Spring is a splendid time to spruce up your bach, writes Colleen Hawkes.
Whatever you call it – a bach, crib or holiday home – this is a place where you go to chill out. A place where you don’t have to keep up appearances.
And that’s probably why baches, traditionally, have been repositories for all that cast-off furniture, crockery and linen you no longer want in your home; a mish-mash of everything you once owned, no longer want or even like, but figure you could still use at the beach.
But here’s the rub. Isn’t this the very place where comfort really matters? How comfortable are you sitting on that old sofa with the sagging seat? What about that awful hard double bed that ended up at the bach – you don’t even get a good night’s sleep. Or maybe you bought yourselves a decent bed, but relegated that hard one to the spare room where your guests curse all night.
I stayed in a beach bach in an idyllic location recently. The place was filled with every bit of 70s pottery and macrame the owners had refused to part with – remember salt pigs and owl mugs? A lot of that stuff is back in vogue, but this felt a bit like a vintage museum.
Yes, there’s always a place for nostalgia, but maybe it’s time to jazz up the bach for summer. It doesn’t take much – a bit of paint, some new upholstery, cushions, linen and cheap, but comfortable furniture.
Bach owner and artist Mela Greenslade has upholstered the furniture in her family’s Marlborough Sounds bach with colourful outdoor fabrics.
“I used these for all my sofas and cushions because they are super practical,” she says. “Luckily, there are many stunning outdoor fabrics now.”
But Greenslade doesn’t overlook nostalgia. “Our bach is full of old treasures which remind us of people and places. Having stuff like this is important for us, but it does help to spend a bit of time trying things in different places. You’ll probably be surprised what looks good where.
“And you can hang more than just pictures; we’ve got copper pans from the Middle East on one wall and metal stars used in house-building from the US on another wall.”
Other bach owners opt for more themed items, such as oars, glass floats or life buoys, and they can work well. But sometimes it’s best to avoid picking up every piece of flotsam in the beach shops – the wooden seagulls, 3D framed beach hut and Jandal artworks – because it can be just a bit too much.
Handcrafted artworks, such as a shell mirror made by the children on a wet day at the beach, will carry a lot more meaning than mass-produced kitsch.
Think about a fresh coat of white paint on old surfaces, or bleached timber panelling teamed with fresh linen and towels. Try grouping collections, rather than spreading items all over the house.
Yellowfox designer Shelley Brockliss says a mix of old and new furniture always works for the bach and is easier on your pocket. “Popular 60s and 70s retro styles give baches a lived-in and memory-laden feel. Look out for second-hand Formica tables and fine-legged chairs with plastic seats,” she says. “Old timber furniture also fits right in – if it’s a little shabby that’s fine, just whitewash it or paint it white. A soft palette of blues and greens will work well with this kind of furniture – take your cues from the bush and sea surrounds.”
Greenslade also recommends thinking about what you need to entertain at the bach, because there are always visitors.
“It’s lovely to have a place that works for just one or two people as well as a crowd. Loads of stools are handy – extra seating, extra tables without taking up loads of room.
“You have to have loads of games too,” she says. “Get everyone off their screens. Chinese checkers and Twenty Questions are popular with all ages at our bach.”
• Ensure you match herbaceous plants with conditions they like. Such plants are available for sunny, dry, hot, damp, shady, cool spots and many combinations thereof.
• Plants for shady places include arthropodium, bergenia, clivia, Iris stylosa, liriope, omphalodes and rudbeckia. Liking semi-shade are alstromeria, campanula, heuchera and thalictrum. While aquilegia, Iris japonica, Japanese anemone and trillium like a bit of moisture as well.
• For damp or wet spots in full sun, try astilbes, filipendula, helenium, hosta, ligularia and monarda.