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Diane Seo | Photo: Matthew Millman | July 9, 2013
At one of the islands’ most exclusive residential communities, an interior genius lets in the views.
Christine Markatos Lowe knows all kinds of houses. After all, she’s tackled projects in Hawai‘i, Southern California and New York—earning well-deserved nods from coveted shelter magazines Architectural Digest and Luxe Interiors + Design Magazine along the way. So, when she was asked to create a vacation home for a young family of five on Hawai‘i Island, the task appeared straightforward enough at first glance. But the dwelling was at none other than Hualālai Resort, the ultraexclusive community on Hawai‘i Island’s Kohala Coast. The exquisite, 180-degree views of the gorgeous shoreline and the dramatic black-lava flows were aesthetic game changers. The designer’s challenge became to make a tasteful statement—without interfering with the stunning natural surroundings.
After spending two years on the project, Lowe and her team from her Santa Monica, Calif.-based, eponymously named design firm, Christine Markatos Design, proved themselves up to the job. Completed in 2010, the residence is a true gem—an 8,000-square-foot island oasis that includes a main home and two adjacent cottages, replete with carefully selected antiques and custom furnishings.
Throughout the plush five-bedroom abode, there are brilliant design moments that elevate the core concept of luxurious indoor-outdoor living to new heights. Spaces shift easily from the regal Balinese-inspired entryway, to the expansive master bathroom with a glass-tiled shower that leads to an exterior spa, to the striking great room—truly, the home’s heart—which fully opens on two sides to the elements, to reap the aesthetic benefits of the setting. “One of the details the client loved and had seen in other residences was doors where everything opens up,” says the designer, who has an arts background in drawing, sculpture and printmaking.
Most importantly, the family wanted a comfortable place to escape to—a stylish, yet welcoming, retreat where they could entertain and host friends and family. Naturally, they relished the views, inspiring Lowe to come up with a relatively simple and direct design that would resonate with the environs. “We didn’t want anything that impacted the view, so you could see the lava flow, ocean and trees,” explains Lowe.
Although designing the interior architecture (alongside exterior architect GM Construction) and selecting the furnishings was far from routine, Lowe did come with an advantage. She had already worked on multiple homes for the same clients, lending her an intimate understanding of their tastes and needs. Her task became to harmonize their preferences with the setting.
A key decision was to select top-of-the-line materials that would comprise the home’s elegant structure. One of the home’s stars is cumaru, a kind of Brazilian teak that was used for the flooring, kitchen cabinets and ceiling beams. Local sandstone adorned several surfaces. “The home has a lot of beautiful architectural moments, but it’s kind of a simple house,” says Lowe. “I kept it as such because of the materials. I let them speak for themselves.”
After the interior construction was complete, the mission turned to decor, and Lowe and her designers searched across the country for furnishings, artwork and fabrics that would complete the home’s vision. While Lowe didn’t intend an homage to any particular country or design style, there are distinctive Asian influences, coupled with an intentional blend of old and new. Thus, while the overall look is contemporary, vintage touches abound, thanks to pieces like an antique bronze vessel from China’s late Ming to early Qing periods and a carved camphor-wood panel, also from China, circa 1920. Other highlights include inlaid Syrian chairs, custom-designed wood and bronze coffee tables, specially made concrete countertops, custom-designed upholstery and a brushed stainless hood in the kitchen, which Christine Markatos Design created. “The pieces gave off such personality, and I loved the way they fell into place,” she says. “We discovered the rooms during the process.”
Color was another important element, with different palettes selected for each space. While the great room was splashed with green, rich lavender, plum and yellow, the kitchen took on a blue tone, and the bedrooms featured pale green. Lowe describes the property as an “earthy home,” reflecting a rich color palette and incorporating a variety of interesting textiles and patterns.
Overall, Lowe says she enjoyed the thematic process of the project, which morphed as it went along. The final result turned out to be even more beautiful than she had hoped for. The homeowners have embraced their new residence, as well. They now return to Hualālai as often as they can, with lots of friends and family members coming in and out. “They love the house,” Lowe says. “They spend quite a bit of time there, which makes me happy. Overall, it’s a smash hit.”