Green Living

An eco-friendly bach that’s more than just a weekend retreat

Built as a ‘bach with eco-features’, this Paekakariki new-build strikes the perfect balance between weekend retreat and potential retirement pad 


Who lives here? 

David Werry (GP), his wife, Philippa (writer), and their adult children, Lizzie (youth worker), Charlotte (fine arts graduate) and Katherine (law student).

The brief

“A bach with eco features” was the brief that Wellingtonians David and Philippa Werry gave their architects for a weekend holiday home that they might one day retire to. The location needed to be somewhere near the sea, within an hour’s drive of home and with public-transport access, preferably by train. “We were looking for a small town that had character and a resident population,” explains David. In the end, they decided that Paekakariki fitted the bill perfectly. However, finding land proved tricky. “There’s virtually none left in Paekakariki but e ventually we got lucky,” says David.


The site

The section they found was long and narrow – about 55 metres by 17 metres, with a two-metre no-build covenant along the southern boundary, where utilities run to the house behind. “It aligned on an east-west axis, making it perfect for capturing the northern sun,” David says. The land also had established trees with a large pohutukawa and resident tui.

The pair approached architects William Giesen and Cecile Bonnifait of Atelier Workshop after seeing some of their work in the Dominion Post. “But we didn’t realise at that stage that they both lived in Paekakariki,” David says. “This clinched it for us as we thought they could design something with character, but also in keeping with the community. So it has proved.”


The couple were after a simple, medium-sized bach with good design and future-proofed so it could potentially be their home when they retire. To cater for this, the design is on a single level and includes features such as an underfloor hydronic heat pump and a wet room (a bathroom with a walk-in shower).


The layout is a simple, elongated U-shape, with living areas at one end and bedrooms at the other, linked by a long corridor along the south wall. Between the two ends are the bathroom and an office nook, which flow off the hallway. “We always try to make the circulation area not just a hallway,” says architect William.

All the rooms, apart from the study, have direct access to the north deck, which runs the full length of the house. Between the home’s two arms lies a sheltered courtyard for morning sun, while a wider deck area at the western end captures the last of the afternoon’s warmth. The exterior of the house is clad in vertical cedar weatherboards.

Eco features

The home is well suited to its environmentally aware beachside community. The insulation is impressive thanks to its 150mm walls and the double-thickness polystyrene under the concrete floor, which also provides passive heating.


Winter sunshine is maximised while summer sun is tempered by deep eaves and double-glazed, thermally broken windows and doors (where the frame itself is insulated). The lights are LED, louvres have been strategically placed for cross-ventilation and temperature control, and a 15,000-litre water tank feeds the toilets and garden. A worm-farm waste-water/sewage system drip-feeds the garden (Paekakariki has no reticulated sewerage), and the north-facing rooms are all set up for solar panels, if desired in the future.

Making their mark

Despite hiring architects and builders to bring their dream home to fruition, David and Philippa did a significant amount of the finishing work themselves, including hand-sanding, or etching, the concrete flooring on their hands and knees, and then waxing it.

We love the ambience of a burning flame

on a winter’s night

“We oiled all the macrocarpa window and door reveals and sills, polyurethaned the plywood walls and ceilings and painted the internal doors,” David says. Visiting family members also found themselves oiling and sanding, as well as shifting sand, planting seedlings and manhandling insulation batts.

David also built the majority of the decking (about 90 square metres) and constructed the macrocarpa screen on the linkway to the garage. The work consumed most of their weekends for the best part of a year. “Our builders were very accommodating in allowing us to do this, as I am sure they could have done some of these things in a fraction of the time and with less angst,” says David.



The pair were concerned about insufficient storage but, with the high stud (2.2 metres at its lowest), there is plenty, including in the laundry behind three over-sized, jalapeno-coloured sliding doors, above the built-in wardrobes, and in the kitchen. In each bedroom, the bed has been placed in the centre of the room with storage installed behind the bedhead.


The decor

This beautiful weekend home – built for David, Philippa and their three adult daughters to enjoy – has a relaxed, bach style. The furniture comprises bits and pieces the couple have collected over the years, mixed with Trade Me acquisitions and items that once belonged to Philippa’s parents.

The delicate patina of the concrete floors – achieved by sanding without exposing the stone aggregate – and the contrasting, golden ply panelling suit the home’s seaside setting and reinforce a sense of informality.

The decor is mainly driven by the natural tones of the wood ply on the walls and ceilings. As a bright contrast, the internal doors, firebox, glass splashback in the kitchen and an insert in the lounge have all been coloured a bold red. The long rod lights scattered throughout are in tune with the simple, understated aesthetic.



Planting the garden is still ongoing. “It’s amazing how things grow here, so I am establishing fruit trees – apple, pear, peacherine, blueberry, lemon, lime and passionfruit – amongst a self-care native garden designed to attract native birds,” says David.

The end

“We love the welcoming feel of the house as you arrive and walk in,” Philippa says. “Despite the underfloor heating, we also put in an energy-efficient New Zealand-made Pyroclassic woodburner because we love the ambience of a burning flame on a winter’s night with the sound of the sea pounding in the distance. Being only a 35- or 40-minute drive from our home in Wellington, it is never too far to go, even if only for a part of the day.”

Words by: Catherine Steel. Photography by: Russell Kleyn.


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