Beyond Borders

Karl Mench transforms a small lot into a stellar home

When Karl Mench, an architect and general contractor, bought a two-bedroom, one-bath fixer-upper in Kailua eight years ago, he had a vision for the dilapidated structure.

He saw beyond the severely outdated electrical wiring and plumbing system, beyond the unusable appliances. He saw potential in its location – at the end of a cul-de-sac in up-and-coming Coconut Grove a few blocks from the beach – and in what he could do with a slab-on-grade foundation and CMU walls.

And it helped that, at $175,000, he could afford it.

“It was a great deal, but it was worse than a fixer-upper,” says Mench, owner of Concept 2 Completion, which specializes in custom residential architecture and design. “It was a disaster. It was insane. But it was perfect, too.”

After a quick remodel to make it livable for him and his wife, Mench decided he wanted to dramatically transform the space, adding an office and two bathrooms to the existing one-story structure. After about nine months of renovation, which wrapped up last year, the living space grew from 1,350 square feet to about 3,000, much of that due to an addition of a second floor that extends over a new lanai.

It’s this extension, which houses his office, that demonstrates Mench’s creative flair with creating innovative, livable spaces.

As if suspended in mid-air, the office is fully enclosed in glass and overlooks both the dining area and a striking atrium, easily the signature feature in the newly remodeled home. The walls of steel-bordered glass frame the lush Koolau Mountains in the distance, not to mention Mench’s avocado tree.

“It’s just a great view,” Mench says. “The whole project was about pushing it and putting new ideas and thoughts out there – and then living with it. That’s the most important part of experimenting with design. You gotta be able to live with your experiment.”

The classically urban design blends the hard lines of metal and the warmth of wood, creating a distinctly industrial feel in this island home. Mench paid attention to how the details would work together, from the coral floors to the handmade steel doors. Each element – whether stone, metal or merbau wood – seamlessly interacts in a way that makes the highly designed space seem organically formed.

The front door alone is a study in this architectural concept. Standing 13 feet and 5 feet across, this stunning, custom steel-and-glass door opens the house in a dramatic way.

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