Bryan Luke likes tradition with a twist. His career and house are both inspired by the achievements of the 1960s, but enlivened with Bryan’s signature modern wit and style.
Like his grandfather, father and two of his siblings, Bryan earned an MBA at Harvard before returning home to Hawai‘i to become the third generation of his family to serve as president and chief operating officer of the family’s legacy, Hawaii National Bank, founded by his grandfather, K.J. Luke. But not before doing his time in other companies to prove his readiness.
“There is an understanding in our family that you can return to work in the family business, as long as you’ve gone to work in a management role at an outside company first and been promoted twice,” notes Bryan, who spent seven years after college in financial services on the mainland at Coopers & Lybrand, Pricewaterhouse Coopers and Standard & Poor’s before returning to the family bank.
In 1960, K.J. founded Hawaii National Bank, which employs 175 people in 13 branches with some 50,000 or so customers each year. In that very same year, 1960, a home designed by well-known architect Edward Sullam was completed on the slopes of Diamond Head. The 2,500-square-foot home is a classic example of midcentury-modern architecture in its purest form, having remained safely unaltered in the hands of the original owners, the Tam family, until 2014 when Bryan purchased it.
Bryan’s appreciation of the home’s time period and layout made him determined to retain its original feel while embarking on an update. The kitchen and bathrooms felt cramped compared to modern tastes. There was also extensive water damage, and the yard was wildly overgrown on the 16,000-square-foot lot.
“The house had no termite damage, but from within the living room you could see through holes in the roof to the sky. The trees were so overgrown you couldn’t see the house from the street. Roots were digging up the asphalt so we had to redo driveway. It was a forest.”
Bryan set out to rethink the home’s surroundings and integrate the exterior living space with the interior. Tearing out the overgrowth, he discovered a magnifi- cent view of Diamond Head crater.
“I had no idea the home had a view!” he laughs.
With a redesigned pool and an outdoor party cabana bracketing the rediscovered view, it was essential to open up the home’s living spaces onto the outside while preserving the period details of craftsmanship—the woodwork, window fixtures and classic framing.
Bryan’s cousin, Kasumi Hara, who served as his interior designer and consulted on the whole project, choosing carpet, tile, paint colors, wood finishes, light fixtures and countertop material “to complement and hang together seamlessly with what was already there.”
“It was very important to make sure that anything new we selected was in keeping with the existing spaces, would not detract from the original design intent, and would ultimately become a backdrop for the views and artwork perceived throughout the spaces,” Hara adds.
Full-length, sliding-glass doors were refurbished, allowing the living room to open entirely to the pool and view. The home’s original terrazzo tile flooring was polished and restored, providing a smooth connection between indoor and out.
The dividing wall between kitchen and laundry was removed, with laundry relocated to what had been a fishing equipment area. The design team meticulously matched the home’s original mahogany wall paneling to allow for the new additions.
With its newly increased size, the kitchen was flooded with natural light making the mahogany panel walls pop, literally. Clever recessed cabinets reveal themselves as Bryan presses against the panels—one of the original design details that sold him on the house. “It was reminiscent of my grandparents’ home. It has the same style and paneling.”
That paneling had suffered considerable water damage over the years, but builders were able to sand, clean and re- finish it.
“I think one of the most impactful design decisions we made was to preserve the wood ceiling in the living room,” Hara notes. “At one point we contemplated painting it due to the extreme damage and difficultly in matching the wood finishes to the adjacent soffits and walls, but the added work was worth it. It would have been a mistake to cover it.”
A koa partition which cut the living room in half was also removed, restored and the panels were reused as a new entertainment shelf. The result was bigger spaces without major changes.
“I didn’t add any square footage under roof. Instead, we converted a rock garden into the master closet, then combined the old bathroom and closet into an updated master bath. We didn’t want to change the character of the house.”
Old houses do require major interior work. “There was a point where we realized all the kitchen sink plumbing out to the street was totally deteriorated. We needed new wiring, all new plumbing.
It could have been cheaper to build a brand-new house,” he smiles. “But details like this,” he says as he moves the latch of a beautiful crafted window someone designed 60 years ago, “you just don’t find the details like you do in this house anymore.”