Design Project: Inside a surfer’s modern and minimalist beach-front cabin in New Zealand

This minimalistic and unfussy cabin provides a restful weekend retreat in New Zealand's native forest, with steps leading down straight to Karekare beach below...

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This efficient and deceptively simple weekend house is hidden up a zig-zag stairway in the dense, native forest of New Zealand’s Waitakere Ranges, which roll down to the black-sand surf beaches below. It was designed by Stevens Lawson Architects in collaboration with artist, creative director and surfer Dean Poole for his own family.

The beach-front cabin was born out of a desire to connect with the natural landscape and provide Dean Poole and his family with an “authentic New Zealand experience”, a goal that has been successfully executed in every corner of the project.

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The entire lower level is devoted to an open-plan kitchen, living and dining space in which the family can enjoy spending time together while looking out of the floor-to-ceiling windows to the expansive native bush just outside.

The room is wrapped top-to-toe in wood, creating a warm glow and making this a very cosy, snug space.

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The plywood-lined living space is accented only with black, from the kitchen island’s worktop to the built-in oven, providing dimension while allowing the natural woodgrain seen throughout to take centre stage.

The kitchen island incorporates a hob and the sink, and the island is completely open from all sides, with plumbing running through its centre. The shelf can therefore be used for pan storage, but it also makes a feature out of the plumbing, and allows for the eye to travel through the island so it’s not so much of an obstacle or lump interrupting the space.

Get the look: 300mm Gas on Glass Cooktop CG302DLPGB1, Fisher & Paykel

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To perfectly complement the architecture’s intentional simplicity, Dean took on the role of designing the kitchen himself. Having worked with Fisher & Paykel over many years in his role as creative director for a design studio, the New Zealand brand’s offering of sleek and contemporary appliances were the obvious choice for this pared-back project.

With this space, Dean wanted the kitchen to act as a workshop, with products that facilitated the needs of everyday life and no more, exemplifying an ‘enough is enough’ design ethos. The three freestanding timber cabinets incorporate storage, a fridge and freezer, a washer and dryer, and a Fisher & Paykel’s integrated DishDrawer™, which removes the discomfort of loading and unloading a conventional dishwasher, with the pyrolytic, self-cleaning oven found just above.

Get the look: 600mm Single Pyrolytic Built-in Oven OB60SD7PX1, and 600mm Integrated Single DishDrawer™ Dishwasher Tall DD60SHTI9, both Fisher & Paykel

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The result is a very streamlined look, with appliances neatly hidden behind wood surfaces.

Get the look: 900mm Fridge French Door Slide-in Panel Ready RS90A1, Fisher & Paykel


The kitchen leads through to a terrace space, boasting lush mountainous views.

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The staircase is hidden in a wooden box, barely noticeable next to the kitchen cabinets. A door opens to reveal the start of a wood staircase that curves around the corner and up to the top floor.

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Upstairs, a long, narrow room provided the opportunity of two single beds in a line at one end, leaving floor space to the right of them. The built-in beds are stacked on top of two rows of drawer storage underneath. A small step allows children to see out of the window, and to climb onto the tall beds.

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The master bedroom is impressively minimal; the bed frame’s design is clever and simple, the bedside tables are unfussy – there are no drawers or books or table lamps here – and the ceiling pendant is but a lightbulb hanging on a string. There is nothing to distract from the views outside.

Doors completely open up to reveal a private balcony.

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The family bathroom may be compact in size, but it still manages to pack in cool design features, from the slatted wood flooring to the freestanding basin with space-saving side shelf, and the extra tall tub with a wood head rest, and the tap coming out from the floor. A window ledge provides enough surface for shampoo & conditioner, but the room is otherwise uninterrupted by shelves or storage.

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