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    The crooked stone pathway across the pool area of this Waialae beachfront home creates new vistas at every turn, including a slightly elevated view from a low bridge.
    From the entryway at far right, guests are funneled around a spiral staircase and into the living area of this Paiko Ridge remodel, where the circular kitchen has become a functional design element that allows the cook to interact with guests.
    Set on a rugged hillside, this Nanakuli home accentuates rectangles, which are oriented both horizontally and vertically.
    In this luxury view home in Kahala, the upper level rooms are set back far enough from the roofline to block the afternoon sun.
    Bamboo floors and cedar trim are all from certified renewable sources in this luxury view home in Kahala.
    From the master bedroom of this remodeled Manoa home you can look down at a small living room and the entryway, or across to the breakfast nook and the kitchen.

The AIA Honolulu Design Awards have the broad goal of raising "public awareness of design excellence and the special role of AIA architects in the community," but if there are any trends that can be discerned after visits to some island homes entered in the contest, it would be these: opening up space, green building and the use of innovative building materials.

"Jurors were struck by the entries’ success in balancing a modern aesthetic with retention of design features appropriate to our island home and lifestyle," said Charles Kaneshiro, AIA president, in a statement. "Submissions utilized the latest technological advances to the fullest, yet remained wonderfully humane to the user."


To view AIA Honolulu Design Awards entrants, visit


The winners will be announced Thursday at AIA’s gala at the Hawaii Prince Hotel and Golf Club.

In the meantime, in no particular order, here are five Oahu homes entered in the contest:



The huge double-paneled gateway, imported by the owner from China, gives guests a hint they are entering another world when they visit this home. Architect Robert Fox studied in Japan as a student, and he has brought that sensitivity to the home. "We took this home and remodeled it to make it look like it belonged in Hawaii," he said.

Originally built in a Cape Cod style, the home had small rooms and narrow double doors that broke up the ocean view. Fox knocked out interior walls, creating an open "hale" feel and improving air flow, and installed huge sliding doors to allow for unimpeded views. The doors are so large they require metal frames, but Fox found a Chinese firm that made them with a wood finish that matches the mahogany and cherry used for interior trim.

With Cape Cod in the rearview mirror, the Japanese and Chinese design aesthetic is omnipresent. Passing through the gate, you descend a few steps, "like you are entering a different space," Fox said. The path leads to the swimming pool, where your attention is drawn left by the sound of trickling water. Two terra-cotta Chinese warriors pour water into the pool, damping street noise. Turn right to get to the main house and you step up on a bridge crossing the pool, the slight elevation creating yet another sensory change. These twists and turns are part of the "psychological manipulation" that is the essence of Japanese design, Fox said.

On the beach side of the home, a small pavilion was built with a thatched roof made from artificial materials. The thatch looks authentically rustic, but it is fireproof and up to code. Fox said the owners like the pavilion so much they wish they’d built it first.



Gary and Dale Oliva’s home posed some challenges. It is built on a lot that drops away in two directions. The home was perched on a wood foundation that wraps around a corner, creating a lot of dead space beneath the main floor.

There wasn’t much space for two bedrooms, living room and kitchen, and Dale Oliva felt "cramped."

Architect Robin Lee created new space by finishing out walls and floors underneath the main floor, creating a small study, laundry room and bathroom. There’s even a small loft with a ceiling only about 4 feet high which can be used for sleeping or playing board games. By building under, Lee added about 400 square feet of useable space without increasing the overall footprint.

He did add an extension, however, which is stair-stepped up the hill. It is divided into three levels: an entryway, a small living/TV room and a master bedroom. No walls separate these spaces; the different levels create the separation. The effect is like having a loft on top of a loft, with lots of light and unusual viewing angles.

To keep renovation costs down, no building materials were specially imported from the mainland. For the exterior walls, which originally were covered by horizontal planks, Lee found redwood fencing that were thinner and less expensive than construction-grade redwood. He used auto-body filler to seal cracks, painted them and placed them vertically on the walls.

Lee calls the home an example of "everyday architecture" that created a modern, efficient home that still fits with the surrounding neighborhood.



LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, establishes a set of guidelines designed to promote green building practices. Structures are submitted for certification, evaluated by a third party and rated.

Architect Jeff Long was planning to use many green design features in a home across from Fort Ruger Park when he realized "we were already building a LEED home, why not look to see how far we could go with it?"

The result was a Gold award, the second-highest LEED rating, and a home chock-full of energy-efficient design features and renewable construction materials.

The cube-shaped structure is so well insulated and has enough interior air flow that only one of its five air-conditioning units is needed to make the place comfortable under normal use. A moisture-sensitive watering system, drought-resistant plants and artificial turf save water.

The flooring on the upper level is bamboo, while doors and other wood features are from trees certified as renewable sources. "Everything has a renewable aspect to it," Long said.

The island theme is dominant in the color schemes, with sand-toned natural stone and wood trim used throughout. Even interior glass panels have bubbles to make them look like ocean spray.

With swimming pool, home theater and other amenities, Fox said the home proves a luxury residence "can still be environmentally friendly."



Architect Fritz Johnson saw the rugged landscape of Waianae with its jagged peaks and nearly barren hills as representing "primary" forces. So when designing a residence on the hillside, he based it on an equally primary shape: the rectangle.

The shape is ubiquitous in the home, from its overall design to the decorative wood panels that provide texture and variety to the exterior. Johnson had the panels imported from Italy after being treated with a resin that makes them weatherproof. He also brought in volcanic rock for interior surfaces such as bathrooms.

The living area’s picture windows again accentuate the rectangle, oriented vertically on the ground floor, then stacked horizontally for the second. From the inside it is possible to enjoy both effects, with an interior bridge providing views from the second floor.

Viewed from the top down, the house is shaped like a clapboard (as used in moviemaking), which enabled Johnson to install windows and porches to take advantage of the sweeping ocean vista in front and the etched peaks behind. Details like porch hand railings were built in such a way that the porch appears to "fall away" into the view, Johnson said.

With a powerful, almost fortlike presence on the hillside, the home stands out from the working-class neighborhoods nearby. Johnson, the son of a well-known island architect of the same name, said he understands why some people dislike his creation. But he said he would rather create distinctive projects than familiar, popular ones. "There will never be another home built like this one here," he said.



In the 1960s, University of Hawaii students designed this home that for obvious reasons came to be called the "cube" home. But It also could have been called the "circle" home, for it had a circular kitchen and spiral staircase.

So current owners John and Reiko Lewis and architect Sandi Quildon had a lot to work with when they renovated it, but there were a number of quirks. The entryway brought guests directly into the kitchen. They resolved this problem by building a wall decorated by a carved wood panel from Thailand, that subtly diverts visitors to the living area, which is dominated by a two-story picture window overlooking Maunalua Bay.

The kitchen itself, while ostensibly open to the living area, had such a high counter that it functioned more as a barrier than a serving area. Simply lowering the counter allows Reiko Lewis to entertain guests while preparing their food. Meanwhile, the circular shape of the kitchen is accentuated by a circular island and a semicircular oven-fan cowling.

The variety and use of tile is an outstanding characteristic of the home. Reiko Lewis, a certified interior decorator, found tiles small enough they could be used on the circular kitchen wall. For the bathroom floor, she found tiles that look and almost feel like wood.

The wood-grained bathroom floor flows into the wood floors installed in the rest of the house. Quildon said that is intended to create a sense of continuity in the home. It creates an art gallery-like atmosphere, appropriate because the home is decorated with the many Asian art objects the Lewises have collected through the years.

"We get compliments that it’s warm and inviting, which is exactly what you want," Reiko Lewis said.


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