Interior designer Dian Cleve chose custom Italian and Scandanavian pieces for the house.

Thoroughly Modern Milieu

Clean lines with sumptuous details make this Honolulu home a sleek retreat.

When Cathy and Dan Harrington made their first trip from Florida to Hawai’i to visit their scuba instructor son, they had no idea they were beginning a voyage that would lead them to owning a second, and award-winning, home in the islands.

“My husband retired six months later, so we’ve been doing the trek for 10 years now,” says Cathy Harrington. After initially settling into a Gold Coast apartment, they fell in love with Kaikoo Place off; Papu Circle. Once they’d found the right house there to remodel, they joined forces with architect Jim Schmit and designer Dian Cleve of Cleve & Levin to create their Hawai’i home.

“We wanted to try something different. Our home in Florida is a Frank Lloyd Wright, Arts and Crafts sort of place. We’d always loved contemporary style and saw that this house had good bones.”

“The existing house had a steel structure and a geometry that provided the opportunity to create a contemporary residence,” explains Cleve.

During deconstruction, the Harringtons stripped down the existing house to the structural system and roof, opening up small and cramped rooms to reveal an ocean view seen from every point in the house.

“The views from every floor are spectacular, unobstructed views of Diamond Head and the ocean,” says Harrington, who notes the biggest challenge of the remodel was to recreate the look of the home from outside. “The original home had massive, gorgeous deep lanais, but a big opening down the center of the building. Where do you enter? In order to apportion the house correctly, we created the glass entrance tower as a new entrance.”

The glass entrance tower bridges both sides of the home and serves as a dramatic staircase running through its entire four stories. “It’s a brilliant way to both fill in the void left between lanais in the original homes design as well as create a really dramatic element,” says Cleve. “The great staircase or glass tower goes all the way up and is a great feature inside as well as it opens floors up to one another and opens the house across the middle section. It’s very sculptural.”

The look is clean and spare, and every material used is the highest quality they could find.

“The demanding part of contemporary design is that it’s fairly unadorned,” says Cleve. “Not a lot of things can cover up a seam or intersection of two materials. It’s really critical that you use great materials in interesting ways in good proportions and superb craftsmanship. You can’t put trim over it if it’s not cut or installed right. That’s one of the reasons contemporary looks the way it does, so clean, with a sense of purity.”

“The most interesting part was making a new house out of an old one that had a good structure, but needed an update with more contemporary materials,” says architect Jim Schmit. “We used good sized stainless steel flashings around the overhangs and frameless glass railings both inside and outside the home.”

Schmit calls the glass stairway as the home’s signature piece. “What makes it so fun is that people are used to walking straight into living spaces. With this, you walk up to the living room on the third floor after passing the second floor wine cellar, which is separated from the staircase by a glass wall. It distracts you from the fact that you’re walking up the stairs. People just think how interesting it is to have a wine cellar there.”

Cleve says the same precise, detailed work went into the home’s bathrooms.

“Because of how intricate they are and how hard we worked for their feeling. The area we had for the master bath area was not generally what you have for this quality of a house, but that was area we had to work with and what we achieved with that small space was really exceptional because of space planning and the materials we used. We found a beautiful slab of blue granite and used it for the back wall of shower so that really becomes the artwork of the bathroom.”

The slab, which had to be drilled for all its faucets before being installed, was lifted into the house by crane.

“One of the things we had benefit of was clients who were design savvy and supportive of what we wanted to do in the house open to doing things that were special,” says Cleve.

At the end of the two-and-half-year construction process, the Harringtons had a home which both won an ASID award and also fulfilled their vision of a contemporary, comfortable, and user-friendly vacation home to share with friends and family.

“It’s the easiest house to live in,” says Harrington.

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