The Kiwi Bach

“Bach -noun: keep house alone or with a companion when neither is accustomed to housekeeping.”

By definition, the bach is a home where everything is more relaxed, a home where you can come in and kick your shoes off without upsetting the equilibrium of cleanliness.

In this nothing has changed.

In bach design, however, things have changed. We seem to be heading in a full circle – albeit an emotional circle rather than a physical one. With the rapidly escalating waterside property prices, the bach is predominantly no longer the small house or “crib” that we remember. To achieve the maximum potential economic value of the properties, there was a period of putting houses more reminiscent of their luxury urban counterparts in these locations.

What is more the trend now though, thankfully, is to design more sympathetically to the locations, and capture the spirit of the tradition bach ambience, with a more modern structure the vernacular kiwi bach wouldn’t get building consent these days sorry).

The materials we’re using also reflect the baches humble origins, although a lot more glass and steel is utilised to capture the magnificent views so many baches look out at. Timber, stone and concrete work so well with the natural environment we’re modifying, in the same way we have modified the materials. These are most successful when kept ‘raw’, although a dark creosote stain on timber definitely works as well.

The one big departure from our historical baches is that they have to be low maintenance. With our busy lifestyles, when you get to your bach it is the bbq and chilly bin that beckons, not the paint brush and putty.

This bach ambience is also spilling over into our urban centres, where people want to get home from work and be able to step inside, kick their shoes off, and relax. Again the design is about using appropriate materials and forms that remind you of being on holiday, and focus on the surrounding natural environment.

In the urban locations, landscaping plays a more critical role, since you quite often have to create your relaxed setting rather than having it there automatically. No bach landscape is complete without a cabbage tree or three.

Keeping the relaxed ambience flowing throughout the home is critical. In this, less is more. Here is one of the largest departures from the baches of our childhood. There is no place for your dad’s hat collection, nor are you allowed to hang grandma’s plates on the wall. You are however allowed a strategically placed ‘singing trout’, or three mallards flying up the wall.

The exterior materials are now flowing through the interior spaces. We use a lot of plywood. Plywood floors, plywood wall panels, and plywood ceilings. Plywood is your friend – embrace it.

Baches in hard to reach locations quite often had their building materials carried in, piece by piece. The modern alternative to this is prefabricated homes. We have been exploring building homes in bolt together component form, or even air lifting in complete buildings, and have some designs that are currently being constructed in the middle of nowhere. This is now a completely viable option. Even though the style of construction is modern, and uses a lot of steel structure, it does reference back to the traditional crib version of the bach by necessity, as they have to be small, or at least made up of small pavilions. Prefabricated baches not only allow areas that could potentially only be accessed by boat be built on, they also make building in these locations affordable, which is critical to being able to relax there.

The bach is evolving, and will continue to evolve in order to survive, but there is still a strong connection to it’s past, jandles and all.