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A simplicity of form and materials has long defined the classic Kiwi bach. The modern interpretation further streamlines these elements

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It's about as close to nature as you can get without sleeping under canvas. But the contemporary Kiwi bach is also about comfort and simplicity. Simple architectural forms and pared-back interiors are the order of the day, as this project illustrates.

For architect Matt Brew of Cantilever, designing a beach house for his own family was an exercise in restraint – a simple, modernist design was the most practical, aesthetic and cost-effective option.

"The house is placed half-way down a hill, so that it nestles on an elevated ridge, but is buffered from the southwest winds," says Brew. "A simple, timber-pile foundation makes the house appear to float above the ground – an effect enhanced by the cantilevered deck that stretches out towards the Hokianga Harbour and the view to the west."

The house itself is not unlike a shipping container, with both the walls and trapezoid roof wrapped in powdercoated, long-run steel.

"The matt, metallic silver of the cladding is quite a soft colour that reflects the sky and the water, which helps the house blend in with the landscape," says Brew. "Opting for the powdercoated cladding and anodised joinery was also a way to ensure the house would be low maintenance."

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Brew provided a courtyard beside the entrance on the southwest side of the house, which is sheltered from the northeasterly winds. A fireplace is also positioned on this side, its concrete form pushing out beyond the wall.

"The concrete mass of the fireplace is an additional volume that breaks up this elevation, adding visual interest," says Brew. "It was also a way to keep the flue outside of the roof, which helped reduce building costs.

Another feature of this elevation is a timber bridge that leads across the courtyard – its form reinforcing the sense of a floating platform.

Inside, the open-plan living area, bedrooms and bathrooms all open up to the view. The sloping ceiling, which follows the roof line, helps bring extra light inside and enhances the spacious look of the interior.

"The house was designed to catch the light all day," says Brew. "With doors and windows on three sides of the living area, there is also plenty of cross ventilation to keep the house cool in the summer."

The desire for simplicity is reflected in the fixtures and fittings. The kitchen, for example, is simply a bank of cabinets positioned against one wall – the benchtop, sink and cooktop are recessed within the silver Melteca cabinetry. A large stainless steel splashback with integral display cabinets reinforces the strong horizontal lines evident throughout the house.

Brew says the wood dining table provides additional work space if needed, and outdoor barbecue facilities beside the kitchen are most commonly used for cooking.

"The house has been pared back to provide the most simple, basic living arrangement. It is still a bach in the traditional sense – a very casual, carefree place where the family can unwind."

First published date: 10 September 2007

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Credit List

Architect Matt Brew, NZIA, Cantilever (Auckland)
Engineer Holmes Consulting
Builder Richard Waldegrave
Kitchen manufacturer Terra Firma Joinery
Doors and windows Vantage from Bay Aluminium
Cladding and roofing Longrun steel from Dimond Industries
Decking Kwila hardwood
Flooring Woodworks oak accent 3 strip from Jacobsen Creative Surfaces
Paints Resene
Lighting Astrum Lighting
Kitchen cabinetry Silver Haze Melteca
Splashback Stainless steel
Tapware Caroma Liano
Oven, cooktop and dishwasher Indesit
Bathroom vanity Custom timber
Shower fittings Franklins
Basin Sourced in Bali
Bathroom tapware Caroma Liano
Wall tiles Heritage Tiles
Toilet Vitra from Franklins