoes that of the surrounding landscape.
This is evident from the get go. Entering the house from the right hand side the visitor is faced with an abundance of wood. Through the entrance, the first room is a decked terrace which opens out onto a view of a forest-covered mountainside. With a table and chairs seating six, the terrace is a place for dining on warmer days, eating while enjoying the view. Having it positioned at the very front of the house, as the first thing you see, the terrace underlines that this is a house built for sociability.
The first room (if you can call any section of the house a room, since few have the requisite four walls) adjoins another, this time semi-enclosed, terrace. The two rooms are divided by a large brick fireplace, ideal for extending the cosiness into the night on a summer evening. In the adjoining semi-enclosed space stands several small palm trees emerging from a pebble floor, another reminder that even in the more private area the emphasis is on the outdoors.
These two rooms are bounded by the kitchen and living area. With only a wooden and stone floor to separate the kitchen and lounge, creating the effect of a single unified central social space. From here, without a wall dividing the kitchen from the front terrace, the view remains of the mountainside, the outdoors extending well into the heart of the house.
In the lounge, two sofas face each other, their sleek wood design tempered by a modest vermillion-coloured upholstery. This specific choice of red blends perfectly with the timber batten screens and the vertical cedar board which clads the house. With the light shining in, it is difficult to see where the red tones end and the wood begins, altogether creating a brilliant richness.
This naturalistic colour palette continues on after dark, with lights directed at the walls so as to illuminate the texture of the wood as the night draws in. It really brings out the various rich brown hues of the timber panelled house and anchors it firmly to the surroundings.
Indeed, through its use of colours and materials this house slips seamlessly into the landscape all while offering an easy social retreat from the beach nearby.
Photos via Herbst Architects