Alongside a lava flow dating from 1801 on the leeward coast of Hawaii (Kohala), you’ll find this 963-square-metre residence that was designed to propose a modern interpretation of indigenous island architecture and a way to connect the clients to nature, the region and its culture. Rather than orienting the house directly to the view, the home’s living spaces are set at an angle, resulting in glancing coastal views that reveal the visual drama of the natural setting.
The construction is organised as a series of interlocking yet separate hale (pronounced ‘HAH-leh’ and meaning pavilions in the Honolulu language), with the resulting spaces between the hale becoming as important to the experience as the hale themselves.
This exploration of void or emptiness, which the Japanese call ‘Ma’, is meant to sharpen focus on the what the definition of space itself is, our relationship to it, and what remains. For this house, traditional design elements are mitigated through the understanding of the Japanese design sense and lifestyle and through a celebration of craftsmanship. The result is an aesthetic the architects describe as tropical minimalism.
Exterior materials were selected for their natural beauty and durability, as well as their contribution to the minimalist aesthetic and discretion. Exterior finishes include zinc metal roof shingles, black anodised aluminium doors and window frames, painted steel fascia and columns, stone terraces, walls and columns, and integral colour cement plaster.
Meeting the spirit of the community design guidelines – hipped roofs were used for the individual pavilions. Flat roof – where solar panels to be hidden from sight – was used on connecting roofs. Landscape plantings contribute to the exotic and ultra-discreet aesthetic. Reflecting pools work their way in and around the pavilions, further enhancing the Zen-like vibe and adding to the calm lifestyle influenced by water elements surrounding.
The interior aesthetic is understated yet evocative. Finishes include stone and teak floors, grayish stained white oak ceilings and cabinetry and millwork, granite counters, and veneer plaster walls. Sliding architectural wood screens throughout the house create privacy between spaces and create an atmosphere of refinement and mystery.
Furnishings are minimal with a focus on signature pieces, including a contemporary free-form wood sculpture that was found in Bali, as well as the custom dining table and lychee wood coffee tables. Bedroom headboards were also sourced from Bali. Polynesian tapa patterns were carved into teak for many pieces of furniture.
The primary bathroom features dynamic architectural elements such as carved walls of Calacatta marble including a stone shower wall. The cool marble is contrasted with a teak vanity. Limestone walls behind the master bedroom headboard and on the back wall of the kitchen were inspired by a graphic kimono pattern.
The guest hale features a wall of surfboards by Firewire/Sig Zane Design, a custom albizia and koa long board by Gary Young, and a rare ‘ulu’ wood surfboard handcrafted by Tom Pohaku, which was wave-ridden before it was hung.
de Reus Architects project team – project architect: Mark de Reus; project manager: Eric Anderson; job captain: Christopher Strahle
project team – architect: de Reus Architects; interior designer: Philpotts Interiors; landscape: David Y. Tamura Associates, Inc.; structural engineer: Kahiau Design Group; photographer: Matthew Millman