Given a truly spectacular oceanfront site on Hawaiiâs Big Islandâset along an ancient footpath, atop a hardened lava flow, with views of sky, sun, and water for daysâyou 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. âWe call it the 'Village,'â 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. âThe structures represent a contemporary interpretation of early hale shelters,â Warner says. âTheyâre like modernist lean-tos.â
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 siteâs 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 isnât hugeâaround 1âÂœ acresâand 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 woodâboth for cladding and the roof shinglesâsince 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 âadventurous natureâ of the clients. Accordingly, âthe use of color is very playful and dynamic,â 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 arenât stuffed to the gills with furnishings. âBecause the architecture is so thoughtfully put together and thereâs so much natural texture, we didnât need to load up the interiors,â Philpotts-Miller continues. She is particularly proud of how the living room riffs on an abstract oil on canvas by Lee Kelly. âWe really let that piece define the palette,â 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. âAll the furniture is in harmony and set up to celebrate the view,â she summarizes.
The master bedroom is likewise grounded with earthy, timber-toned accentsâwhitewashed wood wall paneling, a walnut benchâand also lifted via a sky-blue rug and throw pillows. Philpotts-Miller and her team designed the projectâs biggest pieces, including the master suiteâs clean-lined bed with raffia and white-oak headboard, as well as the living roomâs cocktail table in butterfly-jointed Australian mahogany.
By design, thereâs 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. âThe living room unfurls to become porchlike,â Warner adds, noting the continuity of floor and ceiling materials between interiors and adjacent alfresco sp