Along the coastline of Hawaii‘s Big Island, an architect and his family exchange the fast city life for different kind of flow. Outside, the white haze rising from the horizon gives way to a deep blue mass of land. Hawaii is the island that comprises the largest mountain on earth, most of it under the sea. A muggy breeze flutters through the long open -air walkway, painted an unfashionable brown and lined with weathered olive-green.
Even the Big Island has not completely avoided the pitfalls of the modern world, adding 35,000 residents in the last 15 years and, accordingly, strip malls that could be Anywhere, USA. Architect Craig Steely, his wife Cathy Liu, a painter, and their two-year-old son Zane are three of those new residents, having first come to the island six years ago, and now splitting their time between a home base in San Francisco and what one could call a remote-access network here.
If you turn off the main route, and with the sun casting an orange glaze from low in the sky, on cue the surroundings transform from vaguely tropical to dense jungle. The road narrows to one lane, and oncoming cars veer onto the red dirt shoulder to pass. Under windswept palms a haphazard labyrinth of tents and blue tarps has taken root; a lone rooster patrols the gravel parking lot.
The house is impossible not to notice, thanks in part to its siting on a lava flow. The Big Island is the youngest island in Hawaii chain, and is in a constant process of expansion and regeneration. The flow here in Kehena occurred in 1955, after a vent from the Kilauea volcano unleashed a slow coastal-bound pour of molten lava. In the same era, lava flowing from other vents covered a famed six-mile-long black-sand beach; more recently, during the 1990s, a flow destroyed the main road linking this side of the island with the Kona side.
The concrete floor takes on a silky appearance in the kitchen and dining areas. The table is from IKEA, the Karim Rashid Oh chairs are from Umbra, and the Erik Magnussen kerosene Ship‚ and the lamp is by Stelton.
Eddy Uritani (or Uncle Eddy, as he known to Zane) did all the tile work in the kitchen and bathroom. The tiles come from a Canadian company called Interstyle.
The screen around the lanai is made from extrene, a material used by the military for radio towers. The welded-steel sculpture, set atop a pile of rocks, was made by Craig.
A vintage suspended wall unit serves as a home office. Cathy demonstrates the bedroom‚ sitting in a three-person hammock from Oaxaca.
When Cathy and Craig bought the land, it was completely bare. With plenty of sun and rain, these palms have grown a lot in the last two years.
The lava rock used for the steps was cut on a giant saw near Hilo. Craig finished assembling the staircase just in time for Zane‚ one-year baby luau.