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Tamara Moan | Photo: Courtesy Images | October 31, 2013
In the shadow of Diamond Head, Honolulu starchitect Peter Vincent brings a ’60s abode into the 21st century.
Style is everything. And for local architect Peter Vincent, that means embracing styles as diverse as the islands’ cultural tapestry. His portfolio reveals an impressive range, from contemporary Japanese to modern Gothic to the traditional. And as Vincent arrived in Hawai‘i from Arizona via Boston and Rome, his influences naturally include the deserts of the Southwest and the classical ruins of antiquity. “Our philosophy is that we don’t have a signature look,” says the architect, one of Honolulu’s most lauded. “There is a huge variety in project types and design aesthetic. On one hand, we’re all over the map, but, on the other, we work with the site. We really tune in and do a careful job.”
Vincent has honed his attentive listening skills over 20 years at the helm of his Honolulu architecture firm, Peter Vincent Architects. His recently completed renovation on the slopes of Diamond Head perfectly illustrates his devotion to the collaborative creative process. Not a surprise, then, it earned his firm the 2013 Building Industry Association Renaissance Overall Grand Award in residential remodeling. The project’s sparkle came from showcasing the unique history of the home and its owners while updating it with fresh lines and sustainable materials.
Vincent says, “The wife’s father was a contractor, and he built the house around 1960. It’s been in the family all these years but their lifestyle has changed.” As the owners are now empty nesters, it was time to rethink function and space and decompartmentalize.
Under Vincent’s vision, the home blossomed. Think larger, more open spaces, increased natural ventilation and vastly expanded views. The original narrow, claustrophobic entry corridor now opens on one side to a courtyard. The kitchen—once smaller with a pass through to the dining area—has become a free-flowing space that includes a large island and windows that capitalize on the distant ocean view. It’s the perfect addition for the owner, who loves to cook. Use of white lacquer here adds a sense of clean simplicity, its reflective qualities helping to bring in surrounding colors. A discreet playfulness is added from the custom-made hand-blown pendant light fixture, echoing the old Japanese glass fishing balls once so commonly found on Hawai‘i’s beaches. Vincent also incorporated must-stays. “The owner had fallen in love with stone slabs for the counters. We built a palette around that. Glass tiles worked with the light green of the stone and pulled in the ocean view beyond.”
Striving to retain the home’s history, Vincent cannily repurposed unique details. He refurbished the original front door, crafted in Hong Kong, then used it as a wall niche for other art. Handsome abstract rail brackets from the interior stairway were saved and transformed into a striking wall sculpture. Although the original wood floors could not be saved, Vincent replaced them with teak flooring salvaged from another building.
There was other hidden beauty in the home. During his first visit, he learned the owners were art patrons, collecting paintings, sculptures and more. “But the house was so full you couldn’t see what they had.” The challenge was to open up spaces while allowing each piece to shine. “It’s great to let those things be shown and let the architecture be in the background,” he says. “We had to keep it simple.”
Not a bad thing at all, as Vincent improved the home’s livability by stripping away unnecessary details. Opening spaces and reducing the number of rooms has given more space for entertaining. Keeping all the daily living spaces on the upper/entrance level has eliminated the need to constantly go up and down stairs. Leveling the backyard to match the lower level floor has promoted flow between indoors and outdoors. Basalt paving has brought a sense of richness to the exterior with the larger slabs adding a sense of serenity. Plywood siding—the original fascia surrounding the top of the stucco exterior—became a substrate for a sleek horizontal band of aluminum, giving more definition to the house.
What makes a renovation succeed? “Sometimes, it’s the location,” Vincent says. “Sometimes, it’s the people. In this case, it was an interesting house with fascinating people who were great clients. They helped make the whole process a delight.”