Impulse buys don't always turn out perfectly, but+ Elizabeth and Friedhelm Sommer have got it right more than once. They did it with their first New Zealand home, and more recently with the clifftop home they built at 324 Pinecrest Drive, Whangaparāoa.

"Our son-in-law showed us some properties at Gulf Harbour and when we saw this one we bought the land on the spot."

Elizabeth, who left New Zealand as a teenager, has spent most of her life in Europe and says the culture has influenced her design decisions.

"My husband is German and an engineer, so he didn't want a typical wooden-framed house, especially on a cliff-top."


Friedhelm's demand for German precision drove the quality of the build and has resulted in a elegant house of concrete block reinforced with steel. Its strong, square lines are softened by curves incorporated in the architecture — arched windows, a semi-circular terrace, and a turret which provides a stand-out element.

Elizabeth and Friedhelm took their New Zealand builders to Germany for three months so they could gain an understanding of what was wanted. The couple designed the house with big, inward-opening windows, high ceilings, large rooms and an entrance foyer that showcases the sea view.

324 Pincrest drive, Gulf Harbour. Photo / Supplied
324 Pincrest drive, Gulf Harbour. Photo / Supplied

The entrance foyer is also Elizabeth's favourite space. "It's my house so I'm allowed to boast," she says. "My husband plays cello and he has played there when we have been entertaining.

"We've had musicians in there and guests standing around listening to the music and looking at the ocean. It's wonderful."


There's little in the house to distract from sea views — almost all the rooms look at the ocean. The décor is minimalist, which Elizabeth says is very much the fashion in Europe.

"Many of the big European villas are being renovated like this, using fewer but nicer pieces of furniture. The good thing about having big, empty spaces is that there is room for you."

The furnishings in the sitting areas and bedrooms stand out on floors of recycled jarrah railway sleepers which Elizabeth found on-line and imported to New Zealand. Other floors are travertine, and there is underfloor heating as well as heat pumps.

324 Pincrest drive, Gulf Harbour. Photo / Supplied
324 Pincrest drive, Gulf Harbour. Photo / Supplied

The house is well designed for the New Zealand climate. Timber shutters can be pulled across open windows to keep the house cool in summer.

"We have air-conditioning but we've never used it," Elizabeth says. "I put it on for the first time when we put the house on the market, just to make sure it was working."


Elizabeth and Friedhelm will continue to spend time in New Zealand when the house is sold. Says Elizabeth: "My husband has wanted to live permanently in New Zealand since he was 49 years old — now he's 82.

"So time will be divided between here and Europe. Our name is Sommer, which means summer in German, so we spend summers in Germany and summers in New Zealand."

• 5 bedrooms, 3 bathroom, 2 parking spaces.
• Tender: close 4pm May 30
• Contact: Karen Franklin, Harcourts Whangaparaoa, 021 779838.