Eric Subert describes the first encounter with his future home as the real estate equivalent of being struck by cupid’s arrow.
“The view was so captivating that all of the dated details and ’90’s showroom furnishings became a blur,” remembers. “That was it. Where do I sign? It was like falling in love, no due diligence, no prenup!”
He hadn’t even been seriously looking at the time, but rather casually shopping around for a house that possessed some interesting architectural elements.
Subert, owner of DJDesigns, started his first business at age 23. His Mill Valley, Calif. retail floral grew into floral installations of private homes, business accounts and landscape design.
“During those years I made several trips to Hawai‘i visiting wholesale flower farms. The use of tropical flowers was still a novelty in the mid ’80s. The islands, its people and the undeniable feeling of the gentle breeze enveloped me and I was immediately at peace with the world.”
Subert moved to Hawai‘i 27 years ago and opened an event design company. “Building sets, massive floral creations, pop-up interiors and landscape design at a rapid pace with critical deadlines led me to residential design, which I find to be the most rewarding creative process. Large-scale corporate events and creativity on demand can take its toll. Good fortune allowed me to be mentored by my former partner David Lindal
on all things architectural, and DJDe-signs was featured in Architectural Digest and Departures magazine.”
And it was by magazine that Supert first came across his home.
“I picked up a throw-away real estate magazine and began lazily thumbing thru when one listing jumped out at me. A ridge home in Hawai‘i Loa on the preferred west-facing, Diamond Head side with a small photo of the house from the street.”
The home’s Legorreta-style exterior façade detail caught his eye, as did the fact that it was a custom home designed by Norman Lacayo, an architect Eric was familiar with and intrigued by.
Lacayo, who now lives in Mexico, is known in Hawai‘i as the architect of Harbor Court and the Brookside and Craigside residential buildings. He was renown for his ability to make the best use of space, often employing unusual angles. His single-family homes offered the same unique feel.
“My envisioned dream house had always been a U-shaped, open house with a courtyard and pool in the center. I was picturing a Spanish colonial design somewhere in Marbella. Walking through the front doors of this house for the first time, I realized this was that house, only a modern take, with a Mexican Riviera feel.”
His first step to adapt the house to his vision was to strip everything out of the house to the bones and start with a “beautiful blank canvas. So much about the basic architecture of the house was right that I wanted to live in that and honor the space without the built-ins, prefab cabinets, window coverings and carpeting.”
Subert combined memories of his early years living in the Hollywood Hills for a sense of 1930s and ’40s glamour with his later love of Hawaiian, Oceanic and African cultures as the inspiration for the minimalistic details he wanted to add to his home. He wanted large art walls, more stone and added wood elements.
“The feeling of a glamorous interior spaces open to the raw nature of Hawai‘i is an exciting juxtaposition. Creating a balanced tension with interior elements is my goal. The furnishings draw from the Hollywood era with Billy Haines slipper chairs, sleek low white sofas, bronze mirrors, cocktail tables, and dark wood accents. The artwork and carvings represent my love of ancient cultures and materials. Tapa cloth patterns paired with Moroccan rugs, works of art from Charlot, Eskridge and Sato blend with Native Hawaiian, African and Easter Island figures. My love of modern pieces also plays on ancient cultures and lost arts.”
As plans were drawn up and subcon-tractors brought in, Eric drew on the influence of architects and designers