This Company Builds Stylish, Sustainable Bento-Inspired Homes for Your Backyard
Latest mini-dwelling company specializes in sustainable style in a kit.
photos: david croxford
Think of it as a stylish bento box you might build in your backyard for a relative or renter to live in.
That’s the concept behind a new company offering to sell Honolulu homeowners customizable kit homes that qualify as accessory dwelling units, or ADUs.
Several months ago, Bento Homes took over the Kaka‘ako space once known as Kaka‘ako Agora and began building a model home that strives to be sleek, stylish and sustainable.
The New York-based Bento Box launched Bento Homes in Hawai‘i and linked up with local partners. Bento Homes chief operating officer Justin Koziol, who lived in Honolulu as a teen, says he’s commuting between here, Brooklyn and Nashville working on various projects for the family-owned companies.
“It’s a young, fun brand,” Koziol says. In 2015, the city approved the units on qualified properties. “With both housing and land in short supply here, dwelling units like ours offer real solutions for homeowners who want to add value to their property,” he says.
The 400-square-foot one-bedroom model unit includes a Murphy bed, a kitchen with a wall of cabinets, Bosch appliances including a full-size washer-dryer, exterior panels that can roll away, lots of built-in storage, even a mini wine fridge. All this style varies with price, of course. The model unit would sell for about $200,000, Koziol says, with high-grade bamboo exterior and interior treatments, movable track-mounted large flat-screen TV, the barbecue on the back porch—basically, the best of everything.
A one-bedroom 400-square-foot unit without all the upgrades would come in closer to $130,000 to $140,000, Koziol says.
Although other companies here offer kit homes, Koziol thinks there’s a market for the sleek, smart design Bento Homes offers, especially for people who want to build something as attractive as the home they already own.
(For example, Hardware Hawai‘i’s Hal Levy says the company sells ADU home kits that start at $22,000 for a 400-square-foot model up to $46,000 for a two-bedroom, one-and-a-half-bath, 800-square-foot model for materials alone. Contractors charge an additional labor fee to build the units: about $225 to $275 for each square foot, he says.)
“We basically do everything,” Koziol says, including site survey to determine if the property qualifies, feasibility study for a $500 fee, and designing, permitting and construction. He estimates the process takes about six months.
Sales manager Sai Weiss, who grew up in Puna’s Paradise Park on Hawai‘i Island, also sees potential in people building the homes in more remote areas where they could be off the grid.
Local architect Edward Sheehan says he sees the project as a way to match a skilled team to a homeowner. “It’s a pretty arduous process for a small project,” especially with permitting, hiring contractors and even adding solar power. “Nobody wants to hire an architect for such a small project,” Sheehan adds. This project allows them to get something designed faster, at a lower cost, he says.