Design ideas for your bach (+photos)

By Claire McCall

It's important to retain a touch of nostalgia when updating your holiday home.

Shelleece Stanaway takes a modern approach to decorating a beachside home. Photo / Babiche Martens
Shelleece Stanaway takes a modern approach to decorating a beachside home. Photo / Babiche Martens

Nature's chorus was a soporific song to a young Shelleece Stanaway who lay play-weary in the top bunk at her parents' Paihia bach listening to the buzz of cicadas and the familiar call of the morepork.

The fibrolite home on a hill overlooking the sea out towards Russell was built in the 1950s by her grandfather. "We'd hibernate there annually for three to four weeks," says Shelleece.

Paihia is now a bustling tourist town, but back in the day it was a sleepy spot. "My elder brother and I would row out to "Rat Island" just offshore and Mum could call out to us from the deck or wave a towel when lunch was ready."

Though the place was very simple, Shelleece's holiday memories are an indelible reference for this interior designer whose ideas on decorating baches stem from those days of summer freedom.

Here, Shelleece shares her thoughts on bach decor, on what we can take from the past and how to update it:

THE COLOUR OF CALM

Then: Our bach was originally painted dark brown with a white corrugated roof, then it went white and recently it has been updated with a coat of Resene Tea.

Now: I love the serenity of muted colours that keep things bright and airy. Because Kiwiana baches are usually small, use one colour throughout. Take your cue from the surroundings, the grey-blue of the sea on a cloudy day, for instance. I like to keep walls neutral. Karen Walker for Resene Wan White is nice or try a lovely soft colour such as Resene Clouded Blue. Accessorise with stronger shots - turquoise is my favourite. But don't be afraid to express yourself, either. Weatherboards look good dressed in retro-inspired ice-cream pinks, blues and Depression green, like those gorgeous rustic baches on Rangitoto Island.

DESIGN BY DISCOVERY

Then: We collected shells and mum displayed them on top of the chest of drawers, or we made wind chimes with them using old twine. Mum had a basket and she never went anywhere without it - to the beach, on tramps through the bush, to the dairy - and we often came home with the treasures we'd picked up while walking.

Now: it's a delightful idea to use found objects to decorate with. Forage for flowers and foliage so you can bring the outdoors in every day. Get children involved in adding to the decor. If they find curious keepsakes, put them on a shelf. If they bring home feathers, display them in a container.

ROOM TO BREATHE

Then: Dad had a plumbed-in bench with a sink attached to one of the outside walls.

Now: Because space inside can be limited, consider the garden another room. Use it at will. An outside shower is a necessity. And the official kitchen should be reserved for bad-weather-only food preparation. If the budget stretches to it, shield the deck from prevailing winds with those clear drop-down plastic sides. Shade sails are a practical, affordable option that you can take down when not in residence. Get them in cream or white so they don't fade.

FURNITURE WITH A FUTURE

Then: our deck was really just the top of a big concrete water tank. We'd lounge around on old stretchers under one of those floral umbrellas in greens and blues - with compulsory tassels. We also had a swing seat where you could sway and wile away the time.

Now: A hammock chair or swing seat made from rattan (Citta has a nice one), is the new version of that old thing. Consider using upholstery fabric, pretreated with waterproofing and UV protection for your indoor furniture too. That way, if need be, those chairs can be taken outdoors when more unexpected guests drop by. These fabrics were once only available in solid colours but now you get some fabulous funky prints. Although they're tough enough to be outdoors, they're also amazingly soft in texture, not like the plasticky stuff of old that made your thighs sweat! Ottomans are a bach must have. They can be used as tables, as extra seating and some even contain storage. But mainly they're there to encourage you to put your feet up. Check out Homage's gorgeous new knitted ottomans in fabulous colours, they're not as practical as ottomans upholstered in leather which you can wipe them clean, but great fun. I like round ottomans because having furniture with corners in a small space where kids are running around is problematic.

WINDOW ON THE WORLD

Then: We had no window treatments because our place was so private - but we did have lots of louvres. Now: Keep window treatments simple and unadorned. Use drapes that are made from natural fibres, such as linen and hemp (David Trubridge has a new design, Traces, for Hemptech). Stick to neutral colours as others will fade really quickly. There are many beautiful sheers around that add a wonderful sense of lightness to the bach.

TO GREET THE FEET

Then: Mum kept a bucket of water at the door so we didn't trail sand into the house. There was a nasty red-and-brown axminster-style carpet in the bedrooms. Although axminster is coming back into style now, those particular colours will never be fashionable again, I hope.

Now: Wooden floors are the most practical but tiled floors are another option. Warm them up with rugs. I like whitewashed or paler timbers on the floor as they lend a feeling of serenity. Keep as much as possible off the floor. Use hooks, hooks and more hooks for towels, beach bags, hats.

ON THE SURFACE

Then: My mother always seemed to be preparing food on our rather small kitchen bench, be it sandwiches all lined up with delicious fillings for our day trips on the yacht or preparing salads for our barbecue dinners.

Now: Consider adding to your bench space by using a butcher's block or industrial style table on castors. That way you can roll it outside should it be needed next to the barbecue, too. The Boiler Room in Kingsland is a great place to look for these.

PLACES TO PLAY

Then: My father is very much a hunter/gatherer and so I have grown up with taxidermy - our flying ducks on the wall were the real thing! I also recall a couple of Tretchikoff prints and remember thinking as a child that those portraits of ladies draped in a tree were rather voluptuous.

Now: Finally you've found somewhere to bring your old bone-handled cutlery, mismatched English crockery, decanter set and your collection of old wooden boxes. Make playfulness an integral part of your decor. Mismatched objects from every decade are almost de rigueur. And though photos in your city home should be confined to the bedroom, take every opportunity to get them on public display - they'll become a record of good times and bad fashion. A magnetic photo rope is cheaper than frames or use a corkboard painted white and pin them to that. Or create your own memory mobile using wire and mini pegs (kikkiK have some) to clip on the photos.

- NZ Herald

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