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A historic family bach is transformed into a modern holiday pad

A mother-daughter duo give their old family bach a much-needed update with nods to the past

When Henrietta MacDonald and her daughter Emma decided to renovate their bach at Buckleton Beach, on the Tāwharanui Peninsula north of Auckland city, preserving its history was at the top of their minds.

The land surrounding the bay was farmed by Henrietta’s father up until the 1960s when her parents decided to subdivide. The original homestead, where Henrietta grew up, is still there, nestled high on the hill, and parts of the land are still being farmed.

Her family kept the beachfront section and built themselves a basic three-bedroom, one-bathroom holiday home. These days, it’s a regular weekend getaway for Henrietta and Emma who love to go there to relax. Last year, though, they decided it was time to give the old, much-loved bach an update.

The original building wasn’t bad, just typical of its era: very small and with no storage. There was only one light source and one power outlet per room, so the house had stopped being functional some time ago. The kitchen was tiny – essentially a one-person space – and for a family who love to cook and entertain, this presented a challenge. Other issues were the living area, which was cramped, dark and did not make the most of the beautiful views, and the limited opportunity for outdoor living due to the small front deck.

“Until last year we had made very few changes to the house,” says Henrietta. “However, with it being almost 60 years old, and given the amount of time we spend here, we felt the time was right to make some improvements.”

The renovation involved extending the house two-and-a-half metres towards the sea to provide space for a larger living area, a new contemporary kitchen, a master bedroom and a family bathroom. A utility and laundry room was built on the side of the house and a fabulous large deck added to maximise alfresco living. A sleepout, originally added by Henrietta’s father to escape the noisy grandchildren and now used as extra accommodation, was also renovated to match the look of the main house.

Henrietta and Emma worked with Erik Graamans, of GBL Construction, on a brief centred around their Buckleton Beach lifestyle. “We follow the sun, often entertaining at the drop of a hat, and we love being outside,” says Henrietta.

They had some non-negotiables, too: “a modern kitchen to entertain in, indoor-outdoor flow and functional living and sleeping spaces”. Armed with this information, Erik then liaised with Rob Earley of Earley Innovations, who drew up the plans. “They were spot on first pop!” says Henrietta. The build took roughly five months and was strategically done over winter so the bach could still be enjoyed in the summertime. With all the work finished, Henrietta and Emma can now take full advantage of the sea views and all-day sun from their new deck. The huge, contemporary kitchen, complete with chic all-black appliances, means they can easily feed the masses all year round. A four-metre island bench, which doubles as an informal dining table, makes relaxed entertaining a breeze.

The pair opted for a simple interior aesthetic with a nod to Scandi style. Ply accents, black cabinetry and whitewashed timber floors add warmth to a mostly white backdrop. All the paint colours, fittings and fixtures were chosen together, with mother and daughter agreeing on a simple palette of black and white for maximum impact while ensuring the beautiful views remained the centrepiece of the home. The result is a stunning holiday hideaway with a laidback, beachy vibe.

Photographer Emma, who took the pictures for this story, is creative by nature and, together with Henrietta, designed the black iron pendant that hangs over the kitchen island. They found the length of rusted iron – most likely from a long-lost farm vehicle or defunct piece of machinery – on a visit to the old family farm just before the renovation began. They had the metal professionally sandblasted and sealed so it could be transformed into something unique for the bach. Then they handed it over, along with their hand-drawn design, to electrician Dan Wood, who brought their vision to life.

Together, this mother and daughter have created a beautiful coastal retreat that takes advantage of today’s modern conveniences without forgetting its roots. There are nods to the bach’s history with family memorabilia cleverly intertwined with the new, ensuring Henrietta and Emma’s “happy place” remains filled with nostalgia and memories – a precious connection to the past.

Words by: Annick Larkin. Photography by: Emma McDonald

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