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Evoking scenes of the late heiress Doris Duke’s estate, Shangri La, the floating pool pavilion is its own oasis.


Visions of Paradise

By Jenn Thornton

Photography by Andy Landgraf and Kyle Rothenborg


A high-toned, Indo-Modern masterpiece, designed in the tradition of old Hawai‘i, opens the doorway to heaven in Windward O‘ahu.

TRANSLATED FROM HAWAIIAN, Hale Palekaiko means “House of Paradise.” Poetically placed on Kailua Beach in Windward O‘ahu, the location alone suggests a kind of nirvana, beautiful and unbounded, responsive to both site and surrounds—a place not only to live, but to be.

Extending to the ocean in elongated repose, the gated property is set back an uncommon 150 feet from the shoreline with no walls obstructing its watery outlook or immense oceanfront lawn. The entire property spans a vast 36,995 square feet, more than 12,000 of which is interior space. With abundant coconut trees standing sentry, the rhapsodic setting recalls old Hawai‘i. Situated midpoint on the parcel is a gracious tropical estate, featuring a powerful indoor-outdoor rapport that’s best expressed by the synergy between the architecture and one of the property’s strongest assets—the ocean. It’s a project greatly shaped by the components of an extraordinary physical fabric—wind, sun and sightlines—that assault the senses.

And, yet, it wasn’t always such a paradise. The project took 15 years to finish. There were delays, obstacles and a change in ownership before it was completed in 2015. The one constant, however, was award-winning architect Peter N. Vincent, FAIA, NCARB, managing partner of Honolulu-based firm Peter Vincent Architects. Also unchanged was the vision to “create a compound of modest scale buildings, rather than one or two large structures,” says Vincent. “In other words, the opposite of a McMansion.” Challenged by the length and slenderness of the lot, he designed a collection of eight buildings—or hale—four of which are pavilions, all unified in Hawaiian style and orientated to provide sanctuary from on-shore trade winds and corrosive elements, while creating outdoor living areas. Among the structures is a two-story, four-bedroom main house with a high-ceilinged living room, a three-bedroom guesthouse, a four-car garage and a made-to-entertain outdoor pool pavilion and spa bathhouse. Naturally ventilated interior spaces exploit connection with the outdoors.

As fashion designers, the homeowners applied a chic touch to interiors.

“The relative scale of the structures and spaces makes it feel approachable and warm; natural materials make it feel human,” explains Vincent, adding that the cedar siding and shingles, coral, wood and copper (materials typical in Kailua for nearly 100 years) comprise the property’s exteriors. “The layout of the buildings create a series of spaces and experiences that are not achievable with a smaller property. There’s a sense of expansion and compression as you traverse its length. An architect mentor of mine used to describe Venice, Italy, in that way—the narrowing and opening of spaces along the Grand Canal. In some ways, this long, narrow lot is similar to that.”

The equivalent of the Grand Canal at Hale Palekaiko is the pool; a lingering 100 feet in length and located on a central axis, it sets a particularly dreamy tone—especially at night, when it graces the landscape with a miragelike magic. Within the pool is a floating pool pavilion. Much like that other paradise over the Pali Highway in Honolulu—the late heiress Doris Duke’s epic estate, Shangri La—the Palace of Isfahan inspired this feature. More practically, explains Vincent, “The pool and courtyard create visual excitement for spaces that don’t have a significant view of the ocean.”

The bathroom, dressed with a gorgeous chandelier, offers a dash of downplayed glamour.

Designed by the home’s owners who are fashion designers, the interiors throughout are both sophisticated and nuanced, showcasing clean lines, a neutral palette and an inflection of textures (Italian marble, bamboo, natural coral stone, bleached Burmese teak hardwood). The decor is a study in chic restraint—bold lighting, modern hardware and a beach-appropriate scheme conceived for contemporary tastes—suggesting a lithe but precise touch. The beautiful balance brings to mind an oasis. Vincent agrees. “Oasis is a good description—a ‘casually swanky’ one.”

It’s an appropriate tag for the landscape too. Originally designed by Greg Boyer Hawaiian Landscape Corp., and later updated by Ultimate Innovations, the exterior realm is its own refuge, with fronded palms looming overhead and a contemporized trim of locally sourced pavers and lawn. While the makai (ocean) side of the exterior is “quintessentially Hawaiian,” he says, with naupaka, lawn and coconut trees, the courtyard is lush. Since its completion, Hale Palekaiko has earned a host of bona fides, including an AIA Design Award and a nod from Hollywood (scenes from the Ben Stiller movie Brad’s Status were filmed there). It was a long wait to fruition, but 15 years is nothing compared to a lifetime in Paradise.