The Maui Residence by Walker Warner Architects, Leverone Design and Lutsko Associates
At the end of the highway on the southern coast of Maui there is a little stretch of coastline that is nothing short of paradise; but even with a location like this, designing a residential retreat is not without challenges. In the case of this home, it was the site itself that presented the biggest obstacle, but also compelled the design team to approach the site creatively.
Originally parceled for a two-story condominium development, the site is a study in contradiction. On the east side, where you approach the site, the lot faces a non-descript suburban cul-de-sac, elevated well above sea-level to provide access to the road. On the west side, the grade drops down to the beach, opening to an expansive sunset view of the unspoiled Hawaiian shoreline and the endless Pacific ocean beyond.
Presented with the dual nature of the site, architect Greg Warner came to an early conclusion: “If you’re open to letting the architecture be what it wants to be, in terms of configuration, form, style… that would be the way this could work.” With this guiding principle in mind, the goal became creating a home that is cohesive in concept but responds intuitively to remarkably different conditions.
The first big move was to make the street-facing side of the house largely out of solid mass, in this case a custom-detailed, board-formed concrete wall that wraps around a manicured private entry courtyard. Warner describes this as “playing defense” against the suburban cul-de-sac. At the same time, the front of the house is respectful to the neighborhood, presenting as a modest, single-story structure that refuses to dominate the landscape.
The dramatic secret of the home is that beyond the solidity of the low-slung front façade there is a full two-story program lightly constructed of glass and steel, opening the living spaces and bedrooms to a vast and inspiring seascape. In Warner’s words, “It really opens up to the panorama and the view beyond, which is the big surprise you get once you penetrate through the wall of the entry, that it just kind of unfurls.”
Since you enter on the upper level, the first visual impression is that the structure is somehow miraculously floating above the sea. The first space you encounter is a central great room that connects to a broad elevated lanai stretching toward the horizon. The master suite and other main bedrooms are designed with corner windows that dematerialize the structure, providing stunning wrap-around views of the coastline.
The over-arching theme that serves to unify the house is light, specifically the play of light through various screening elements. Nowhere is this more evident than at the perforated metal canopy leading to the front door, which casts a starry pattern of light and shadow against the rich texture of the adjacent board-formed concrete wall. Inside the house, vertical wood louvers elegantly separate spaces while allowing sunlight into interior rooms. Skylights and clerestories accent the grain patterns of both concrete and cypress walls. Pocketing slatted screens at corner windows provide the ability to filter afternoon sunlight through west-facing windows.
The result is a home that achieves a balance between massing and space, privacy and openness, sunlight, and shadow, all perched fittingly on the threshold between land and sea.
Architect: Walker Warner Architects
Interior Design: Leverone Design
Landscape Architect: Lutsko Associates Landscape
Art Consultant: Tom O’Connor
Photography by Matthew Millman