Given a truly spectacular oceanfront site on Hawaiiâ€™s Big Islandâ€”set along an ancient footpath, atop a hardened lava flow, with views of sky, sun, and water for daysâ€”you would think that the design team could just lay back and chill. How could you screw it up? A hut would nearly suffice.
Turns out it took nearly three years to perfect a Kona Coast vacation home on just such a plot for a couple based in Portland, Oregon. The clientsâ€™ wait was rewarded with spectacular results. Architecture and interior are ultramodern and yet rely heavily on traditional materials and touchstones. Old and new ebb and flow as easily as the tides right outside the home's copious sliding-glass doors.
Principal Greg Warner of Walker Warner Architects and Philpotts Interiors partner Marion Philpotts-Miller approached the project in a thoughtful and methodical manner. â€śWe call it the 'Village,'â€ť Warner says of the unusual arrangement, a grouping of four separate structures linked by a lush courtyard and a series of walkways and patios. Indeed, traditional Hawaiian villages, typically organized in loose clusters, inspired both the site plan and the daring architectural style, an angular composition of canted steel columns, steep-pitched roofs, and rhomboidal window and door openings. â€śThe structures represent a contemporary interpretation of early hale shelters,â€ť Warner says. â€śTheyâ€™re like modernist lean-tos.â€ť
The clients wanted to use the compound to entertain friends and family. But they also desired privacy. So, Warner located the volumes housing the master suite and the main living areas on the siteâ€™s ocean side. Set back deeper in the property are pods containing the two guest suites and communal relaxation areas. Bedrooms open onto concrete-walled private courts for additional seclusion. The parcel of land isnâ€™t hugeâ€”around 1â€‰Â˝ acresâ€”and the buildable area is much smaller; in total, interiors encompass approximately 4,800 square feet. But the arrangement (not to mention the sweeping views) makes the three-bedroom residence feel expansive.
The rugged rock walls of historic Mokuaikaua Church, located in nearby Kailua, inspired the primary building materials: lava rock and other stones mortared with lime putty. Warner and his former colleague, senior project manager David Shutt, also chose durable Western red cedar as the dominant woodâ€”both for cladding and the roof shinglesâ€”since it resists heat, moisture, and insects. Inside, stained and lightly polished concrete flooring keeps things cool during the day.
As for the decor, Philpotts-Miller and her team were inspired by what she describes as the â€śadventurous natureâ€ť of the clients. Accordingly, â€śthe use of color is very playful and dynamic,â€ť she says. In the rec room, for instance, custom surfboards are mounted on the wall like artworks.
Otherwise, the scheme is no-frills, simple, and airy, with a midcentury vibe that Philpotts-Miller explains was inspired by the work of Hawaiian modernist Vladimir Ossipoff. And the rooms arenâ€™t stuffed to the gills with furnishings. â€śBecause the architecture is so thoughtfully put together and thereâ€™s so much natural texture, we didnâ€™t need to load up the interiors,â€ť Philpotts-Miller continues. She is particularly proud of how the living room riffs on an abstract oil on canvas by Lee Kelly. â€śWe really let that piece define the palette,â€ť she says. Note the neutral-toned Christian Liaigre oak sofa and wenge lounge chairs, plus a custom wool-cotton rug in a funky orange hue. â€śAll the furniture is in harmony and set up to celebrate the view,â€ť she summarizes.
The master bedroom is likewise grounded with earthy, timber-toned accentsâ€”whitewashed wood wall paneling, a walnut benchâ€”and also lifted via a sky-blue rug and throw pillows. Philpotts-Miller and her team designed the projectâ€™s biggest pieces, including the master suiteâ€™s clean-lined bed with raffia and white-oak headboard, as well as the living roomâ€™s cocktail table in butterfly-jointed Australian mahogany.
By design, thereâ€™s very little barrier between indoors and out. Sapele-framed sliders glide open to the elements, and operable windows swivel to coax in the breeze and encourage cross ventilation. â€śThe living room unfurls to become porchlike,â€ť Warner adds, noting the continuity of floor and ceiling materials between interiors and adjacent alfresco sp