On The Green

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

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.”



The raw feel of exposed concrete columns helps balance the rich colors of mahogany and cedar.

Photo: Augie Salbosa

For the interior design, the couple went clean and simple, to match the architecture. As owners of Trendtex Fabrics, a fabric wholesale company that specializes in tropical and floral designs, they might be expected to have a Hawaiian-themed interior, but, as Dwight says, “I’ve been in this business for 30-plus years, so I’m kind of tired of seeing tropical prints. As accents, maybe, but I didn’t want to see the same thing at home that I see all day at work.”

The large, western-facing panels of glass do invite the hot afternoon sun in, but Ida offset some of the oven effect by using gas-filled, double-pane glass throughout the house. Often used in colder climates to keep the heat in a house, it works just as well here to keep heat out. Tinted film on the windows’ interiors offers additional solar protection, and gives the house privacy from passing golfers as well, thanks to its reflectivity.

Dramatic touches, such as this covered entry-way, add a modern feel throughout the house.

Photo: Augie Salbosa

There was another unique environmental factor that Ida and the Hamais had to consider with so many windows. Living next to a golf course sounds like an idyllic existence, but it does come with its own special hazard: errant balls sent flying towards the house by luckless golfers. Dwight says it really hasn’t been as much of a problem as he expected—golf balls have broken just three windows in about two years—but it’s not unusual to find the swimming pool being used as a water hazard.

As for the windows, well, there’s only so much you can do. “In the end, you just have to live with it,” says Dwight. “I ordered about 50 extra glass windows, just in case we have an incursion, so I can replace them almost immediately.”

Other parts of the house are easier to protect. Ida helped shield the roof using rubber shingles by Echostar. “We didn’t want to use metal or slate, because the golf balls would hit and crack them.”

But, by and large, living next to a golf course has been an experience that the Hamais have fallen in love with. They even threw a big party during the last Sony Open, their daughter selling water and snacks to the passing golfers right from their backyard. And, of course, you can’t beat the view. “Looking out of the window, it makes the place feel like a small estate,” says Dwight.      

Architect: John J. Ida, AIA, Urban Works Inc.
Contractor: Lyle Hamasaki Construction Inc.
Interior Design: Shari Saiki Design