New Wave

This Waikane home’s dramatic roofline mirrors the Koolau mountains behind it.

Photo: by Olivier Koning

Being an architect is all about understanding the place where you’re building, and creating a structure that fits that place. Most of the time, you’ve got a relatively limited chance to absorb a place, and figure out the best solution for the spot.

When designing this Waikane home, though, architect Phillip Camp had the advantage of having grown up in the very house that he was replacing. “There are a lot of memories tied into this place,” he says. He would end up moving up the road to Waiahole Valley in high school, and then to Southern California for a degree and a career in architecture. But after returning to Hawaii five years ago and starting up his own firm, Hawaii Architecture LLP, Camp gravitated once again to the old family property overlooking Kaneohe Bay. This is where he would build the perfect home for his own new family. And when it was time to break ground, he was more than ready.

Flo chocolate leather sectional couch ($4,896) and RIO area rug ($1,299), both from the Honolulu Design Center.

Photo: by Olivier Koning

TIP: Venetian plaster adds a burst of color to this recessed media center.

“This place has been in the back of my head for a long time,” he says. “I was going through some old college stuff, and I have sketches showing elements of this house that actually got built.”

In fact, Camp says that the inspiration for the most distinctive feature of the house, its wavy barrel roof, came from hours spent out in Kaneohe Bay, looking back at his old house set against the Koolau Mountains. “I remember thinking how great it would be to have a house that fit in perfectly with the ridges behind it,” he says. “When you’ve got an amazing landscape like this, you don’t want your house to stick out like a sore thumb.”

The rolling wave of a roof also allowed him to indulge his avant-garde tendencies without coming across in willful opposition with the surrounding houses. “I really respond to modern, minimalist design, but I wanted to make sure it looked like it made sense here,” says Camp.

A bit of a challenge, of course, in an older, rural community such as Waikane, where the built environment mostly comprises ad hoc houses originally built for economy, and offers little in the way of inspirational architectural design cues. “There’s nothing wrong with the old Hicks homes,” says Camp. “but they’re not going to serve as an architectural vernacular by any stretch.”

But Camp’s old connection with the place and its people did have a substantial impact on his design. He even shifted the massing of the entire structure out of a very kamaaina sense of respect for nearby residents. “I didn’t want to kill the makai view of our neighbors up the road, so I moved the bulk of the house’s volume off to one side of the site.”

The rec room upstairs offers an open, airy place to entertain guests.

Photo: by Olivier Koning


The resulting house is one of a kind: swoopy, asymmetrical, spare—and yet somehow perfectly suited to its environment.

Inside, Camp made the most of the unconventional, lopsided space. The heart of the house is the living room, which features a ceiling height that swings dramatically from normal on one side to hugely tall on the other, and offers a perfectly framed view of Kaneohe Bay and Chinaman’s Hat in between.

It’s overlooked by an equally dramatic second-story rec room, which takes up the uppermost area created by the swelling roofline.

The four bedrooms of the house, in contrast, are relatively small, and tucked away, all in a line on the far end of the first floor. The master bedroom suite does look out onto the ocean, but its vista is nothing compared with the one on display in the living room.

Camp says he intentionally favored the living room and rec room when apportioning out the layout. “It was primarily a product of how we like to live,” he explains. “Where do you want to spend most of your time? Do you really need a huge bedroom with a sitting area? Some people do, but it comes at the expense of other areas of the house. We wanted to give the best views, the biggest spaces to the public areas, so when you’re up and at ‘em, having fun with your family and friends during the day, you can appreciate it better.”


A curved glue-laminate beam frames an incredible view of Kaneohe Bay and Chinaman’s Hat.

Photo: by Olivier Koning

Part of the careful space management stemmed from the Camps’ decision to build on only one of the two lots that make up their property. In the interest of keeping their property taxes manageable, the ocean-front lot has been left undeveloped, save for geographically appropriate groundcover. The 3,095-square feet of living area that fits on the back lot is hardly skimping, but neither did the Camps have unlimited room to sprawl.

TIP: A clean, dark brown and white color scheme keeps the master bedroom simple.

Photo: by Olivier Koning

Inside, Camp’s wife, Jen, a designer herself, helped create a clean, understated interior design. They kept things minimal, both to play up the already-dramatic interior volumes, and to focus attention on Jen’s collection of Día de los Muertos-themed art. A few bold touches define the spaces, such as the recessed yellow Venetian plaster media center in the living room, and the strong, repeating pattern created by the dark ceiling beams and the white gyprock between them.

Custom homes can often be a bear to erect, but while Camp encountered his share of hassles during construction, few were related to the design of the house itself. The graceful barrel roof, for example, appears to be a tricky bit of construction—Camp says he had trouble convincing contractors that it was going to be feasible—but is actually a straightforward affair.

One of the master bathroom’s matched his-and-her sink areas.

Photo: by Olivier Koning

“I had just gotten done with a 300-unit development in Burbank that featured 50-odd barrel roofs, so I was pretty confident that it wasn’t brain surgery,” Camp says. A custom-cut top plate provides the curve, and then standard, straight beams are simply laid across it. The only curved, glue-laminate beam, in fact, ended up being the one on the second-floor lanai, and that one was an aesthetic element, and not a structural one.

The rooftop itself is made of Sarnafil, a heat-welded vinyl membrane product usually used in industrial settings. But Camp said he’s a big fan of Sarnafil for residential projects as well. “It emulates a metal standing seam roof, and yet it’s flexible, so you can easily do curves like this,” Camp points out. “And one of the biggest benefits near the ocean is that it won’t rust in the salt air.”

Elsewhere, Camp focused on keeping the construction simple and environmentally friendly. Efficient touches such as stacking the third bathroom directly above the second one allowed him to save money on plumbing, and grouping the bedrooms together meant that he was able to get away with air-conditioning only a small portion of the house (The majority of the place is naturally ventilated with windows and vents.). He didn’t have enough cash to install all the green technologies he wanted, but made provision in his design for future upgrades. The house is already plumbed for solar power, for example, and Camp hopes to install photovoltaic panels and perhaps even a water catchment system at some point. All told, he was able to complete the project at a cost of just $185 per square foot, less than half what a comparable house might otherwise cost, in large part thanks to the many hours he spent on the jobsite himself.

Phil and Jen Camp take in the spectacular view just outside their living room.

Photo: by Olivier Koning

There’s still work to be done, of course—next up is landscaping the front lot—but Camp says it’s immensely gratifying to look up at the new house and see the ideas he had pictured in his sketchbook so many years earlier, brought to life.        
Architect: Phillip Camp, AIA, LEED A.P.
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