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Home: 1+1=Great Renovation

Ever wish you could knock down a wall and take over your neighbor’s apartment? This couple did just that, to stunning effect.


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Annexation—it’s a fundamental human impulse. To conquer new territory, expand a personal empire, what could be more fulfilling? And while Genghis Khan-like behavior is generally frowned upon in these civilized times, just about every apartment dweller harbors at least a few Napoleonic urges. Is this a load-bearing wall? we wonder, tapping on the barrier separating us from the neighbor’s apartment. How much better would my place be if it were twice as big?

Joining two adjacent apartments created a long, expansive living room area. On the far wall, a vintage 1960 scroll from Fine Arts Associates.

When an apartment adjacent to their came up for sale, this couple actually answered those tantalizing questions, buying the unit, knocking down the dividing wall and creating one impressively spacious apartment with the newly unified space.

The original apartment was a gem in its own right. Located in the Waikiki Townhouse, a high-rise condominium originally built in 1977 as a hotel, it boasted one of Waikiki ’s least cluttered views, looking out on Diamond Head and the ocean.

Personal touches make this apartment, such as the custom-made Japanese cabinetry, the room divider that incorporates antique cedar doors and the 19th century Japanese scroll that graces the far wall.

The owner we spoke with had fallen in love with the place even before buying it. It had belonged to a friend, Maris Ozolins, a well-regarded set designer and art director from Los Angeles who had made it into a beautiful, unconventional vacation retreat for himself. “The whole place was so well thought out, but in a very understated way,” says the owner. “Maris would have a nondescript little clay pot sitting out, and then you’d find out that it was actually a 12th-century, Han Dynasty relic.”

“I told him, if you ever want to sell this place, I’ll be first in line,” the owner recalls. He got his wish in 2003, when Ozolins sold it to him for $135,000, leasehold. With such an established aesthetic already in place, the new owner changed very little, even going so far as to buy several of Ozolins’ antique furniture pieces and decorations. “It may be Waikiki, but I wasn’t interested in anything with pineapples or palm trees,” he says. “As much as I love the Hawaiian vernacular, one of the key reasons I moved to Hawaii was that it was a stepping stone to Japan.”

And so life was good. Then, in 2005, the adjacent apartment came up for sale. It was about 100 square feet smaller, and cost $100,000 more than the original unit, but the owner and his partner jumped at the chance to buy it. They had a great apartment already, sure, but new lands awaited them, just to their left.

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Honolulu Magazine March 2018
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