All Black Sir John Kirwan keeps it simple with black and white bach

All Black legend Sir John Kirwan and his wife Fiorella have a long connection with Waihi Beach so when they came to creating their dream bach they wanted to get it just right – so they called in the pros. They documented their experience building the bach, which was designed by architect Chris Tate and built by Barrett Homes, on the TV show The Bach That JK Built which aired on Choice TV last year.

Interior designer Catherine Portland used her expertise to create a relaxing down-to-earth bach that ticked all the boxes – with a black and white Resene colour scheme fitting for an All Black. Catherine shares her experiences with habitat.

habitat: What was your role in the project?
Catherine: I worked with JK (Sir John) and Fiorella from the very beginning of their project to create the design framework for the builders to use. My focus was on creating a space that was both practical and stylish and served their needs. It was a collaborative process, and we drew on JK and Fiorella’s personality to create a considered design. 

Throughout the entire process, from the beginning phases right through to the completion of their build, our discussions were filmed for the TV show The Bach That JK Built. It was an unnerving experience, but I grew with confidence as time progressed. At the end of the day, it was a real-life project and there were no “take-twos” when it came to getting everything over the line.

habitat: What was the brief for the bach?
Catherine: JK and Fiorella wanted a comfortable and practical home, with a nod to the New Zealand Kiwi bach.  The materials and finishes would need to withstand the coastal elements of Waihi Beach.  The space would be a home away from home where they could cook and socialise and spread out onto the deck to enjoy long, slow afternoons with their family and friends for generations to come.

JK and Fiorella’s passion for good food and wine meant that a huge emphasis was placed on the functionality of the kitchen. They wanted to include a traditional wood cooker into the kitchen, which gave us scope for the rest of the kitchen’s design direction. Pots and pans were hung from an old wooden ladder and a deep red free-standing oven would be included in the design to create a feeling of an Italian country villa.

JK’s love for the ocean meant that the wet room was a key element to the bach, an area where they could come in directly from the beach to have a shower. 

habitat: What was the overall look you were going for?
Catherine: I wanted to create a cosy and inviting space for JK and Fiorella by including natural stone elements with layers of texture and visual detail and a neutral colour palette.

habitat: What did you choose for your Resene colour palette and what was your inspiration for that?
Catherine: The walls, ceilings and trims throughout the home are painted in Resene Black White – my go-to when requiring a perfect defused neutral to provide a flawless blank canvas. The interior was vital in balancing out the simplicity of the architecture of the home. We looked to the environment and Fiorella’s Italian heritage where she and JK lived for more than 10 years and referenced the earthy rustic feel of a traditional farmhouse. The mixed aspects of traditional and modern design features complement one another with the use of a simple Resene Black White backdrop, paired with oak toned flooring and concrete-look tiles. This then allowed us to inject personality into the space by displaying their handpicked items throughout their home.

habitat:What decisions did you make on the exterior of the house?
Catherine: The soffits were painted in Resene Element to complement the COLORSTEEL® in FlaxPod Matte.  The matte finish was something that we all agreed upon as a key feature to the overall aesthetics of the exterior of the house for a much less reflective finish with refined shadow lines creating an architectural look.  In keeping with the dark palette, the fence was stained in Resene Woodsman CoolColour Shadow Match.

habitat: What is your favourite part of the design?
Catherine: I had so many ‘wow’ moments, seeing the final elements all being pulled together. The doors out on to the decked areas can be pushed right back creating an extension to the living space, I love that this enables JK and Fiorella to host their large family extravaganzas!


Catherine Portland was the Lead Designer for Barrett Homes for the JK’s bach project. See more of her work on Instagram Portland Projects

Sir John Kirwan (JK) and his wife Fiorella’s bach in Waihi Beach has a simple design and colour scheme, keeping the focus on relaxation, family and socialising. The walls, ceiling and trims of the entire interior of the house are painted in Resene Black White. Resene Element is used on the soffit over the deck. 

Catherine used Resene Black White on the walls, ceiling and trims to create a neutral backdrop to highlight rustic pieces such as a ladder in the kitchen, used to hang pots and pans.

JK and Fiorella wanted to create a bach that would be used by their family for generations to come, and their living areas emphasise socialising and cooking. The lounge flows onto an extensive decking area which means dining can easily move outdoors in the summer months. The walls, ceiling and trims of the lounge are Resene Black White and the soffit is Resene Element, the fence in the distance is Resene Woodsman CoolColour Shadow Match.

Catherine used JK’s love of surfing as design inspiration in the four bedrooms. She kept the backdrop simple with Resene Black White on the walls and chose rustic wood and décor pieces made of natural fibres. The window shutters, from Window Treatments NZ, give the room the feeling of an old-fashioned cottage.

Catherine’s neutral colour palette of Resene Black White combined with timber and earth-tone tiles continues into the ensuite. JK and Fiorella wanted a minimalist, clean aesthetic with lots of neutral spaces.

The outdoor area looks elegant with COLORSTEEL® Matte FlaxPod paired with Resene Element

The outdoor shower was a must-have for surf-lover JK. The dark brown fence is Resene Woodsman CoolColour Shadow Match. The CoolColour version was chosen to give the fence added durability and heat reflection in the hot coastal climate.

The COLORSTEEL® FlaxPod Matte roof is a nod to the traditional Kiwi bach. The profile is
Metalcraft Metrib 760.

Interior designer Catherine Portland loved the experience of working on JK and Fiorella’s bach, although she admits she was daunted at first by the prospect of being on camera.


More ideas from COLOURSTEEL and Resene: 

How to pick the right colour for your new roof

Choosing roof profiles: These striking homes prove there’s more to an eye-catching roof than just colour



Published: 25 Feb 2021

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