Building the Hawaiian Dream House: A Window into the Future, Plus Some Doors

July 15, 2016 | By | Comments (0)

After the frame, the largest items in our house by volume are the windows and doors. In my last blog, I talked about the container that’s about to sail from California with our appliances, plumbing hardware and fixtures, and HVAC unit—78 items in all. They’re traveling as LCL, meaning as less than a container-load. The windows and doors, on the other hand, were shipped in two containers, for no other reason that one wasn’t enough. Now they’ve started going in.

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Designing those windows and doors was a months-long process. We considered various manufacturers before settling on Western Window Systems, whose weather-proofed, inch-thick panes feature stainless-steel hardware that seemed perfectly suited for the salt-flecked breezes of the coast. On a technical level, they’ll block some 60 percent of the ambient solar energy, keeping the house’s insides cool, while also letting 70 percent of the visible light pass through the glass. But what if we don’t want glass at all? In the main pavilion, eight floor-mounted 8-foot-tall panes will slide into one another until only two of them remain, and 45 horizontal feet of windows will become an open door to garden and pasture, with ocean just beyond. Perpendicular to them, another three windows facing west will also slide together, opening the space even more.

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Installed above those Multi-Slide Doors is a matching row of 5- by 5-foot fixed square windows, which further turn the pavilion’s face into glass, although on some nights, with the press of a button, a Da-Lite Wireline Advantage ceiling-mounted motorized projection screen will come down, transforming the living room into a theater (naturally, five Polk Audio speakers will be mounted in the ceiling, with a sixth powered subwoofer inside the rear wall)…but I digress.

We could never have designed the windows—there are also trapezoidal ones for walls that rise beneath sloped ceilings, more sliding doors above our bedroom to reach the deck, and all manner of hinged entry doors and windows of a hullabaloo of sizes—without the tireless, detail-minded, insightfully creative and unshakeably good-humored hard work of our architect, Paul M. Donoho, in seemingly endless consultation with Western Window Systems’ Big Island-based dealer Westside Glaziers, which kept refining the designs until everyone was ready to sign off. (Yes, the process felt just like how that sentence reads.) Along the way, Paula and I learned a whole new vocabulary of windows, including “hoppers,” “awnings,” “direct sets,” and “casements.” Maybe one day I’ll put that into a story, but I doubt it.

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The second container with windows and doors is still on its way, so they haven’t been installed (which means there will be more photos once they go in). Likewise, Paula and I are also on our way to Hawaii to see them in person, as well as to select our tiles and countertops, among a growing list of decisions we haven’t been able to make from far away.

Last September, flying to Hawaii for the land blessing, the window view was this:

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And it was easy to get lost in the grass.

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Soon, we’ll be inside our house for the first time with the panes before us, looking out. I’m hoping it will still look like this:

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Although sometimes, when I try, I can see that with my eyes closed. And that’s when everything feels right.

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