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Raumati blue

Some people have holiday baches, and some just live at the beach all year round. Sarah Catherall meets a couple on the coast.

The colour blue makes Deanna Eisenhofer feel calm and happy, so it’s no surprise that her home on the Kāpiti Coast features splashes of the summery hue. Perched back from the seafront on Raumati Beach, the home she shares with her partner Marcel van den Assum, is a light-filled, airy, modern residence with dreamy views across the Kāpiti Coast.

The couple’s three-bedroom home barely resembles the tiny 1940s weatherboard bach they bought from a family friend in 2015. Deanna and Marcel could see the potential of the house and its section with two titles. The property had been in the man’s family for 80-plus years. They took the shell of the existing cottage and gave it a fresh start, and recycled some of the old timber in the new house. Rimu studs from the old house have been reused in the new front door.

Says Marcel: ‘We respected the history in the layout of our new house, the reuse of materials, and maintaining the integrity of the landscape. The former owner is “stoked” with the result.’

Deanna has architecture in her blood. The daughter of one of New Zealand’s visionary architects, Fritz Eisenhofer, she spent her childhood and teenage years visiting his building sites. The modernist architect is most famous for his two curving concrete-domed houses − one on the Waikanae coast, next door to where the 92-year-old still lives. As a child, she thought she might like to be an architect like her father, until she realised the work involved.  ‘I have a lot more empathy for architects having grown up with one. I appreciate why you need one and why you need someone to pull it all together, which is the hardest part.’

Their home, Karekare (named after the road it is on), was overhauled by William Giesen and Cecile Bonnifait of Wellington’s Atelier Workshop, whose architectural design Deanna describes as ‘simple and clever’.

The house is designed around the pool which was part of the original property, along with the cottage. They painted the pool grey − a tip from Fritz to get their pool the same blue-green hue of the sea – and added mosaic tiles, and a wrap-around kwila deck.

‘We had spent many lazy days by the old pool years back and it’s very satisfying to have brought the pool and the memories up to date,’ says Marcel.

The shell of the original cottage has been reborn as the open-plan kitchen, dining and lounge area, which has been opened up to embrace the sea views. Behind it, a two-storey, cedar-clad tower wing has been added. The second storey houses the couple’s bedroom and a bunk room for their seven grandchildren, ranging in age from 13 years to newborn. From this lofty height, the couple can look down on their home, and out to the sea.

They weren’t too prescriptive about the design, but one of their requirements was a gallery. They have collected a lot of art, which are displayed in the gallery off the entrance. A colourful Jan van Huysum work sits beside the front door. Sculptures by their friend Bodhi Vincent, who also lives in Kāpiti, are dotted around the garden. Several works by another Kapiti local, Colin Hope, hang on the gallery walls.

‘Karekare’ boasts a neutral palette, punctuated with splashes of colour. Echoing the sky and the sea, the kitchen cabinetry, the bathroom walls, the doors, and even the outdoor chairs are different shades of blue. Duvets are blue, cushions are blue, and much of the crockery in the kitchen is Deanna’s favourite hue.

‘We’re not afraid of colour,’ laughs Deanna. Marcel’s favourite colour is orange − evidenced by the ripe orange Pyroclassic burner in the middle of the living room, and the occasional orange cushion.

Inside, the walls are covered in Italian poplar ply, giving a relaxed, summery feel, while expansive windows are flanked by louvres.

‘We wanted the home to feel light and airy and to have a simple, pared back palette,’ Deanna says.

The internal kwila stairs spill vertically, like a waterfall. The white paper lamp shades dangling in the bedrooms and over the breakfast bar were found in Sydney.

The couple lived in the bach for part of the renovations, and tackled the ‘urban jungle’ surrounding the property. Keen gardeners, they cleared the section, planting natives, a vegetable garden and an orchard. Three years on, their renovated home is nestled among pohutakawa trees which shelter the house from the wind.

The Kāpiti Coast has been their home for many years. Marcel raised his three children in a large house five kilometres up the road, which he and Deanna (who has a son) outgrew when all four kids left home.

Says Marcel: ‘The house was high maintenance and, as the kids left home, a little cold and empty. Although a great place to bring up a family and with a glorious past, the time was right for us to embrace a bright future in something more contemporary.’

Deanna ran her gallery, Lush, in Waikanae for 16 years until she sold it last year. A self-taught fashion designer with her own label, she designs and creates clothes in her studio in her neighbour’s house.

‘What I do is architecture for the body I guess,’ she says.

The house is a perfect spot for the couple who love walking on the beach, cycling, and boogie boarding. Their four children and seven grandchildren live locally, and they spend a lot of time together. The pool is thrashed over summer.

Asked if they’ll be taking a holiday over summer, Deanna is quick to answer. ‘We don’t need to go anywhere,’ she laughs.

First published in Capital issue #58
Photography by Anna Briggs
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