A Waimanalo Retreat Has All The Trappings Of A Beachside Hideaway And More

The owners imagined their future dream home with four goals in mind: to create a modern expression of beach living, establish visually interesting spaces, celebrate art in a variety of forms, and affirm a connection with nature. The result? A modern design by architect Melanie Islam of MASON that highlights flow and serenity (all images by Olivier Koning).

Along the tranquil Waimanalo coast, one distinctive home stands out among the other beachfront properties. With cool white walls and powerful geometric forms, it’s easy to imagine that this ocean retreat might clash in stark contrast with the lush greenery that surrounds it. Instead, this home embraces the concept of shakkei, an ancient East Asian landscape technique that merges a garden setting with a distant landscape to create a seamless panorama.

Japan practiced shakkei principles while designing feudal gardens as early as the Heian period (794 to 1185 CE), while the Chinese coined the Mandarin term for the practice — jiejing — in the 17th century and gave it a definition: “borrowed scenery.”

Here, that scenery includes the blue waters off the Waimanalo coastline and the majestic splendor of the Ko‘olau Mountains. Like an infinity pool, this home does not interrupt the view but rather becomes part of the vista itself.

“Framed on the one side by a postcard blend of turquoise water, white sand, and palm trees; and on the other by a massive, eroded caldera wall, [this] house needed to connect to its context,” the owners say. “Large open interior spaces adapted well to the need for sight lines from almost any spot in the house. The garden provided a lovely contrast between the intimacy and richness of a private refuge and the massive backdrop of the ancient crater walls.”

When the owners of this Waimanalo ocean retreat imagined their future dream home, they had four goals: Create a modern expression of beach living, establish visually interesting spaces, celebrate art in a variety of forms, and affirm a connection with nature at every opportunity. The resulting design by architect Melanie Islam and her team at MASON highlights flow and serenity, with a modern charm.

Consider the curving stone walkway that cuts across the lush front lawn, a veritable garden oasis filled with ti leaf, split leaf philodendrons, palm trees and clusia rosea. This path leads to a monumental pair of steel doors clad in bronze hardware and Japanese shousugi ban (charred cedar board), a traditional Japanese process that involves burning and burnishing wood to make it fire retardant as well as resistant to insects, rot and decay.

Beyond the foyer, the living room is both open yet cozy, with sliding glass doors that frame views of the Pacific Ocean.

As guests take in the sights, a cluster of slightly surreal visitors take in the guests; international artist Arturo Alvarez specially created a series of slender sculptures, made of steel and Japanese cord, to respectfully observe the living room. Perhaps they’re admiring the home’s clerestory windows, which let in light that plays with a sculpted chandelier overhead and casts unique patterns throughout the day. Meanwhile, a dynamic single stringer spiral staircase acts as a subtle divider between the living and the dining rooms. The expansive kitchen is both elegant yet functional, with a powerful Branco Tourmaline granite stovetop island tempered by whitewashed reclaimed teak floors and sleek gray cabinets.

In the morning, sunlight peeks through a corner window in the master bedroom. In the evening, brilliant sunsets pour in from The Palladium, an indoor/outdoor room — named for the spacious Hollywood theater and dance hall — whose warm tones are thanks to red-stained concrete floors and reclaimed teak paneling. (This teak is the same sort used on the steel brise-soleil louvers that protect rooftop corners and windows from an overabundance of sunlight or strong breezes.) “Open on two sides, always shaded, vistas of our own garden, the mountains and tree line… It is the perfect room to fall into at any time of day or evening,” the owners say.

Upstairs, bohemian vibes give character to the spacious second floor with tapa-inspired bed linens, furry rugs, and colorful imagery of dragons and expressive ocean life by local illustrator Kate Wadsworth that adorns several walls and door frames. (“The allegory was good over evil, with ‘good’ exemplified by the feminine octopus and her penchant for fun and play, sweetness and love,” say the owners. “She is reaching out and offering a bouquet to ‘evil,’ the dragon opposite who lives in the dark and murky den of immorality, wickedness, and degeneracy. It is both a political and moral statement.”) This playful and natural ambiance extends outside, where a coral wall helps divide the front exterior space from the backyard, and a grassy easement separates the back patio from the public beach behind the property.

This waterfront home is as stunning as it is sustainable; 70% of the materials from the deconstruction of the previous house were saved from the landfill and salvaged for reuse. Meticulously designed walls, doors, windows, and roof make this house a high-performance building envelope, meaning the space is optimized to act as an energy efficient thermal barrier, allowing for comfortable temperatures throughout the day which reduces the need for excessive air conditioning. For example, the Palladium’s walls are folding glass doors that can be opened to welcome trade winds into the home. There are many more technical elements to describe, but perhaps the owners describe their ocean retreat best: “It is the supreme Zen space.”

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