Builder’s Delight

Kawika Dowsett builds luxury homes for a living. But when it came time to create a place of his own, he went for simple, open and Island-style.


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Kawika Dowsett is a North Shore kind of guy. His father worked at Dillingham Ranch, and Dowsett spent his high school years in Kahuku, surfing and enjoying the relaxed pace of life. He’s even been able to find a way to make a living in the area: building custom luxury homes along the North Shore with his contracting business, Imagine Development. He does so much work building homes costing $750,000 to $3 million in places such as Laie, Shark’s Cove and Pupukea that he rarely ventures into urban Honolulu.

Kawika Dowsett and son Koamalu relax outside their Waialua home.

“The surf is definitely a big part of why I’m living here,” says Dowsett. “Doing work you love and being able to do it in this area has been a blessing.”

When it came time in 2002 for him to build a place of his own, then, it made perfect sense to settle in Waialua, just minutes from the beach. Although he could have easily done something over the top, Dowsett wanted something simple, that reflected his surf lifestyle. “A lot of people, when they have money, they just want to go off,” says Dowsett. “All the fanciest finishes, all of the modern conveniences, automation systems, the whole nine yards. But I didn’t need that for my own place. I just wanted a comfortable, open, family home, that was affordable for us to build.”

Dowsett also wanted the experience of creating a home for himself, from the ground up. He drew up the plans for the structure himself, a sturdy, four-bedroom, three-bathroom post-and-beam construction that proudly shows off the inner workings of the house. And then he erected the house in whatever spare time he could find, with the help of a few workers from his Imagine Development crew—carpenter Mike Daley and laborers Douglas and Filipo Franco.

(left) Massive Douglas fir timbers define this living room space. Sakamoto book shelf from Bali Moon. (right) A broad lanai makes for easy entertaining. Pictured: Amazon lounge chair, coconut-inlay coffee table and Indian and Thai dining sets, all from Bali Moon.

All in all, construction took a year and a half. In the meantime, Dowsett and his family actually lived at the job site, five people crammed into a 780-square-foot cottage that Dowsett built in preparation for his main project.

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