A hillside home in Lanikai takes a modernist approach to Island living.
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What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the words a home in Lanikai? If you imagine a cozy, kama‘a-ina-style beachfront cottage, you’d usually be right. But not this time. This month, we look at a recently remodeled house that defies expectations about the way a Lanikai home can look and feel.
The first thing that distinguishes this Lanikai house from most of its neighbors is its location, perched halfway up the bluff behind all the beachfront homes. It is nestled amid a rain forest and rocky outcroppings, a raucous, primeval atmosphere. It also juts out from the hillside, offering an expansive view of the neighborhood below and the turquoise ocean beyond. This singular location inspired an equally singular residence—a lean, modernist home designed and hand-made in 1970 by its first owner, an architectural designer named Alvin Badenhop.
About a decade ago, Badenhop sold the house to its current owners, who, after living with its idiosyncrasies—not all of them positive—brought in Honolulu architect Peter Vincent to remodel the exterior and major upstairs living areas. “The home had a funky kind of charm that the new owners and I really liked,” recalls Vincent. “We definitely wanted to keep a lot of what was working.” However, some things weren’t working at all, such as the leaky rook, the somewhat irregular plumbing and wiring and an interior that was far too rough-hewn and dark. “The inside reminded me of a Buzz’s Steakhouse,” describes one of the owners.
How did such an eclectic home, so full of pluses and minuses, come about? You could say that Badenhop learned from the master of idiosyncratic residences—he was trained in architectural design at Frank Lloyd Wright’s campus in Arizona, Taliesin West. This influence comes though loud and clear in Badenhop’s Lanikai home. At first, it’s apparent in the home’s spare, modern lines and flat roof, all emphasizing the horizontal. The influence is even more apparent when walking through the home. Badenhop seemed to have really taken to heart Wright’s principles of “organic architecture,” which call for a building to feel as if it sprung naturally from its site.
For example, the physical and spiritual heart of the home is a massive concrete form, roughly pyramid-shaped and filled with large, visible lava rocks that could easily have come from the site. This concrete form rises straight up from the hillside, through the downstairs bedrooms, then up through the second floor living areas, terminating in the greenhouse-enclosed entryway. The entire home seems to project out from this massive structure, as much as it does from the hillside.
Wright’s homes were often centered on such stone anchors, usually, though not in this case, functioning as fireplaces. “This Lanikai home actually had a small, separate fireplace off on the side,” says Vincent, “But we always thought of this concrete structure as the hearth of the home.” (Perhaps not coincidentally, this concrete-and-stone form looks remarkably like the concrete foundations of Taliesin West.)