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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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Downstairs, the kitchen has been given the best view in the house, with a large window looking directly out at the Waianae Mountains. In fact, Dowsett oriented the entire house due north on the lot, for just this purpose. He says, “When I first positioned the house, people asked me, ‘How come your house is crooked?’ I believe that the kitchen is the heart of a house, and I always wanted to give the best view to that area. I set this kitchen window big and cut the eaves back, just in this section, so I can see the tip of the mountain.”
The kitchen is a focal point of the house, with rich Brazilian cherry wood flooring and cabinetry, and a large picture window looking out on the Waianae Mountains. In the right-hand corner, a buffet made from recycled teak, by Bali Moon.

When it came to the interior design, Dowsett took inspiration from Indonesia, staining the posts and beams to a dark, rich shade, and complementing the wood tones with a colorful scheme of oranges and reds. The floors and the kitchen cabinetry are Brazilian cherry wood and the kitchen is tiled with river-washed granite.

In order to make the most of all this, Dowsett installed more than 200 dimmable light fixtures throughout the house, both inside and outside, making it possible to customize almost every room to fit the occasion. “It’s so nice to walk into the kitchen after dinner, and there’s just a soft glow in the kitchen,” he says.

The Dowsett’s master bedroom fits cozily under the peak of the roof. Pictured: Nemo lamp, shag leather carpet, flat-screen TV console with coconut inlay, all from Bali Moon.

The lights also throw attention onto beloved pieces of art, and brighten up the high-ceilinged areas. “When you have an open-beamed home, and you’ve got this cavernous space up there, you need to properly light it, or else you really lose a lot of the effect of having that space,” Dowsett says. “It’s important to illuminate the canopy.”

To that end, he placed PAR (Parabolic Aluminized Reflector) lights, more commonly used for stage lighting in the theater, above each rafter, to throw light all the way up to the ridge beam, and also under the eaves, to cast a warm glow over the exterior of the house.

In the end, Dowsett was able to complete the house for under $300,000, significantly less than its current value. Of course, the work is far from over—Dowsett is finishing the landscaping around the house, and prepping the back half of his 2-acre property for projects that will maintain its agricultural zoning designation. In the works: a greenhouse and a small plumeria farm.

But he is definitely enjoying the results of his labor. Gesturing about the living room, he says, “When I sit here at night, I always look up and have little memories about when I was sanding that bracket, or bolting that nut right there. It’s such a good feeling to know that I drew up the plans, poured the foundation, picked out the finishes, the windows, everything in this house, I did. It’s truly our home.”

Kitchen cabinetry: Eric Forgerson of Creative Cabinets

Bali Moon furnishings: recycled teak buffet, $1,825; Amazon lounge chair, $595; coconut inlay coffee table, $595; Indian and Thai dining sets, $58; Sakamoto book shelf, $1,195; Nemo lamp, $165; shag leather carpet, $225; flat-screen TV console with coconut inlay, $1,275.


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Honolulu Magazine May 2018
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