Now and Zen
Photography by Benjamin Benschneider
The serene retreat of Silicon Valley entrepreneur Bill Nguyen and his family sits discreetly above Maui’s Honolua Bay, a spot renowned for epic surfing and the eerily titled Slaughterhouse Beach (named for an abattoir that once sat onshore). Completed in 2009 as three separate pavilions by Tom Kundig, co-owner of Seattle-based Olson Kundig Architects, the home was designed to integrate seamlessly into the site while providing privacy for Nguyen, his wife, Amanda, and sons Jacob, 6, and Jackson, 3. "We wanted something more low-key and organic than you usually encounter in Hawaii," says Nguyen. "It has a very low profile, and a very high level of privacy."
"Bill wanted a modest, casual house," says Kundig, who kept the footprint at 3,821 square feet (not including the home’s 2,500 square feet of outdoor space). "So we designed a very well-tailored surfer’s hut." The main pavilion—which opens completely to the elements on two sides with window walls that rise up like wings—holds the living and dining areas. The flanking pavilions, reached by floor-to-ceiling glass walkways and topped by specially designed roof structures that help to cool the spaces, contain the bedrooms.
Over and Out | Central to the home’s design is a 37-foot-long cantilevered concrete slab that juts out from the dining area and over the lanai. “We call it the diving board,” says Kundig, who designed the window wall to fit around it. “We always eat in the kitchen,” adds Nguyen, “so we wanted to incorporate an informal dining room into the space. It’s amazing: It has become the most functional and communal dining experience we’ve ever had. I liked the counter so much, I had a smaller one built at my office in California. It’s perfect for meetings.”
Complementing the massive dining table is a simple, sleek kitchen featuring Allegro barstools designed by Giovanna Modonutti and Bella pendant lamps from Niche Modern. A glass-enclosed walkway leads to the three-bedroom, three-bathroom guest pavilion, which the Nguyens call Motel 3.
Au Naturel | Adjacent to the dining area, the living room is anchored by a rammed-earth structural core partly composed of materials dug from the 13.5-acre site (roughly half of which Nguyen deeded to the state of Hawaii for conservation). The use of raw materials was key to the home’s design. Kundig recruited Seattle-based builder Schuchart/Dow to help use elements such as concrete, Brazilian ipe wood, and exposed steel beams. He also collaborated on the design of a hydraulic system to lift and lower the walls to allow unobstructed views of the grounds, which contain more native Hawaiian plant species than any other privately owned property in the state.
To keep the furnishings informal, Nguyen selected hardy pieces for the room’s seating area. The sofa, by Larry Laslo for Directional, is upholstered in linen and cotton; the Domicile daybed by Bolier is covered in pewter vinyl. The brushed-nickel-and-vinyl chairs are from TC, the round brass Henri table is from Ironies, and the console table is by Donghia.
Boys’ Wonder | A stationary window wall fronts the master pavilion. The walnut bed in the master suite is by Altura. Kundig sited the adjacent master bathroom, which has Kohler fixtures, for maximum privacy. The master pavilion also includes a small bedroom for the children.
Nguyen says he tries to spend at least three months out of the year at the Maui house. (The home is available for lease when not in use by the family.) “Sometimes I will grab the boys and bring them out here to go to the beach and surf, to give Amanda a little break,” says Nguyen. “It’s a great escape—a fort for us guys. From the earthen walls to the giant diving board, it’s just like one big tree house. It’s a boys’ home.”