Maui Retreat Re-Imagined

Project Description


The original home on this stunning ocean peninsula was built in the late 1990’s as a retreat, and featured deep overhangs, smallish windows and dense tropical foliage. The owner, who has lived here intermittently for 20 years, tired of the limited ocean views and awkward connections to the site, as well as the dated traditional style with wainscoting, heavy moldings and Tuscan columns. During design, we decided to reorganize the public spaces and update everything; all materials and all building systems. In total we transformed roughly 10,000 square feet each of interior and exterior living spaces including covered walkways, outdoor rooms, patios and the pool area, to become simple, modern spaces now light filled, easy to maintain, to use and to navigate. Most importantly, the house is now connected to the site so that you feel the ocean is a part of the house experience and that you are in an ever-changing sculpture. Colors, reflections, materials, shimmering water and light, grounded by wood, sand and the rich red earth, make you feel a part of, not separate from, nature.

The design relocated the public functions of the home. The original formal dining room which faced away from the ocean next to the old kitchen, became the children’s wing with bunk bedrooms for younger family members with an adjacent TV play area. The old living room, facing the ocean, became the dining, living and game room. The greatest transformation was changing a dark introverted den TV room, poorly connected to the adjacent pool, into the open great room – now the center of the home.

At the guest wing, the small dark bedrooms were opened with a wall of glass open to the ocean and grounds. The formerly enclosed bathrooms are now open except for frosted glass enclosures separating the water closet and shower. Light shimmers off the mirror faced closet, the frosted glass entry door, and stacked glass table beside the floating bathtub. Outside, there are frosted glass showers separations between the guest bedrooms which frame the ocean view.

The distinguishing features of this project are all about the bold extent of the design execution, and the resulting feeling of simplicity and consistency throughout. We used intense, unique colors, and glass everywhere. Glass walls can be fins, frosted and clear glass sheets, even a 37’ long wall of doors with 14’ of doors on each side, which move in all directions to latch at the corners. The entry wall is transparent glass, 20’ wide with wide pivot doors. Our materials are used boldly: walls of backlit onyx; thick cast glass used as an island counter and glass table top; green quartzite on counters, walls and benches; and sunny yellow figured onyx on counters and walls. Cedar on the vaulted ceilings throughout with indirect light soffits which gives a warm human feel to the large spaces. Crisp, textured limestone floors throughout the 20,000 square foot project, ground and tie all the spaces together.

Design Challenge

The central design value was to shift from a traditional enclosed building to a light filled open enclosure relating to the site and ocean.   The first and most important challenge of the project was to change and reorganize the old den with the best island views and the nearby pool, into the center of the home. Programmatically we added a new kitchen, dining area, and powder room, keeping the lounging and TV area, and  changed the connection to the swimming pool to make it a part of this space. Philosophically we made this area the heart of the home, as everyone gravitates here and everything radiates from here.   Removing the wall that separated the old den and patio required immense footings, posts and beams, and the entire surrounding 65’ of wall became glass doors. We added skylights for additional light, and reframed the roof, finding a uniform pleasing shape for the vault and a light soffit to unite the two totally different spaces. The new adjacent kitchen was created by removing walls, and we opened up the ceiling and added the light soffit to incorporate it into the larger great room.   This area was never well connected to the pool or the views. First we created usable decks and outdoor spaces around this area, then worked on the pool. Structure became minimal and long stretches of glass and doors were used. Stone became translucent walls. Walls expected to go the ceiling went only to the soffit, thus floating within the larger space. In the master bedroom, all walls became glass doors, so you are totally surrounded and immersed in 270 degrees of the land and the ocean. For materials like the ceilings, counters and cabinets, and floors we used the colors of the beach, red soil, grass, trees and most important the sea; the accent colors are those of the flowers and tropical fish.   We created an infinity edge to the swimming pool, and added 3 different infinity-waterfall pools between the house and the pool to visually connect the house deck to the pool and the pool to the ocean. An outdoor kitchen and bar was added here for gathering, especially as the sun goes down, and interesting lighting so people stay here into the evening. We added, steps, doors, and paths to connect everything, including all the bedrooms, to this heart of the house.   The innovations are in pushing the materials to extremes: hiding the minimal structure allowed us to push the walls to become glass enclosures. The water features are designed in such a way to join the ocean right to the great room deck. Electronic shades can be dropped down as sun shades, but are totally hidden in the ceiling soffit. Small simple keypads control the extensive systems that run this home, including the pool, spa, lights, shades, music, temperature and humidity, seamlessly, in what is really an extreme physical environment.

Physical Context

The physical context in this project is very unique and powerful, and is the reason there was a building here originally. However, the original home was set up withdrawn from its environment, only about the interior spaces and not necessarily about the exterior world, without strong connections to views and context. We wanted to change this and become nearly seamless with the environment, by removing and eroding building walls, and by bringing outside materials and colors inside. We also wanted the building to be connected to the site physically by bringing the natural features of the site into the home, referring to and reflecting the surrounding ocean and the tropical vegetation.   The reimagined spaces draw from the sparkle and shimmer of the ocean, including the reflective nature and translucence of the sea. The roof tiles colors, for instance, incorporate shifting hues of the ocean. The reflections, colors and back-litghting on the green and yellow slabs of onyx and quartzite countertops change and bounce light around throughout the day reflecting the sun, sea and shore, and tropical vegetation. The glass partitions and fins sparkle, yet divide and define without hard walls; while the stacked glass light fixtures shift and shimmer green and blue light. The sparkling iridescent colors of the pool tiles send rich, deep light through the water. The resulting color changes constantly with the wind and the sky, just like the sea.   The total result is a house that sits well on and complements its site, an environment that enters the house in spirit and imagination, and in real terms with materials. Meanwhile the paving, walks and steps that unite the two, seamlessly move from one to the other. Further from the house, the man-made and the natural totally weave transitioning to just the beautiful environment. On looking back to the house, though, you see the building reflecting this rich natural world.