You walk up the rise, and there’s the sea
A Peka Peka bach turns its back on the ocean in favour of shelter and native trees behind the dunes.
“The assumption is that if you’re going to live out here, you want to see Kāpiti, you’ve got to get the sea view. That’s the cliché...”
If you’ve ever tramped the country’s great walks, you’ll know this feeling well. After a long day spent in the dripping rainforest of the Milford track or the rustling beech on the Routeburn, you begin longing for the sight of a hut, one that never seems to appear. Then, just when you’ve almost given up hope, at long last you’ll see it, hiding among the trees. It may be a shorter walk from the road to this beach home at Peka Peka on the Kāpiti Coast, but that thrill of lastminute discovery is just the same. In thick coastal bush between the road and the sand dunes, the driveway curves gently through tall stands of kānuka, ngaio and pittosporum, before you finally catch a glimpse of the house hiding like a very flash hut among the trees. Not that similar thoughts had occurred to the project’s architect John Melhuish, of Wellington practice Herriot Melhuish O’Neill. “Perhaps we should have painted it DoC green,” he deadpans, before confessing he’s more trail runner than tramper. However, it’s this sense of discovery, privacy and retreat that first attracted Melhuish’s clients to this patch of protected bush. And it’s these things that see the couple and their family travelling from their Wellington home most weekends. It certainly isn’t the property’s sea views. Rather unusually for those investing in a bach by the beach, they were not tempted (although they had the choice) by views of the celebrated nature reserve of Kāpiti Island. “The assumption is that if you’re going to live out here, you want to see Kāpiti, you’ve got to get the sea view. That’s the cliché and you can see it has been done, often badly, all along this coast,” says Melhuish. “The owners are from the Wellington seaside suburb of Seatoun. They are really maritime people, they love the sea. But their attitude was that you walk up the rise and there it is – you don’t need to look at it all day. What the site does offer – apart from privacy and the wonderful sights and smells and birdsong of the endemic coastal bush – is shelter. “We came out to the site on quite a windy day,” says Melhuish, “and I swear you could stand there reading a paper.” Apart from positioning the house to protect as much bush as possible, the only concern was the site’s flood levels. “We’ve put it up on poles, it’s not on a concrete slab. Everything is raised up above the sand, and it’s all sand, and is tucked in among the mānuka,” says Melhuish.
This page A view out to scrub-covered dunes. Facing page A deck circles the home, fringes the surrounding bush and wraps around to a courtyard.
Left A window in the tower neatly frames a view to the bush. The entry boardwalk is below.