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This Sprawling Kona Home Benefited from Curation by Designer and Client

Jenn Thornton | June 18, 2019 | Home & Real Estate

The intentional modern-tropical design of a Kona home is the result of a trusted, instinctual collaboration between clients and designer.

The stunning doorway

Some come to Hawai‘i with visions of building a dream home. Others find it already standing, like the owners of this residence in the Kukio development in Kona on the Big Island. The view was spectacular, but the interior? A little too decorative for their taste. Enter their longtime Newport Beach, Calif.-based designer Wendi Young, who knows with absolute certainty who they are, what they like and how they use a space. Something else she knows: good design.

Her first order of business: clear the place out. Haul all things decorative to a separate area and sort them. Keep existing pieces that read more contemporary and sophisticated; alter, reupholster or relocate others; custom-fabricate or purchase new pieces. The process wasn’t so much about adornment as it was engagement, between interior and exterior, clients and their environment, which they envisioned as calm and quieting. To this end, Young says, “I’m a firm believer in the art of placement. We were curating at the same time we were decorating. Everything is placed with intention. This client doesn’t like clutter. Nothing too busy.” And she did not want a hotel. Nothing kitschy, just purely, simply and authentically Pacific.

An open-aired living room

At a substantial 9,382-square-feet, the property includes a main house and four separate structures on 1.33-acre lot. There was plenty of space to fill. Designed by architect H.C. Lucky Bennett and built by Tinguely Development in 2008, the residence offers a spectacular ocean view of similar magnitude, requiring Young to approach the design with a pared-down perspective. Her mantra is to design the interior to support the architecture, but Young lives on the coast, has done coastal her entire career and thus knows views are a crucial consideration. “So one of the things we did with this home was to try and make it a little more Zen-like, so that the views could speak,” she says.

Lava and Pacific ocean views

The property maintains an effortless, understated dialogue with all details. Among the most memorable are the custom-design mosaic tile in the kitchen and throughout; the striking pendant light with individual pieces of glass set by hand from Hilliard; console tables by Gregorius|Pineo and Holly Hunt sofas in the great room, which looks out at the front-and-center ocean view; a Stone Yard dining table; Summit chairs and Arhaus sofas on the meditative lanai; and the custom daybed by Dominic Hilman. Outdoor porches are contemplatively appointed with Pacific accents, including one with a pair of sumptuous, locally sourced wood chairs. And of the five outdoor showers on the property, one is part of the lovingly composed master suite, which features separate his and hers bathrooms, offices and a massage area off of a pretty inner courtyard. The space’s quiet sitting area faces the view and features a piece of Asian art with a moody element. “I’m always drawn to pieces that are a little more evocative, that stir some type of emotion,” says Young.

A serene sitting area

Top of mind for her was texture—an earthy mix of stone (walnut travertine, lava rock), wood (mahogany, teak and walnut) and mosaic tile by Concept Studio—and an interplay of light and dark, soft and nubby. “Because color and pattern were subtle, we needed something to create some interest and drama, so we relied heavily on texture to do that,” she says. Wood, especially, is used artfully, with Indonesian, Polynesian and African motifs placed throughout.

The regal master bedroom

This house is much more than the sum of its parts, however. It’s about big-picture design, effect not affect, the difference between designing and curating. “Trying to create the most emotional, evocative space that really resonates life,” Young says—“that’s what it’s all about.”


Photography by: Karyn Millet