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A beloved family bach on Waiheke Island is designed for laid-back living

Located for views and blissful tranquillity, this Waiheke Island holiday home is a beloved family getaway filled with laid-back style

Meet and greet 

Kriselle Baker (arts writer and publisher), Richard Douglas (doctor) and their daughter, Lily, 15, plus Coco the dog and Lola the cat.

A beloved family bach on Waiheke Island is designed for laid-back living

Kriselle Baker and Richard Douglas live and work in central Auckland, but they had long set their sights on purchasing a beach house on Waiheke Island for relaxing family getaways. The island’s proximity to Auckland (a 30-minute ferry trip from the city), its beautiful beaches and artsy, bohemian character were the main attractions for the couple.

In 2011, they purchased a dated 1970s bach in the coveted cove of Palm Beach, falling for the site’s many assets. “We settled on the house because it’s private, despite being located very close to the beach, and has a large, sunny garden,” says Kriselle. “It was about getting back to basics and enjoying being together as a family.”

Peace and quiet 

Sitting high on a hill and with no vehicle access, the holiday home is remarkably peaceful. The site enjoys a sunny aspect and is sheltered from the prevailing winds by the plentiful vegetation encompassing it. The views extend to the blue waters of the bay and take in swathes of native greenery. With a generous garden full of birdlife, the home is a tranquil oasis where only the closest neighbour is visible. The sound of rolling waves drifts up from the bay.

As well as spending time here during summer, Kriselle often overnights at the bach during the week, taking her mother, Valerie, with her. “It’s a wonderful place for spending time together,” says Kriselle. “We all love being here in summer, but it’s equally wonderful in winter when we can light a fire and go for walks on the beach with our dog.”

Time for change

Shortly after purchasing the bach, the couple engaged Auckland architects Constable Hurst. Principal architect Joanna Hurst and Kriselle are long-time friends. “We’ve been friends since we were about 10 years old,” says Kriselle. “I knew Jo would do exactly what would work for our family. It was wonderful to work with her on this project. We talked about some of the details, but I mostly left it up to Jo. We absolutely love the result.”

While utilising the bones of the existing structure, Jo’s design was essentially a complete rebuild. The bedrooms were relined and painted and a new kitchen and bathroom installed. The decking was significantly extended to make the most of summer entertaining and now wraps a corner of the living room, providing a space for dining and another for lounging. Unlike many baches that morph into upscale homes, Jo’s design paired with Kriselle’s styling has resulted in an unpretentious and utterly charming dwelling.

Jo also designed an outdoor shower area, which is close to the house and concealed by trees. “It’s a wonderful place to take a shower, particularly at night when all you can see are the stars,” says Kriselle.

The build presented some challenges, mostly due to the lack of vehicle access. “Our beach house was a small nightmare to build on because everything needed to be carried to site by hand,” says Kriselle. Despite this, builders Haven Waiheke finished in record time – completing the project in just under four months. “That’s an impressive feat for Waiheke as everything here typically takes longer – due to the distance and also the limited number of tradespeople available because there’s so much building happening on the island,” says Kriselle.

The interior is relaxed and welcoming. White walls and ceilings keep the living spaces fresh and light, while timber, tan leather and natural floor coverings provide texture and cohesiveness. Bedrooms are devoid of luxuries such as built-in wardrobes; instead there are chests for storage and wall hooks for clothes, bags and hats. “It encourages people not to bring too much stuff!” says Kriselle.

Keeping it simple

In 2014, the opportunity arose for the couple to purchase the site next door, allowing them to extend the garden and build a sleepout to accommodate guests. Knowing the site so well, Kriselle decided to design the sleepout and asked William Lindesay of Lindesay Construction to oversee her plans. “William is a director of a high-end construction company and has a background in architecture, so his feedback on my design was valuable,” says Kriselle.

B1 Buildings of Waiheke built the sleepout, which has a simple design aesthetic and cladding that falls in nicely with the black exterior of the main dwelling.

As with the bach, Kriselle decorated it simply, giving it a soothing, natural look. This time round she had time to play with her ideas – a luxury she didn’t have before. “The main bach was finished very close to Christmas and I remember going into Freedom just prior to Christmas Eve and buying everything for the kitchen all in one go,” says Kriselle. “I don’t really recommend shopping like that!”

By designing and dressing the sleepout, Kriselle kept the budget in check and also got to indulge her creative talents. The space offers a restful retreat for guests, who are spoiled for views – with the lush valley in one direction and grassy lawn in the other.

Ground work

“When we arrived, the bush was full of secondary growth and looked pretty scrappy,” recalls Kriselle. “I didn’t know much about gardens at the time, so I did some clearing and planting during the build, but I lost most of the plants that first summer.” Kriselle quickly realised she needed help and employed Zoë Carafice of Xanthe White Design, whose design is still in place today.

“It’s all natives, except for a small area out the back which has olives,” says Kriselle. “We’ve used quite a lot of planting to attract the birds – it’s been a major project and is still ongoing.”

“I’ve had a lot of help with the garden,” adds Kriselle. Jeff Moore and his team at Landscapes & Lawns worked on clearing the bush and the initial planting, and Matt Williams of Infinite Landscape built a stone wall along the front of the section.

Happy ending 

Although the bach is compact, this is probably one of its most appealing qualities. It creates an environment in which to live closely and enjoy time with family and friends who come to stay. With no television, there’s plenty of time to talk, enjoy barbecues on the deck, and soak up the views.

Kriselle says their Waiheke holiday home is all about getting back to basics and spending quality time with one another; it’s a place where everyone can relax in tranquillity and be surrounded by nature.

Words by: Annick Larkin. Photography by: Jackie Meiring.

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