The Art of the Apartment
More rooms aren't always better. This downtown Harbor Square renovation devotes 2,000 square feet to creating a spectacular studio apartment.
By Michael Keany
PHOTO BY HAL LUMMore rooms aren't always better. This downtown Harbor Square renovation devotes 2,000 square feet to creating a spectacular studio apartment.
Apartment Living can sometimes feel like dwelling on a sheet of graph paper—a square box, divided into smaller square boxes. Some high-rise restrictions are immovable, of course, but the owners of this downtown condominium show that it is possible to sweep away the grid and create a more organic layout.
The owner bought the first half of the apartment in 1986: a 1,000-square-foot unit high in the downtown Harbor Square condominium. After living in Kailua for years, he had been ready for a more urban experience-walking to work in the morning, gazing over the city lights at night.
PHOTO BY DAVID CROXFORD
As the maxim goes, though, you can never be too thin, too rich or have a big enough apartment. When, in 2001, the next-door neighbor passed away, the owner and his partner decided that their place could be twice as nice, and purchased the newly available unit. It remained in its original two-bedroom configuration, but the couple didn't plan on keeping it that way long.
They hired architect John Black to handle the renovation that would unite the two apartments, with a relatively short list of design requirements. "We wanted to continue the open layout that Greg Mills had started," recalls the owner. "We didn't want something Hawaiian; we wanted a more universal look. And [my partner] wanted someplace to display his art."
Photo by David Croxford
by Kathryn Drury Wagner
If you're looking for a gift idea for someone who loves design and home style, try The Hawaiian House Now (Harry N. Abrams, $40). Frequent HONOLULU contributor Linny Morris photographed 20 homes, each more vibrant and inviting than the next, while the text, by Malia Mattoch-McManus, shares insights from the homeowners, such as Wanda Watumull. But be careful! It's the kind of book that may cause you to knock down a wall, buy a new table or switch to red throw pillows.
It's possible to walk from the front door to the master bedroom without encountering a single door, but Black did manage to subtly divide each of the different living areas visually. The hallways leading to the guest bedroom and the master bedroom, for example, both turn corners before opening onto the living room. "This design gives the feeling of more space since you see the artwork displayed on the hallway wall," he says. "But there is privacy, since you can't see further down the hallway."Eliminating unnecessary doors throughout the apartment provides practical benefits, as well. The huge, south-facing, floor-to-ceiling windows offer a beautiful view of the city and the harbor, but they do let in the afternoon sun. Air conditioning becomes vital to combat the heat, and the open layout helps promote air circulation throughout the apartment.
The owners say they don't miss the divisions of a conventional apartment. "The flow of the place really works, from a functional standpoint," says the owner. "We each have our own space when we need it, but there are very few boundaries between the different areas."
On a day-to-day basis, they end up spending most of their time in the bedroom/living room area. "This is really our living center, here," says one. "I tell people it's like a big hotel suite. If you checked into a W hotel suite, you'd have a similar layout."
PHOTO BY HAL LUMThis space was once two separate apartments. Track and recessed lighting highlight the art throughout.
As for aesthetics, Greg Mills had done a pretty good job of creating a spare, Asian look with his original makeover, but these owners wanted to take it one step further, stripping away extraneous details and focusing on the clean lines and sharp edges. The ultimate goal was to throw as much attention as possible on the owners' extensive art and furniture collection. "The art was one of the main considerations when we started the renovation," says the owner's partner. "We wanted a very clean, loft type of space, something with a neutral background. We didn't even think of another color for the walls."
PHOTO BY HAL LUMTravertine flooring is used throughout the apartment; a rug adds texture in the living room area.
Every gallery needs proper lighting, and Black used track and recessed light fixtures to illuminate strategic areas throughout the apartment. To keep the setup unobtrusive, he dropped the ceiling level an inch and a half to accommodate the wiring and hardware. The overall effect is impressive, particularly at night, when the city lights transform the apartment into a warm, dramatic setting.
PHOTO BY DAVID CROXFORD
Architect: John Black, AIA (545-4000)
Contractor: Thomas Toma (524-5143)