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A coastal bach in Waikuku has retained its vintage vibe

The moment the Pilkington family opened the front door of this coastal cottage, they knew no major makeover was required to improve on its perfect beach bach vibe

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Meet and greet

Gael Pilkington full-time mother, Wade Pilkington airline pilot, Georgia, 5, and Alexis, 4.

A coastal bach in Waikuku has retained its vintage vibe

A small wooden sign hanging on the gate of the Pilkingtons’ holiday bach reads ‘Beware of the mouse’. When Gael Pilkington and her husband, Wade, first spied the house five years ago, the sign said ‘Beware of the dog’. A tenant with a sense of humour – and no dog – changed the wording and the sign has been there ever since.

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This quirky amendment is one of just a few small changes made since the Pilkingtons took ownership, and they’ve been careful to ensure each renovation decision, like the sign, is in keeping with their bach’s idiosyncratic character.

Wade, a keen surfer and kite-surfer, had been coming to the small coastal settlement of Waikuku, 30km north of Christchurch, for many years before he and Gael decided to purchase a holiday home there.

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Their daughter, Georgia, was just six months old when they found the ideal bach and the plan was to rent the property out for a number of years before making it their holiday bolthole. However, circumstances changed when their second daughter, Alexis, was born and Gael realised she preferred her role as a full-time mum and decided not to return to work.

“Renting the house out was a long-term goal, but after having Lexi we thought we’d better start using it,” Gael says. “Our tenants moved to Amberley and we’re still great friends,” she adds.

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Nowadays, from December until March, Gael and Wade shut the door on their Christchurch home and enjoy the relaxed beach lifestyle and close proximity to park, surf and estuary offered by their quirky little bach.

A bit of a jumble

It is difficult to tie the house to a particular style or era but the overall effect is strangely harmonious. A glass and aluminium front door opens onto the lounge where huge, wood-framed sliding windows with odd-sized glass panes wrap around two sides of the house. An old-fashioned fireplace in the dining area has been painted in sparkly metallic paint, while the lean-to kitchen at the rear of the home features a hot-pink benchtop.

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The panelling and flooring are similarly disparate. A cosy mix of Turkish and woollen rugs cover retro gold-and-cream linoleum, which gives way to a colourful floral pattern on the kitchen floor. Wade and Gael peeled off old wallpaper in the lounge to reveal dark-stained board-and-batten, which complements the rimu-lined ceiling.

Gael, a self-confessed hoarder and gatherer of all things vintage, has filled the bach with an equally random assortment of objects and furnishings, some of which were left behind by the previous owners. “We bought this place lock, stock and two smoking barrels,” says Wade. “Gael has been putting her retro touch on it ever since.”

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Bunk beds in the girls’ room came from Gael’s sister’s garage. Tupperware, Pyrex dishes and kitchenware were found in various secondhand stores, while side tables, paintings, chairs and couches came with the house. The Salvation Army Store in Rangiora has also done well out of Gael. “Wade is always worried about what I am likely to come home with, but this is where I get to enjoy my preference for old things. Stuff has just found us, really,” says Gael.

Easy living

Gael’s father, a retired joiner, provided invaluable help with opening up the interior and improving the bach’s floor plan while maintaining the integrity of the original dwelling. “He has done an amazing job of making things look like they have always been there. Nothing is square and the angles are all different and funny,” says Gael.

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When it came to finding extra room for accommodating friends and family, Gael and Wade came up with a novel solution that was perfectly in keeping with the spirit of their bach – they purchased a caravan and had it towed into the back garden, where it now acts as a guest wing.

Wade has revamped the garden to ensure it is low maintenance. Raised vegetable and flower beds have been cleared and levelled to create platforms for play equipment, and a roll of recycled astroturf laid under the slide and climbing frame to keep weeds down.

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Wade is clearing the space under the deck to provide a covered play area. “I don’t want to be a slave to the garden,” he says. “At most, it takes me 90 minutes to tidy it from disorderly to sorted.” Wade has other activities in mind – the basement has been fitted out with surf and kiteboard racks, a workbench and a beer fridge. It is the perfect man cave.

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By taking a low-key approach to their bach makeover and respecting its innate Kiwiana character, the Pilkingtons have created an idyllic summer retreat. During those golden months, you’ll find a sign at the front door. It reads: ‘Gone to the beach’.

Words by: Ady Shannon. Photography by: Guy Frederick. Styling by: Alexandra Weston.

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