Lost and Found

This high-rise kitchen remodel uncovers a surprise — windows, with an amazing view, hidden behind the old cabinets.

It’s not unusual for homeowners to uncover some surprises when they remodel. The process invariably has them poking around the dark corners of their homes, seeing things they’ve never seen before.

Usually, the enterprising remodeler finds something unpleasant-the wood more termite-eaten than expected, the wiring more frayed, the plumbing more corroded.

When the developer of the 1990 apartment building, One Waterfront Towers, built this kitchen, they had covered the windows seen here with drywall and overhead cabinets. Only a glimpse of daylight around an electrical outlet alerted the owners and designers to the view that lay behind the walls. Photos: Kyle Rothenborg


Not this time, however. When these homeowners decided to completely redo their apartment’s kitchen and started scrutinizing the space, they noticed a sliver of daylight along an electrical outlet. Curious, they asked their contractor to do a little exploratory surgery. They discovered that, behind the drywall, cabinets and refrigerator that filled the curved back wall of the kitchen, was an entire bank of plate-glass windows.

“We were floored,” says general contractor Max Suiter, of Canaan Construction & Design, Ltd. “This was a kitchen that had no outside light coming into it at all and those windows had been there all along.”

Where the kitchen meets the dining room, curved walls conceal the building’s structural columns and provide more storage space. The ash cabinets open to reveal shelves.

Suiter is old friends with the homeowners. “They’ve been clients of ours for 20 years,” he recalls. It was obvious that the remodel would capitalize on the new-found view. Located fairly high up in an end unit of One Waterfront Towers-best known as those tubular buildings next to Restaurant Row-the reclaimed windows offered a sweeping panorama, from Honolulu Harbor to the Ko’olau mountains to Diamond Head.

But removing all the cabinets that concealed the view added to the complications of designing a condo kitchen, where space is at a premium. No one likes to remodel and end up with less storage space. Suiter brought in architect John Black, AIA, of Lapis Design Partners, for his expertise. “John moved to the Islands from Boston and brought a wealth of experience from the East Coast, where architects become masters at designing small spaces.”

A windowfront cabinet is set lower than usual to accommodate one of the owners, who uses a wheelchair. The kitchen features high-tech devices, like the slender, retractable hood over the cooktop, at left.

One thing Black did to conserve space was eliminate one of the kitchen’s two entryways, converting it into counter seating, with a dining room pass-through. This counter also conceals added cabinets on the dining room side and a long appliance garage on the kitchen side. “We went in and measured all of the owners’ kitchen appliances to make sure the garage was high enough,” says Black. The garage is wired with outlets, and one need only slide back the garage door-which glides on a track to hide behind the Sub-Zero refrigerator-to find the appliances plugged in and ready to go.

Storage space was also obtained by extending the kitchen out into the surrounding apartment a bit. New cabinets now flank the entry to the kitchen and wrap around its dining room side. These are topped with the same granite countertops used inside the kitchen, set at the same height, for visual harmony.

In addition to saving space, the owners and designers wanted to give the new kitchen a clean, modern feeling. New track lighting, for instance, in a steel finish, now offers more focused task lighting. The track-lighting system itself, though, could have been an eyesore had it merely been screwed to the existing ceiling. Instead, the ceiling was lowered a little less than two inches, so all the wiring could be hidden and the tracks embedded flush with the new ceiling surface.

Condo kitchens are a design challenge due to their small size. In this case, through clever planning, the designers were able to remove all the cabinetry that blocked the view and still yield more storage space. Lighting was also improved by dropping the kitchen ceiling down 1 3/4 inches—just deep enough to embed the tracks for more dramatic track lighting.

Other space-saving and user-friendly features of the kitchen: a sleek ventilation hood that slides out of the way when not in use, self-closing drawers in the custom cabinetry that roll themselves shut at a slight touch, refrigerated drawers distributed throughout the kitchen. “In the end, the kitchen now has more storage than it did before, even though we removed those cabinets that had covered the windows,” says Black.

Adds one of the owners, “We even gained some floor space, because there had been so much space behind the old cabinets. Not a lot, but every little bit counts in a small kitchen.”

All involved are pleased with the outcome. This project has even earned professional kudos, taking the Carl Reppun Award for residential remodeling in last year’s Building Industry Association Renaissance Awards. But surely, just finding a million-dollar view behind some old drywall must rank as one of the most rewarding remodeling experiences a homeowner could have.


John August Black, AIA,
Lapis Design Partners LLC.
1188 Bishop St.,
Suite 1411. Honolulu,


General Contractor:
Canaan Construction & Design Ltd.
220 Pu’uhale Road B-2, Honolulu,


GE Monogram Thermador Ovens by Servco Kitchen Distribution Center
2841 Pukoloa St. Honolulu, 564-2430

Sub Zero Refrigerator by American Cabinetry
619 Mapunapuna Honolulu, 838-7770


Custom Cabinets and Casework By Canaan Construction LTD. 220 Pu’uhale Road B-2, Honolulu, 533-6565


Ash Veneer on Living Room Casework
Oakwood Veneer Co.
3642 West 11 Mile Road Berkley, Mich. (800) 426-6018




Harwood Flooring – Spotted Gum Pacific American Lumber Co.
142 Mokauea St. Honolulu, 845-8700


Custom cabinet hardware, self-closing drawer glides by Blum Distributed by McKillican American Inc.
2858 Kaihikapu St. Honolulu, 839-4404