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On The Green

With the Waialae Golf Course as a backyard, this house bends and curves to get the best views.


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Photo: Augie Salbosa

Inspiration can come from many different sources when designing a custom home. Lifestyle, cultural influences, artistic taste. Budget. In this case, owners Dwight and Donna Hamai got their direction from the lot itself.

The couple found this Kahala property in 2002 and immediately recognized its potential. It’s one of about 60 residential lots bordering the Waialae Country Club Golf Course, but, while most of the lots are rectangular, this one forms a generous wedge shape, fanning out from a narrow  front facing onto a cul-de-sac to a wide backyard with a panoramic view of the golf course.

The layout of this house bends and curves to fit the wedge-shaped lot.

Photo: Augie Salbosa


They initially planned to renovate and expand the existing house, but realized that, in order to do the lot justice, they needed to start from scratch. “My main thought was to take advantage of that peninsula of land,” says Dwight. “I wanted a sweeping configuration to the house, something circular or radial that would capture the vista. I didn’t want a square house.”

They didn’t have to go far to find an architect who could design exactly what they were looking for: John Ida, a principal of local design firm Urban Works Inc., lived right next door to their previous home.

After hearing what the Hamais wanted, Ida came up with a lens metaphor for the house. The heart of the house is the central section, which includes the living room, kitchen and family room as one high-ceilinged, curving stretch. “The concept was to make it feel like a hotel lobby, open and inviting,” explains Ida. The private areas—bedrooms, bathrooms, utility room—are grouped on the left side of the house, and the garage and Dwight’s home theater room sit at the other end of the curve. Together, these segments tightly follow the arc of the lot itself, maximizing views and effectively shielding the outside areas from the two neighboring houses.

Ida gave the place a modern feel by leaving structural elements exposed and raw, and contrasting them with more refined elements. “I wanted to have the juxtaposition of raw concrete and finished mahogany,” he says. “I wanted even more concrete, actually, but the costs kept climbing higher.” The concrete columns holding up the central curve of the house work well against the rich colors of the windows and the brushbox wood flooring.

Photo: Augie Salbosa


The cedar ceiling also catches the eye. Rather than trying to exactly follow the curve of the room, Ida left the cedar pieces straight, give the ceiling a segmented and textured look.

Ida’s unconventional design wowed the Hamais, but it didn’t make the same impression on the local homeowners’ association. While the house technically conformed to the neighborhood’s one-story limit, the high ceilings made the house appear taller, and the radial layout also drew attention. Donna says, “The association gave us a hard time, because they didn’t want a sloped roof; they wanted a more traditional look that matched the rest of the neighborhood.”

It took an organized effort to convince the association board that round was indeed beautiful. “I drove around the neighborhood and snapped pictures of all the different rooflines that were already there, and John presented it all to the board,” she says. “Finally, they approved it.”


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Honolulu Magazine June 2018
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