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A 1960s boat shed is upgraded to the perfect family bach

This spectacular spot on Kawau Island is proof that good things take time. Take a tour through the bach that’s been 60 years in the making

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A 1960s boat shed is upgraded to the perfect family bach

Summer at the family bach on Kawau Island is a relaxed, low-key affair for Hilary West and the wider West clan. This is their happy place, somewhere to unwind and escape the hustle and bustle of inner-city living.

The stunning waterfront property at Vivian Bay is almost 10,000 square metres and has been in Hilary’s family since her great-uncle purchased it in the 1950s. The original site was established in the 1950s with a boatshed – a simple structure of unlined long-run roofing and fibre cement cladding, with plywood patch pieces near the entry. “It was basic, glamping of sorts – but it wasn’t much better than a tent,” laughs Hilary.

The boatshed used to stand at the top of the path leading from the beach. A one-room homestead was added in 1968 and served as the family’s only accommodation for more than 45 years.


Where have you saved money?
No couch. Instead, we created built-in daybeds which allowed us to build less area in the ‘beach shed’, saving on construction costs.

The large, front-stacking sliding doors. They take in all the view and allow a large indoor-outdoor flow zone.

Best buy?
Coast New Zealand’s Isla Collection beanbags. They’re so versatile for the bach and are easily moved around.

Best lesson learned?
Building on an island is expensive! The labour costs to move all the materials by hand were prohibitive.

Style tips

  • Take your style cue from the context of your site. Nature featured heavily because of the bach’s location and outlook.
  • For fixed items keep to a neutral palette to ensure they stay timeless. It’s then easy to accessorise with on-trend colours each year.
  • Mix new with old to create a unique personality for your spaces. We saved retro 1950s and 1960s pieces from the old bach to display in our kitchen. The art wall is a collection of old maps of the property, beach-scene photography, construction photos, current family photos, artwork of the bay done by guests, and shells and feathers collected from the beach and bush.

Discover the full story behind this beloved family bach here.


Words by: Annick Larkin. Photography by: Emma MacDonald.

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