Polished to Perfection


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Schmit’s work offers an elegant minimalist design with a natural indoor/outdoor relationship and floorto- ceiling glass to blur the boundaries between inside and out.

When Roy Nishimura Set Out To Design His Dream Home, He Wanted to capture the spirit of design by his favorite architect, Tadao Ando.

“For as long as I can remember, I was drawn to Japanese design, especially the style and attention to detail of Tadao Ando,” Nishimura explains.

Ando achieved early recognition with the Azuma House in 1976. Built in Osaka, Japan, the home featured trademark elements of his work: smooth concrete walls and expansive use of glass. The Azuma House became a touchstone for Nishimura’s plan to create a minimalist, low-maintenance, functional Hawai‘i home that pushed the envelope of modern design.

He soon discovered he had a childhood memory of Ando’s work to draw from. “As a child, I would go to Japan during my summer breaks, and I always remember strolling through the neighborhood, where my grandparents lived, admiring all the architecture. There was this one concrete house in particular that I was drawn to; it was modern and definitely stood out from many of the homes. Fast forward to when I was researching the house, I saw a photograph of this same home, designed by none other than Tadao Ando. It became the [source] of inspiration for my design.”

Having chosen Portlock for their love of the area, Roy, with his wife, Amber, hired architect Jim Schmit to create the flowing spaces of this light-filled, energy-efficient, naturally ventilated home.

Schmit identified the driving influences in the design as the Nishimuras’ desire for a modern, minimalist house with a courtyard focus.

“A natural, indoor-outdoor flow was achieved through this courtyard orientation and maximizing the use of glass,” Schmit explains. “We are big fans of Tadao Ando, who has done exceptional structures out of cast-in-place concrete. We wanted to achieve the look of traditional, Hawaiian territorial-polished concrete floors, and were able to do so using hand-troweled control joints, which created a more elegant and authentic product.

“The exterior concrete around the pool is a continuation of the interior floor, using broad steps to approach the pool. Part of the challenge of the concrete was for it not be too overpowering, and thus, a balance of materials was critical. There is a recessed panel of hard wood on the portion of the lanai that is covered, which adds warmth to the area.”

This was Nishimura’s first experience in designing and building a home from the ground up, and “although I live for a good challenge, there was steep learning curve,” Nishimura admits. “Working with a specific concrete as the finished foundation throughout the home and keeping the unfinished concrete design for the staircase structure was a challenge.

“Pouring large quantities of cast in place [of] concrete is a very unforgiving process,” Schmit adds. “If you make a mistake, it can be a disaster. So it was extremely important to select skilled craftsmen who were familiar with the product and the theories of architectural simplicity.”

Nishimura says some professionals within the industry thought the size of the lot was narrow and long for what he was trying to accomplish.

“Others questioned how the home would ‘fit’ into the overall aesthetics of the area. There were even people in the neighborhood who had seen the bare lot and were surprised at what we built,” Nishimura notes. “We conducted an endless amount of due diligence and researched every aspect of the home, from the design, structure and logistics. There is not a space unaccounted for.”

“Everything had to be perfectly crafted,” Schmit says. “The simpler and more minimal the detail, the more successful the project is. The flow of people through the space is smooth and uninterrupted. Same thing is true of light and air. Everything had to be thought-out, and in harmony with everything else: Balance of light, air, movement, materials was critical. Volume of space, openness and transparency [added] to the ambiance, and are balanced by incorporation of small, intimate spaces as well.”

“Once you step into this home, your senses are heightened,” Nishimura shares. “From whatever vantage point, you will see art, modern design and feel calm. You will notice the relationship between lines, materials and space. It’s beyond design, rather an experience. This was an extraordinary experience, and we look forward to future projects. But for now, we are just enjoying our home.”

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