Kumulani at One Palau‘ea
East Meets West to Create a Stunning "Horizon" of Aesthetic Harmony

Hawaiian Style Magazine

Vol. 2 / No. 2



When the poet Rudyard Kipling said "East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet"... he hadn't seen Kumulani.


Many contemporary architects do their best to obliterate any demarcation between outside and inside. To be sure, there's plenty to like about vast expanses of glass, huge open-air courtyards, or retractable "pocket walls." At the same time, if one's house lacks the basic rudiments of good design, the greatest view in the world won't make up for it.


And, when the scenery is as spectacular as Maui's, architects face an especially daunting challenge in creating a home that lives up to its environment.


A team of talented professions met that challenge in breath-taking fashion with "Kumulani," a 7,000 sq. ft., one-story, four-bedroom model home on Wailea Beach. Kumulani is Hawaiian for "horizon." It's an apt name because the home invites residents to enjoy the commanding view across the infinity pool, to the expansive beach, and beyond to the boundless ocean and finally the limitless sky above.


Yet the structure itself commands admiration and provides powerful aesthetic pleasure from every angle, thanks to its own consummately tasteful blend of contrasting elements. Kumulani artfully combines clean, geometric modernism with warmly natural South Pacific traditionalism. It's a residence that will charm a lover of thatched-roof island huts with its open design, steep-sloping roof, stone and wood surfaces, and warm, beautiful fabrics and art.


The team behind Kumulani began with visionary developer Everett Dowling, who dreamed up the concept of a secluded enclave of 17 beautiful high-end properties that would become known as One Palau‘ea Bay. Architects Tan Hock Beng (Singapore) and Kurt Mitchell (Kober Hanssen Mitchell Architects), integrally supported by Patrick Palmer, Hawaiian Dredging & Construction, created Kumulani as the complex's showcase home. The creativity of Interior Designer, Lowell Tom, Philpotts & Associates, brought a unique richness to the Island theme.


As such, Kumulani established the stylistic principles that would guide the creation of the rest of the properties. Clearly visible is the imprint of Beng, an architect whose signature style of "tropical architecture" is seen in homes and resorts throughout Asia and the Pacific. Beng's "tropical" style draws heavily on the traditional openness of structures that has characterized South Pacific and Southeast Asian cultures for centuries.


"In most Western cultures, homes don't transform between inside and outside as they do in Southeast Asia, especially Bali and Indonesia," explains Kurt Mitchell. "But in Wailea, where we have such moderate tropical weather, there's no reason why there should be a division between the inside living area and the outside landscaping area. The entire property can be the living space; part is shelter, part is not."


According to Mitchell, a key element of Beng's design for Kumulani was a smooth, almost invisible transition between the pavilions and the outdoors. In addition to the walkways, glass doors allow indoor rooms to seemingly extend into enclosed gardens, or open into the interior courtyard, which in turn became outdoor rooms. (At night, landscape lighting reinforces these "rooms" conceptually.)


Steeply roofed pavilions house a living room, dining room, master bedroom and guestrooms. Pavilions are linked by open walkways with flat roofs, or trellises, that "orchestrate you around the property" in Mitchell's words, and flank an interior courtyard. Each walkway provides different viewpoints and perspectives, and is marked by tranquil water features and hand-carved sculptures. "The idea was to offer a different experience every time you walk into the house," Mitchell says. "The layout is evolving; it's living. It entices you to explore."


Both inside and out of the home, building and finish materials reaffirm the connection with nature. Exterior roofing is split sewn cedar shingles, while interior roofs are crafter of fragrant honey-colored cedar timbers. Sandstone walls inset with small niches for candles are focal points, as are massive hardwood-framed glass doors. Flooring is mahogany in the living spaces and marble in the baths.


In the living and dining room, the 20-foot, traditional Southeast Asian style singular hip roofs appear to float above the walls, an illusion created by designing a hidden substructure for support, and installing windows at the ceiling line of the walls that allow for views of the exterior overhang. The dining room also features a picture-window view of bird sculptures above a reflecting pool, and opens to a gourmet kitchen, complete with top-of-the-line appliances and granite countertops.


Another key element in achieving Kumulani's integration with its environment was creative use of water. "The entire home appears to float above tranquil pools that reflect the joys of Island living," developers point out. A pool and spa area, as well as interior courtyards and ponds, add another 5,000 square feet of usable space. They also bring aquatic elements into virtually every area of the home.


Gardens enhance Kumulani's natural appeal still further. Bangkok-based Bensley Design Studios created a primitive style of landscaping using plants, or trees, with distinctive branches. The gardens are shaped by coconut palms, bromeliads and beach morning glories. Hawaiian exotic and flowering plants, such as Red Ti and Hibiscus, were placed in protected areas in the courtyards and niches between the pavilions.


Interior designer Lowell Tom approached Kumulani with a dual mission: to soften the formal aspects of the architectural design, while emphasizing the regional flavor. This he did with an elegant creative strategy for hues, fabrics, and objects d'art. "I utilized rich and warm colors accented with shimmering cool accents for area carpets, upholstery and bedding," Tom explains. "Tibetan carpets were in soft, regional patterns combined against rich stone and wood floors."


Large-scale, dramatic Balinese-style furnishings, Asian art and accessories (including one-of-a-kind hand-crafted piece) were obtained directly from the Orient as well as acquired from local antique shops. "Detailed custom framing and artisan's mounting turned artifacts into treasures," Tom recounts. Furnishings and accessories were artfully "layered" into the home, so as to make touring the residence an adventure.


Tom says his overarching goal was to highlight Tam Hock Beng's "dramatic sequencing of spaces" – and, all agree, he achieved this objective in impressive (and gorgeous) fashion.


The result of this masterful blend of setting, architecture, and interior design is a home that beautifully harmonizes humanity with its environment. In Kumulani, and in One Palau‘ea Bay as a whole, the horizon is not only where sky meets sea, but also where East meets West... and where man (and woman) meet nature in an artful balance.


Project Credits:

Architecture: Kober Hanssen Mitchell Architects

Interior Design: Lowell Tom, ASID

Photography: David Duncan Livingston

Text: Linda Hayes