On a ver­tig­i­nous site above One­tangi beach on Wai­heke Is­land, Lance and Ni­cola Herbst cre­ate their most lay­ered home yet.


Views over One­tangi Beach meet a luxe in­te­rior in the Herb­sts’ most lay­ered project yet.

It’s a house of high drama... you de­scend gabion stairs to a dark, cave-like en­trance where the front door opens into a shad­owy hall­way.

The night An­drew Glenn and Jonathan Ruther­furd Best moved into their house above One­tangi beach, the Easter moon came up at dusk, square in the mid­dle of the pic­ture win­dow that runs the length of their liv­ing room. “Right there,” says Ruther­furd Best, point­ing at the con­flu­ence of two slopes that fo­cus the eye down and out over the spec­tac­u­lar view of One­tangi, the hills of Wai­heke and the peaks of the Coro­man­del Penin­sula in the dis­tance. “It was al­most a re­li­gious mo­ment. I thought, ‘Oh God, Je­sus is com­ing.’ I re­ally did.” Glenn and Ruther­furd Best de­cided to move back to New Zealand in 2010, af­ter decades in Hong Kong and Lon­don. Not long af­ter their re­turn, they spent three days on the is­land and bought the land on which their house now stands. Pre­cip­i­tously steep, down a long drive­way just up from One­tangi beach, it had an in­cred­i­ble view and the de­vel­oper had cut into the land to re­tain it, cre­at­ing an ob­vi­ous build­ing plat­form. “You could im­me­di­ately feel the house when you stood there,” says Lance Herbst, who vis­ited the site a few days be­fore the cou­ple made an of­fer. “The big idea was not to build on the land they’d al­ready cut,” says Herbst. In­stead, he pro­posed to use the flat area for a shel­tered court­yard, and can­tilever a hor­i­zon­tal pav­il­ion out into the air. In ef­fect, the de­sign cre­ated a one-bed­room apart­ment, strung out along the width of the site, look­ing down and out at the view. A long gallery-like catwalk runs the length of the house, con­nect­ing the liv­ing area and court­yard, and runs past the en­try to the main bed­room and the cou­ple’s study. Here, the home is wrapped in a tim­ber rain screen that Herbst de­scribes as a ‘veil’. Up­stairs, a per­pen­dic­u­lar box con­nects back to the hill, with two guest bed­rooms and bath­rooms. It’s a house of high drama. You ar­rive down a long drive­way to find a cou­ple of boxes sit­ting on top of each other, clad in a black-stained tim­ber screen. You then de­scend gabion stairs to a dark, cave-like en­trance where the front door opens into a shad­owy hall­way. Then – and only then – do you come around the cor­ner into a long liv­ing area, dom­i­nated by the pic­ture win­dow with a widescreen view. “You know you’re in se­ri­ous view ter­ri­tory, but you can’t see it,” says Herbst. “It’s very de­lib­er­ately go­ing into the dark and slot­ting the view.” There is no front deck: “If you put a bal­cony out the front all you’re go­ing to do is look at a balustrade for the rest of your life,” says Herbst.

Glenn and Ruther­furd Best loved the pro­posed de­sign, but in the in­terim they’d bought a small res­tau­rant on the is­land and set about ex­pand­ing it to The Oyster Inn, with charm­ing ac­com­mo­da­tion and a res­tau­rant de­signed by Katie Lock­hart. Faced with launch­ing a new ho­tel and build­ing a house, they chose the ho­tel, and parked their res­i­den­tial project for a few years, al­low­ing it to per­co­late. Herbst Ar­chi­tects has a dis­tinct voice that man­i­fests it­self in the use of dif­fer­ent types of tim­ber, ex­posed struc­ture and light­ness. A lot of time is spent think­ing about the pro­por­tions of wood, the way it casts light and how it’s joined and fin­ished. The ar­chi­tects also play around with ideas of ‘un­pack­ing’ – be­ing able to see the tec­ton­ics of the house and its con­struc­tion. Glenn and Ruther­furd Best loved the Herb­sts’ think­ing, but de­cided they wanted some­thing a lit­tle dif­fer­ent. While the ar­chi­tec­tural moves didn’t change, the ma­te­rial pal­ette did. Glenn grew up in Hong Kong and the cou­ple spend a lot of time in South East Asia – the in­flu­ences are ob­vi­ous here. Floors and ceil­ing are lined with Ja­panese black-stained teak and black tim­ber bat­tens wrap the kitchen and hall. Where the Herb­sts might typ­i­cally spec­ify crazy pav­ing, a catwalk – which ar­tic­u­lates the con­crete re­tain­ing wall off which the house hangs – is lined with tiny grey mar­ble pen­cil tiles, laid in a her­ring­bone pat­tern. Un­der­foot,

the walk­way feels like an el­e­gant sisal mat. The cou­ple found the tiles in a de­sign store in Canggu, Bali, and sourced them di­rectly from the man­u­fac­turer. Each time they made a de­sign dis­cov­ery, they’d ring the ar­chi­tects and ask them what they thought. “I’m sure we drove them mad,” laughs Glenn. Over time, a new lan­guage emerged – one that’s glam­orous, earthy and soft. “It has been use­ful for us,” says Herbst. “Left to our own de­vices, we’re much more humble with our ma­te­ri­als. It was an op­por­tu­nity to lever into this world of lux­ury.” Early on, the Herb­sts started play­ing around with a spec­tac­u­lar ‘moon win­dow’ set into a grey brick wall that di­vides the court­yard and pool. On one level, it’s prac­ti­cal, avoid­ing the need for a pool fence. On another, it’s a deft nod to the her­itage and taste of the own­ers. “We’ve seen this type of house in Asia,” says Ruther­furd Best. “It will get worn and bat­tered as it gets older. And that doesn’t mat­ter.”

Left Ar­chi­tect Lance Herbst likens the tim­ber rain screen – which denotes the pri­vate sec­tion of the home – to a veil. Right Cus­tom-brass pan­elling is a strik­ing fea­ture of the kitchen.

Above Korean grass wall­pa­per by Aspir­ing Walls from Re­sene lines the walls in the main bed­room. The ‘Métier’ ta­ble lamp is from Restora­tion Hard­ware. Switches through­out the house are from Thom Elec­tri­cal Ac­ces­sories.

Left Light pings off the brass de­tail­ing and glossy tiles from Arte­do­mus. The brass medicine cabi­net is from Restora­tion Hard­ware.

Above The view takes in the curved sweep of the beach and bay.

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