Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The house we didn't get, and...design challenge.

We were recently visiting the mainland, myself for a brief medical visit (regular 6 month CT scan, Pseudo-myxoma Peritonei, no discernable tumor growth.....no news is good news. Dr. Holbrook.....my appreciation knows no bounds.), and Renee to receive her Doctoral papers, visit with friends and family....and 2,000,000 other things. Three days was enough for me, but my wife and daughter stayed for nearly two weeks. Better them than I, sayeth me, haha.

Anyway, Renee returned to Hawaii rejuvenated, and is seriously looking to make this place home. As I mentioned before, the Hawaiian real estate market has some interesting twists, lots of poorly built, very expensive homes.....also some well built, very affordable homes that were built with thoughtfulness and character. These houses are most often built without the "proper" building code approval (a notoriously difficult process here, but I have no direct experience with that yet. Just FYI), so banks won't loan on them.

Here is a perfect example of a home where we would love to live, but unfortunately we were a "Day late and a dollar short ", as they say. These aren't my pictures, so forgive the fuzzyness.

You peek around the corner and spy a creepy old shack in the woods....A perfect setting for a horror movie, right?

I notice hand split cedar shakes, translucent fiberglass wall panels, and a very commendable economy of design.

Inside, it's all wood. Some of the wood appears rough, right from the sawmill, but some has been planed smooth. Again, translucent panels abound.

The kitchen has built-in tables and cabinets, rustic but not rough. There are elements here that feel familiar to me from my many years of designing sailboat interiors. Was the person who built this place a one-time sailor? It even had a ships propane galley stove, and a small refrigerator (stolen a few years back, when someone broke in and took the good stuff, fridge, solar.....).

This room has a painted wood floor, wrap around glass windows, and a strange stepped masonry and tile.....something. Even after peeking through the windows, we have no idea what this room is for.

The camera over-compensates for the light levels, making it look dark in here, but the entire house is completely filled with soft, warm light.

The stairs are simple, functional, and neat. There is a built-in bed underneath, the perfect place for a father to sleep.

My daughter is only 10 years, but the 'teens are swiftly approaching.

The roof has many translucent panels as well, bathing the loft bedrooms with light.

These look like ships bunks to me.

Off the back deck is a wood-fired hottub, filled by rain from the downspouts.

There is a nicely sized workshop /shed/garage, not too big, not too small. Just right.

The shed also shelters the rain cistern.

When Renee and I looked at this place in person, it was immediately apparent that this was a special place, built by someone who truly cared about what they were building. They built a home, not just a house that would be seen as an investment to be sold sometime in the future. The closer you looked, the more good things you saw.

I didn't take photos, but the landscaping was wonderful, a huge variety of ornamental plantings, funky god-knows-how-old stone walls, and many, many trees. 8 acres worth, and we only got the barest hint of what was there. Horribly overgrown and neglected, just discovering what had been done before and then bringing it back to life.......

Sigh. Cash only, no permit =no bank, and a prior offer is set to close this week.

Unfortunate, but....there are quite a few places similar to this one, and the timing must be right. There are design elements that were used in this house that could be incorporated into something that I would build. Heck, this looks like someplace that could've been built by me!

We looked at another place a while back, put in an offer and everything. Fully permitted construction, and offered at a great price, actually. This would've been a good investment property.

Boring boring boring, cheapest materials and construction possible. This would've been a house, but not so much a home. Thank god our offer was rejected!

We did love the banyan tree, though.

This was a perfect example of the conundrum of building, following all the rules, and ending up with a valuable property that is severely lacking. We could've turned this house into someplace with character, but at risk of staying within the allowances for code approved additions. You are allowed to replace what already has been approved, but anything new....new approval is required. That's a good thing, but.....kind of heading down a road that I've already traveled. I want to go someplace new, you know?

Here is another place that I looked at. The land itself is fantastic, a great lot, and you even got an ocean view.

The house however....ummmm.....

Two structures tacked together, but never finished.


They started, but a lot of work remained.

A LOT of work!

Termites can be a concern here, haha.

As scary as that property was, I saw potential there. Really!

I have been accused of being an optomist.

In designing our home, I want to make the most of this wonderful climate. I've never in my life lived someplace with such benign weather. 

Do you want an open-air bathroom?

No problem.

The property that we buy will have lots of trees, so using round wood joinery will be a priority.

Convertible spaces that utilize sliding panels, screens and doors.......



  1. Like the path you are taking. Looks like you're gathering good ideas. I would love to see something you build from scratch, but I understand the problems that entails. Great thoughts! Round-wood joinery: check! Open air bathroom: check! Lots of light: double check! Dad bed as part of the stair: Must Have!

    Love ya man,

    1. Thanks Brandon!

      The greatest difficulty right now (well, one of them anyway) is the urge towards speed of building weighed against the desire/need for working with materials of quality.....using real wood, as opposed to using plywood. It's SO hard to not immediately default to using plywood! Maybe if the plywood wasn't so crappy nowadays I could reconcile this, but.....

      Ellie and Renee send love your way. I am sorry that I couldn't abide going to Oregon for a visit, but you know how that goes. You will be sailing here soon, the day swiftly approaches!


Like all of us, I am figuring this out as I go, so when you see something that is incorrect or flat out wrong (and you will!), let me know. This is a learning process. Real people and names, please. Constructive comments and questions are very welcome, but hate speak/politics are not! Life (get one!) is too short.

Thanks, Jason