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Fresh Start

A casually elegant residence with ranch-camp appeal on the Kona Coast calls Old Hawai‘i home.

Taking inspiration from the traditional Hawaiian kauhale, or “village,” Walker Warner Architects created an intimate environment where individual hale open up to one another.

When Greg Warner, principal of Walker Warner Architects, sought inspiration while designing the single-family residence Kakapa Bay—a luxuriously restrained response to more elaborate resort architecture on Hawai‘i Island’s Kona Coast—he found it in familiar stomping grounds (quite literally, in fact, as the property sits on land he roamed as a child).

While working with the homeowners and fellow Walker Warner architects David Shutt and Thomas Hendricks, Warner set about imbuing Kakapa Bay with the natural authenticity and easy island lifestyle that the Kona Coast engenders. Informed by the kauhale—which means “village,” or a cluster of buildings, like a camp—the home’s warm, come-as-you-are character reflects a more casual vernacular, with 5,700 square feet of enclosed space spread across four separate structures on nearly 1 acre. Although far more spatially considered than its forerunners, which Warner remembers as “interesting, charming, eclectic little camps that evolved over time,” Kakapa Bay captures their homesteading essence—only with a thoroughly refined finish.

Linking these structures are open spaces and courtyards; small bridges that seamlessly rejoin the scattered. Along with individual hale—the master bedroom, main living area, and a guest bedroom/recreation space—comes an auto court; ocean-facing pool; and lush, thriving landscape, complete with fruit-bearing trees and plants. While lānais encourage groups to gather and broad overhangs provide shade, the home’s orientation allows trade winds to breeze between buildings for breathability, comfort and an overall sense of calm the homeowners envisioned.

“Old-timey is kind of a funny word, but for whatever reason it hits the mark,” says Warner, describing the property. “Old places last; they aren’t taken away because there’s something about them that’s charming. That was the goal.” It was one achieved in close and generous collaboration with builder Oakes Management and landscape designer David Y. Tamura Associates. Philpotts Interiors conceived the home’s cool yet sophisticated interiors, which feature a light-reflecting palette and natural furnishings at home in a traditional Hawaiian milieu.

Although something of a departure from Walker Warner’s often contemporary architectural leanings, Kakapa Bay is an exercise in referencing more of the traditional. It’s useful, with each building serving a specific purpose, and flexible, with a series of adjoining rooms in the guest bedroom and recreation hale, for example, operating as a kind of modernized sleeper hotel. It’s also practical, with openable, pavilion-like buildings blurring the lines between the indoor/outdoor. Durable materials like white coral stone, colored concrete and western red cedar add aesthetic appeal but ably withstand the generally corrosive environment.

The idea, after all, was to build what would endure, not what Warner calls “the big architectural statement.” “Oftentimes, particularly in the resort environment, it can be about one-upping the next project,” he explains. “This home was an exercise in ‘do no harm,’ so to speak—don’t overdevelop, don’t overarchitect, don’t overpopulate.”

Instead, Kakapa Bay speaks to our soul connection to certain places. While Warner calls the residence a “legacy project modernized to recall the little standalone jewels along the coastline,” its delighted occupiers are calling it home for extended vacations several times a year. Here, they entertain loved ones, injecting their own history into a past that’s ever-present. For instance, the artisan-made mortar used to set the coral stone has the same texture and matrix of mortar used in the stonework of a nearby church—thanks to a local historian who was specially consulted on the undertaking.

It’s not a surprise for a boy whose adventurous ambitions for coastal campouts first introduced him to Kakapa Bay, or the man who skirted the “grand architectural statement” for a softer expression of island life. Now, Warner takes the most pride in the home’s simplest charms: “The impact of walking through the small gate is understated because it’s already spectacular,” he says. “The home is on the ocean, so it could easily present that view, but doesn’t; instead, you kind of turn your back to it and land in this little garden. At that point, it’s not about buildings. It’s not about the architecture. It’s about what’s left.”

And, certainly, what will last.