Ninety years in the life of a Waiheke bach
By Jenny Appleton
Back in the 1920s, somebody built a tiny bach at Oneroa. It measured about 2x4m, divided into two rooms, with a fireplace or stove between them, on a section that’s big for Waiheke, at 1200-1300 square metres.
The framing timbers seem to have mostly been recycled, judging by the variation of materials and size of timbers used. In fact, above the ceiling, lining boards were laid beneath the old roofing material, which were about 25cm wide and clearly had, in a former life, been the packing crates in which cars were imported from Britain (and we think our generation invented the concept of recycling!).
We think it was built as a holiday retreat, gradually expanded as either the family grew, or as it moved towards being a small permanent home.
The bach looks as though it was doubled in size through the addition of a kitchen/dining area in the 1950s - maybe later, as it had a chipboard floor.
A porch and new door were added later, then a toilet extension was built onto the old entranceway deck for the original front door, then a very wobbly shower cubicle hung onto the outside of the bathroom. Eventually, maybe in the 70s, a large bedroom was added, the porch expanded over another deck and the current footprint finalised.
In the 1960s, the bach seems to have been judged as too small for long-term living, and a new, two-bedroomed house was added on the section, nearer to the road. This was built up high to offer glorious views over Blackpool and Surfdale, across the sea and towards Auckland.
We know this second house was built by an engineer for himself and his family. In the 70s, they outgrew the space and added a huge kitchen and large deck. This was supported by a concrete structure, which became a huge rumpus area, built as two high-ceilinged rooms - a bedroom and a massive laundry with a toilet cubicle and hand basin.
The engineer passed away, leaving an old lady in the house alone. When she passed away we bought the property from her estate - the bach in all its 50s, and the cottage in all its 70s glory – and began renovations.
Chipboard gives way to tawa
Our first job was repiling. One corner of the house was 8cm lower than the rest and several of the original piles had been virtually washed away by innovative plumbing that saw the shower drain not into the septic tank, but under the house.
We rebuilt a bathroom, knocked the rest of the lounge and kitchen into one airy, open space, replaced chipboard with timber and varnished the floors. The bach has now been regibbed, rewired, replumbed, partially refloored, redecorated and has a new kitchen with stunning macrocarpa benchtops.
Blue View Cottage is the upstairs of the second house. We have rebuilt its yellow bathroom with a huge, tiled, walk-in shower, and replaced the 1978 dark brown fake-wood kitchen with macrocarpa benchtops. The original half of upstairs was floored in T&G tawa boards, whereas the newer half was chipboard. So I sourced recycled tawa boards, pulled up the chipboard and laid the boards myself. Not a bad feat - though it cost me some massive bruises!
We haven’t done anything to the third cottage on the property, Out of the Blue Studio. We’ve laid new carpet and repainted the bedroom but the huge laundry/toilet area is still in its faded-green 70s state.
The whole collection is set in gorgeous old-fashioned gardens. There’s only about a month of the year when there’s no fruit to be picked. The large lawns are framed by fruit and native trees, and secret paths, hidden from view of the house, meander through the trees. Scattered around are vegetables and herbs. We encourage our guests to make the most of these, and they are often greeted with a bowl of freshly picked plums, figs, feijoas or lemons, and a vase of roses from the borders.