Swimming in sun and colour, this seaside sanctuary was built around an existing bach and now provides an art-filled environment for everyday living
Deanna Eisenhofer and Marcel van den Assum don’t need to go away on holiday. As soon as they get home to their renovated house at Raumati Beach on the Kapiti Coast, they gaze out at the sweeping coastal vista and instantly feel relaxed.
The couple’s three-bedroom home used to be a tiny, rundown 1940s weatherboard bach, which was in the perfect spot amid a stand of pohutukawa trees. It had, as Marcel says, good bones. After they bought it in 2015, they asked Wellington architects Cecile Bonnifait and William Giesen to give it a new look.
“We wanted to take the simple bach and throw it into the 21st century,’’ says Deanna. Until 2015, the couple were living in a colonial-style house on the Kapiti Coast where Marcel had raised his three children. With a tennis court and rambling rooms, the place was too big for the couple once the kids (Deanna also has an adult son) moved out.
They had spent many hours at the home of a friend who lived five kilometres up the road. Spread over two titles, the friend’s bach had a pool and was in a stunning location. When the decision was made to sell it, Deanna and Marcel jumped at the chance to own it themselves.
Blending old and new
When planning their new home, Marcel and Deanna wanted to respect the history of the existing house and the land, which had been owned by their friend’s family for more than 80 years. The tiny bach wasn’t big enough to do much with, so they built their new home around it, retaining some of its materials such as the exterior weatherboards and incorporating them into the renovation.
The original 80-square-metre cottage is now an open-plan living and kitchen area. By stretching the facade, the couple have turned it into a long, single-storey room that takes in the sea views and also overlooks the renovated pool area. The old weatherboards have been reused at the front of the house, while the bach’s rimu studs were turned into the home’s front door.
Marcel says, “The cottage had the best site on the property as the pohutukawa had grown up around it. The section had evolved around the location of the cottage, and it also has a westerly aspect.’’ Keen gardeners, the couple lived next door while the renovation took place, clearing the section and planting natives, a vege garden and an orchard. In addition to the work on the house, the concrete pool had to be strengthened, which was more expensive than they thought it would be.
At the back of the old bach structure, a new two-storey wing reaches up towards the pohutukawa, clad in cedar to highlight its separateness. Following the contours of the land, this area houses the couple’s bedroom upstairs and a bunk room on the ground floor for their seven grandchildren. To reach the bedroom wing, the couple climb a beautiful kwila staircase made from individual blocks of wood – one of their favourite features of their new home. A gallery space and entrance connect the old and new buildings.
“Really this is a new house that retains the bones of the original cottage and pool and uses these as the nucleus of a much larger development,’’ says architect William.
Playing the blues
The interior has been painted off-white, apart from the occasional wall in Italian poplar ply. This gives it a contemporary look without being ostentatious. Deanna, a fashion designer, was keen to include splashes of blue in her new home as it’s a colour that reminds her of the sky and the sea, and makes her feel calm and happy. The kitchen cabinetry is a vibrant blue, while the doors throughout the house are teal. Many items in the home are different shades of blue, from the duvet covers to the kitchen crockery and outdoor chairs.
Marcel’s favourite colour, orange, hasn’t been forgotten either – a tangerine Pyroclassic woodburner stands proudly in the middle of the living room, and there is the occasional carroty pop in a chair or cushion. “We’re not afraid of colour,’’ Deanna laughs.
The build and beyond
Throughout the 14-month renovation, the couple used local tradespeople wherever possible. Their builder, Duncan Construction, and all the tradies were from the Kapiti Coast. Deanna and Marcel stayed close to the renovation, visiting the site most days from their cottage next door. “We were very much hands-on,’’ says Marcel.
The renovation went almost without a hitch. However, their lead builder became ill halfway through the job and had to leave. “That was tough for him and for all of us; he was very much invested in the build. He came back right at the end to help,’’ says Marcel, who adds that the builder is now in remission.
One of the features of the new home is a gallery to showcase the art collection the couple have amassed over the years. Many pieces are by New Zealand artists, including Kapiti local Collin Hope. Outside, an 18th-century Dutch still life printed onto tiles is displayed near the front door.
Marcel and Deanna love their new home – he relishes the privacy of the setting, nestled among trees and a street back from the beach, while she calls it her happy place. “Every day is memorable,” she says. “We love listening to music and looking out at the ever-changing sea, the trees and the horizon.”
Words by: Sarah Catherall. Photography by: Russell Kleyn.