A fresh reno turned this Mt Maunganui bach into a modern beachy home

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28 February 2023

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Hand-carved furniture and meaningful mementos bring a sense of warmth to this bachy Mt Maunganui home.

From his Mt Maunganui home, it takes Thorley Robbins 54 seconds to get his feet in the water at the beach. He knows this because he’s timed it.

The modernised bach Thorley shares with his partner Renée Reichmuth, baby Walter and golden retriever Prince, is ideally perched on a small section by one of the country’s most popular beaches, but it needed a whole lot of love when he bought it in 2015.

The Lockwood home was built in 1981 and was subsequently picked up and placed on six posts to create a two-level home, with the living area upstairs and two bedrooms, a bathroom and a garage downstairs.

Couple stand together as mum kisses the baby with dog lying next to them

It was a run-down rental when Thorley, the founder of avocado home-delivery service The Avo Tree, bought it for an affordable price during a property boom.

“It wasn’t cared about,” he says, though he could see both position and potential. “I didn’t necessarily want a two-storey house but it utilises the space. I knew that I could do a full renovation and it wasn’t going to break the bank completely.”

Man and dog walking in front of white house with red door

The renovation included recladding the home’s exterior, double-glazed joinery, a new roof, and converting the garage into a third bedroom. “It’s a real sun box, so it’s constantly warm and cosy,” says Renée.

The downstairs bedrooms now open out to the lawn via smooth-sailing glass doors. “It’s a pretty small section of lawn but enough for our golden retriever to have a bit of a blat,” says Thorley.

The most expensive addition, due to the cost of obtaining building consent, was a north-east-facing balcony. But with a handful of friends living along their street, it seems to be paying off in enjoyment.

Gallery wall with painting and black and white photos above dining able

“Everyone kind of drives past and they see us on the balcony, so they’ll stop and have a drink or a cheese platter,” says Renée. “It’s quite a good social spot.”

Inside, most of their living unfolds upstairs in about 40sqm of open-plan kitchen, dining and lounge space, which is delineated by clever furniture choices. The flow of the area becomes a timeline for the couple’s evenings – they cook together in the kitchen before moving along to the dining table, and then to the cosy L-shaped couch in the far corner.

Lounge with wooden floors and vintage furiture
The open-plan living area is designed to be cosy and carefree. “We wanted it to feel as open as possible without cluttering it,” says Thorley. IMAGE VIA FLORENCE CHARVIN

Much of the furniture was handcrafted by Thorley’s semi-retired father, Kit, who is enjoying a second career as his son’s personal carpenter. Their large dining room table was made by Kit, as well as bookshelves and coffee tables in the living area and a rocking horse and mobile in Walter’s nursery.

Corner of lounge with white linen couch and large painting and guitar on the wall

Thorley plays guitar, and his instruments double as decor on the walls. One of them was built from scratch by Kit at a fine-woodworking course. “Nearly everything in the house is made by him,” says Thorley. “I think because they’re all custom-made, it gives the house that kind of warmth.”

White cot with monstera plant to the right and book with shelves to the left

Because the house is small, Thorley and Renée went for white walls, which are warmed up with the carefully chosen furnishings. “A house kind of tells you the direction it will go or what it needs to feel nice,” says Thorley.

The couple don’t intentionally go shopping for homewares, but if they see something they like on their travels, whether that’s at a second-hand shop or overseas, they’ll make a quick acquisition. To go with their one-of-a-kind dining table, they found mid-century Kai Kristiansen dining chairs at The Vintage Shop in Auckland.

Corner of bedroom with full length mirror, fiddle leaf fig plant and chair
White walls and furnishings in neutral tones provide a calm, cohesive backdrop for collectible vintage furniture and statement houseplants like this fiddle-leaf fig. IMAGE VIA FLORENCE CHARVIN

Of the many original artworks, including some by Renée, a pair of painted faces attract attention. Thorley spotted them while flying by on a scooter off the beaten track in Bali, and made an offer. They were duly peeled off their wooden surrounds and sent off with their new owner. “I think that’s how you get the nicest gems,” he says. “They’re so much nicer when they’ve got a story, when you can look at something and think, ‘I remember the place I got that.’”

A couple stand in their kitchen holding a baby with their dog by their side

The most recent update in the home is the kitchen. Thorley did a quick-fix Bunnings makeover on it when they first moved in, but although the plywood felt nice on the outside, the old cabinetry was falling apart on the inside. The new space-saving configuration includes a sliding window to pass barbecue paraphernalia out onto the balcony.

Renée Reichmuth standing at kitchen window holding green glass

The kitchen’s thin concrete benchtop was made by a friend who owns Tomorrow’s Concrete. You’d be correct in envisioning bowls of avocados spilling over and onto the bench and, just like all of Thorley’s customers, the family gets them delivered. “The owner of The Avo Tree is too busy, too forgetful to grab avocados,” he says, laughing. “So his partner had to start a subscription for his own house.”

Bed with blue flower pattern pillows with large green glass bottle on bedside table
Much of the furniture was carved by Thorley’s father. “A lot of friends come over and say the house feels so nice and warm and homely,” Thorley says. “It’s because of all of those bespoke elements.” IMAGE VIA FLORENCE CHARVIN

Inspired by his parent’s avocado orchard in Katikati, Thorley started the business in 2015 after returning home from years of study and exploring overseas. The Avo Tree delivers avocados from small producers directly to consumers around the country, taking out costly intermediaries and ensuring quality. The subscription service took off, and within a year Thorley was in a position to purchase the Mt Maunganui house – his first home.

Plate of avocados and lemons with painted picture of bird behind

The business continues to grow, and now includes a nourishing avocado-oil skincare range, with plans also underway to launch New Zealand’s first avocado-leaf tea.

On the to-do list back at home is to spruce up the main bathroom, which, like the kitchen, was given a quick-fix temporary solution after they moved in. The green painted floor will be covered in tiles to create a wet room.

In the future, the eclectic seaside home may become a bach for the family as they outgrow it as a full-time dwelling – but it’s a place Thorley never wants to part with. “We love this spot,” he says. “It’s got a real warmth to it. It’s home.”

Swipe the style

Billie vase, $89.99 from Bolt of Cloth
Billie vase, $89.99 from Bolt of Cloth
Teak serving platter, $49 from Tea Pea Home
Teak serving platter, $49 from Tea Pea Home
Florette cushion, $64.95 from Freedom
Florette cushion, $64.95 from Freedom
Kate Moss book, $209 from Trenzseater
Kate Moss book, $209 from Trenzseater
Faux monstera in pot, $39.99 from A&C Homestore
Faux monstera in pot, $39.99 from A&C Homestore

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