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How this first time house-flipper transformed her little Papamoa bach

This sweet little beachside bach in Papamoa was this perfect candidate for Abbie Herniman’s first reno-for-resale experience

How a first time house-flipper nailed the renovation of this Papamoa bach

Rather than returning to the daily grind of a marketing job after having my two youngest children (Ava, 5, and Finn, 1), I wanted to create a more fulfilling life for myself by doing something I really loved that also enabled me to be around my children.

I loved renovating our home and spend endless hours a week watching reno shows and scrolling through interiors accounts on Instagram and Pinterest. Surely that makes me qualified to start a renovation company, right? I decided to take the plunge and create The Home Maker, a boutique renovation company where I buy a house, renovate and style it, then sell it and start all over again.

My first project was ‘The Bach’, located in Papamoa Beach, Tauranga. The house was a small, Fibrolite, three-bedroom, one-bathroom home very typical of the area. It’s in a truly magical spot: down a quiet cul-de-sac and so close to the beach that there are views of sand dunes from many of the windows.

I could see its potential the moment I walked through the door – it had been lovingly looked after by its elderly owner, so although it was very dated (boasting at least seven types of wallpaper), it had good bones. It was also on a large site that could be subdivided, and with land increasingly scarce, especially so close to the beach, I knew I was on to something special.

We hustled to complete the due diligence needed and put in a pre-auction offer. The offer was accepted and the auction brought forward to just 48 hours away. No one else turned up at the auction, so we were shocked to get it at such a sharp price. (In fact, someone else was interested but thankfully they went to the wrong auction rooms. They called the agents just seconds after the auctioneer had shaken my hand and confirmed the house was ours.)

Then it was time for the fun stuff. I knew immediately that I wanted to create a gorgeous, white beachside bach, something that felt modern and relaxed with great design details and quality finishes. And a mint front door was a must! I could possibly have made more money by doing a quicker, cheaper makeover – but that isn’t what drives me. I wanted to create a home as if it were for my own family.

We updated everything at The Bach, from plumbing to wiring, lighting and flooring. We put in new double-glazed joinery throughout, new door hinges and handles, and applied a heck of a lot of white paint.

The biggest challenge was the home’s size – a petite 90 square metres. Design decisions were focused on increasing the feeling of space and maximising storage. The main goal was to open up the kitchen, living and dining areas into one large space that flowed out to a sunny outdoor entertaining area.

As we were removing structural walls, we needed to add a wing wall for strength; I designed the kitchen and dining layout around this to make it into a feature rather than an eyesore. The kitchen cabinetry joins onto four metres of bench seating which wraps around the dining space and is positioned perfectly to catch the morning sun. Bench seats are a great solution when space is limited and extra storage is needed. I combined this with a round table for easy traffic flow.

You can never go wrong with a white kitchen – it’s timeless, fresh and perfect for a coastal bach. To stop the space feeling too clinical I used a tongue-and-groove finish on the pantry doors and around the island bench to add texture.

Floating shelves in a kitchen are a must – the beautiful, solid timber ones I used add warmth to the otherwise white-on-white palette and were a bargain at just $30 from a local timber yard. Gorgeous mint concrete pendant lights work perfectly with the bach’s aesthetic. However, the kitchen’s best feature is one that was already there: the amazing view of the sand dunes from the window.

The other major investment I made was merging the bathroom and separate toilet together. It’s ideal not to move services, but in that case it was unavoidable. The result, though, was worth the extra cost. The merged space is now a roomy and light family bathroom.

I opted for floor-to-ceiling white subway tiles with a handmade look, which gives the walls a beautiful texture. Large concrete tiles were used on the floor and also wrap around the bath. The oak vanity adds warmth to the space and fits into a wee nook stolen from the laundry on the other side. I just love the gorgeous white tapware, it looks so fresh and complements the laidback, beachy feel.

With the property now half its original size (after subdividing), adding a roomy outdoor area was a must. The deck ended up being twice the size I’d originally planned – at 60 square metres, it’s two-thirds of the size of the house! The coastal vibe continues outdoors with subtropical, easy-care garden beds, an outdoor shower to rinse off after a surf and a hanging cane chair positioned for the afternoon sun.

The part of this project I was most looking forward to was the styling – it’s when you can show the real potential of the new spaces you have created and has been proven to increase the sale price. To keep a cohesive feel throughout the home I kept it neutral with white, grey and light timber as a backdrop to a palette of muted aquas, blues and blush tones.

I bought a few stunning pieces, upcycled some Trade Me bargains, borrowed a lot from our own home and was fortunate enough to partner with a few of my favourite furniture and design stores.

The builders were meant to finish five days before the photo shoot but instead they worked until 6pm the night before and my husband and I arrived on site to find it still covered in dust, debris and tools. There was even a generator in the middle of the lounge! We ended up cleaning for several hours and then started styling at about 9pm. For my next project I’d definitely prefer to not style the entire house in five or six hours. Then again, perhaps I am now qualified to go on The Block!

Although we had professional tradies doing most of the work while I managed the project around the needs of my children (meaning a lot of late nights and unfolded washing), my husband and I saved money by doing a lot of the demolition ourselves, as well as laying the grass, landscaping and painting fences.

The result? ‘The Bach’ sold to a lovely young couple whose best friends happen to live next door, providing enough profit to use as a deposit on The Home Maker’s next project. Not bad for a girl with little experience!

Words by: Abbie Herniman. Photography by: Rachel Dobbs.

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