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Nostalgic colours connect this ‘experimental’ bach to favourite childhood memories

06 Aug 2021

In a location chosen for its drama and seclusion sits a dreamy weekend retreat, perched at the edge of a tidal estuary within the North Cove of Kawau Island. Most of the building feels as though it’s one with the grove of redwood trees and lush native forest that its nestled within – save for a notable flash of Resene Hyperactive orange that lines the balcony enclosure. 

While our sense of smell is often considered the strongest connector to our own personal histories, for some of us, specific colours can also stir up memories from the past. For the owner of this stunning bach, that is certainly the case.

“Our client has special memories of their childhood holidays camping at Hahei in their orange caravan with a brown and orange awning, so we had to give a nod to the old caravan days,” explains architect Phil Shaw of ICR Studio. “Orange is also a prominent around Kawau Island, found in the surrounding cliffs and the fine gravel sand that’s in and around the tidal inlets.” 

But as the client emphasised that they were after a relaxed and nostalgic feel, he says that colour connection was also added to subconsciously evoke relaxation – and add a bit of fun, of course.

Phil says the form of the bach responds not only to the site but also provides the opportunity for passive solar design, which helps regulate the internal temperature throughout the seasons. “The construction is extensively insulated and the CLT floors provide thermal mass to assist in providing an even internal temperature throughout the year.”

“Vertical wall claddings in Ironsand emulate the tall and slender trunks of the Kanuka trees present within the site and extensively across the island,” says Phil. “Other structures, such as the retaining wall, are constructed of hardwood stained in Resene Woodsman English Walnut to further blend in with the surrounding environment.” 

The structure is very compact, measuring just 7 metres by 12 metres – a modern take on the studio bach that still provides all the necessary accommodations and comforts to make it an enjoyable getaway. 

“They didn’t need lots of room – just enough space for the family to hang comfortably out all year round,” says Phil.

Light and simple materials were used throughout the interior to create a relaxed feel. Pine plywood wall and ceiling linings stained in Resene Colorwood Whitewash along with birch cabinetry and recycled matai panelling sealed in Resene Qristal Clear Poly-Satin provide the canvas to the space. In the kitchen, the wall that surrounds the bathroom has been panelled in three other nostalgic hues, Resene Morning Glory, Resene Mantle and Resene Highball, which were given a ‘weathered’, reclaimed look to create a more casual vibe. Around back, the living area spills out to perimeter decks and glamping platforms where the family can take in the breath-taking view and enjoy the calm of being enveloped in nature.

“Although the materials are basic, they offer depth of visual interest and tactility with the warm tones of the wood as a backdrop to the collected 50s furniture and furnishings,” says Phil. “Eliminating floor joists and implementing a CLT floor was a very simple decision to make as a starting point. Corrugated stainless steel water tanks were essential from a design point of view to emphasise the self-sufficiency of the nostalgic bach or tramper’s hut.”

A significant challenge of the project was the property’s remote location. “Being located on an island meant that all the materials and building components had to be barged to site and, on one occasion, a helicopter was required to transport materials to the site. It also meant we also needed to think differently about a how the building would be built, establishing a balance between what could be lifted with the equipment at hand and minimising excessive reliance on labour to carry materials and components from the beach to the building platform.

“It was an opportunity to explore alternative building systems to fulfil these requirements, hence why we named the project ‘The eHouse Experiment’. And that’s where the CLT floor comes into it. Since it’s prefabricated, it could be simply lifted into place – no floor joists and done in three hours!”

While the ‘experiment’s’ logistical successes are something to celebrate, it is the level of detail and the design team’s commitment to making the bach into a special place for the owners that we love about this project.

“Many baches start with a brief which emphasises a difference to their city house. Most fail, very rarely is this realised and a city house is disappointingly replicated – so I think the Kiwi bach is becoming a rare thing. This project is about nostalgia, holidays like when you were a kid, wet togs on the floor and games of scrabble around the table after dinner.”

Resene Hyperactive was chosen for the front deck enclosure to replicate the Alpha caravan awning that was a significant fixture in the homeowner’s childhood. Cladding in Ironsand, retaining walls, deck and plywood soffits stained in Resene Woodsman English Walnut, steel structure in Resene Armourcote 512 tinted to Resene Black.


Inside, plenty more nods to nostalgia can be found. Plywood walls and ceiling in Resene Colorwood Whitewash, cabinetry sealed in Resene Qristal Clear Poly-Satin and window joinery in Resene Enamacryl tinted to Resene Black White.

The colour reference to the homeowner’s childhood caravan aren’t the only retro and nostalgic touches. Resene Enamacryl tinted to Resene Morning Glory, Resene Mantle and Resene Highball was used to create the look of aged, reclaimed timber on the walls that surround on the bathroom.

Contemporary finishes meet nostalgic comforts in the bach’s living spaces. Walls in Resene Colorwood Whitewash and window trims in Resene Black White.

Plywood walls and ceiling in Resene Colorwood Whitewash, timber cabinetry sealed in Resene Qristal Clear Satin and window trims in Resene Black White provide a neutral backdrop for layering in comfort, cosiness and Kiwiana character.

The balcony lining in Resene Hyperactive evokes fond childhood memories of caravan camping at Hahei for the owner. Deck in Resene Woodsman English Walnut, metal supports in Resene Ironsand.

architectural design ICR Studio

build Sibbing Builders

images Alex Wallace

Published: 06 Aug 2021