Interesting shapes and angles define modern design on the Big Island.
Article by Leslie Lang, Photos by Olivier Koning
Featured Architect: Patrick Tozier, of Ana Architecture
Issue Date: July 2006
“A long time ago, I rented a Frank Lloyd Wright house,” says Carolyn Blackburn, who, along with her husband, Mark, owns Mauna Kea Galleries in Waimea. “After that, I never wanted to live in a normal house again, ever.”
“It was an experience,” she explains. “You were inside, but you were outside.”
The same can be said of the Blackburns’ Waimea home, designed by Honolulu architect Patrick Tozier in partnership with the couple, who acted as contractors.
The cedar front of the house is mostly windows. The roofline slopes down at an angle, and a high row of windows diminish in size. It’s all to better position the long, sleek-looking home for its view.
“The view is of Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa and Hualalai,” says Blackburn, “and we sit up high on a hill, so you just see trees and especially Mauna Kea. You’re constantly aware of the change of the weather and the light. You’re with nature all day.”
“From a distance, you don’t even see our house,” she says. “It sits low and is kind of camouflaged. It’s very natural and very Zen.
At night it completely disappears, and all you see is a lanternlike, gold color, glowing.”
The Blackburns, who own one of the largest private collections of Polynesian art in the world, have filled the home with sculpture and carvings from the South Pacific. A short, museumlike corridor is lined with paintings by master artists of Hawaii and Polynesia, and with carved bowls. Even the bathroom has a Polynesian wood carving hanging on the wall.
Carolyn, an interior designer, decorated the home. She describes modern architecture and modern living as being about using and enjoying every part of a house.
“Most people have a dining room they never eat in,” she says, “and a living room they never sit in. Why save it for Thanksgiving or Christmas?”
The Blackburns planned much of their 3,700-square-foot, three-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath home as open space, definitely meant to be used.
A porte-cochère leads into the center of the great room, which, like the rest of the interior, is done in African wenge.
The flooring, which runs at an interesting diagonal, is a wood fron Vanuatu called black bean, which was milled in New Zealand.
The kitchen is another expanse of angles, a trapezoidal space that is a culmination of the home’s long, angled design. Its 10-by-14-by-4-foot island mimics the room’s trapezoidal shape and is made up of two large pieces of custom-honed black granite. The kitchen counter uses the same granite.
A striking feature of the home is its library, the home’s only two-story area. Bookshelves rise 12 feet into the space, and a staircase with wenge stair treads leads up to an art-filled sitting area.
“People are constantly driving by, slowing down and looking at this home,” says Tozier, the architect. “It’s unusual. It plays on forms and it’s sculptural in that sense. We don’t see that in Hawaii, which is unfortunate.”
“What happened to Hawaii?” he asks. “People were coming from the Mainland to check out Hawaiian architecture in the 1950s and ’60s. Hawaii was hot as far as architecture was concerned.”
“Now we’re bringing in Mediterranean motifs and Italian motifs, and I just don’t get it,” he says. “We have lost our progressive attitude in Hawaii.”
Perhaps that “progressive attitude” regarding architecture will return with the next generation. The Blackburns’ 14-year-old son Kuhane is a budding architect attending a summer school program this year at Taliesin, the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture.
“He’s really good,” says his mother. “He’s the one who picked out the Higgins piece,” she adds, referring to the great room’s colorful glass divider, chosen to gently divide the space without blocking the view. “He saw it in the dealer’s booth in New York City and said, We have to get this.”
As satisfied as they are with their Waimea house, it has just been sold and now the Blackburns are on to their next project—remodeling a 1920s Hawaiian-style home they will move into in Oahu’s Black Point neighborhood.
The move, which is for their son’s schooling, is the right thing to do, says Blackburn. Still, she says, they will miss the Waimea home.