Published on May 29, 2019

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Photo by Matthew Millman for Catherine Kwong

When a family with two young children fell in love with Hawaii a few years ago, they realized the occasional vacation on the Big Island wasn’t going to cut it. They needed to spend as much time as they could in this newfound paradise. Instead, they found the perfect plot of land on the Kona coast to build their dream holiday home.

To achieve this, they called on the help of Zak Architecture and interior designer Catherine Kwong to create a four-bedroom, four-bath home that is at once minimalist and speaks to the breathtaking coastline outside. “They were looking for a space to unwind and relax in Hawaii, one of their favorite places on earth,” explains the designer.

“When they are there, they spend most of their time outdoors. This house was always meant to be an open, no-fuss, but beautifully calm place to spend quality time together as a family,” Kwong continues. With a large open courtyard at the heart of the home, the landscape outside plays an integral role inside. Ahead, Kwong shares her top tips for designing with your surroundings in mind.

Pull the Outside In

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Photo by Matthew Millman for Catherine Kwong

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Photo by Matthew Millman for Catherine Kwong

“It’s impossible not to be inspired by the natural landscape of Hawaii,” says Kwong of her inspiration for the house. “On the Big Island, you are surrounded by the ocean, the lava fields, and rolling hills. The climate and landscape vary wildly across the island, but there is a consistent, untamed nature to it.”

“This house was always meant to be an open, no-fuss, but beautifully calm place to spend quality time together as a family.”

Each of these elements is reflected in the home’s materials palette, which includes cedar ceilings and lava stone floors. “We delineated the interior spaces within the natural cedar envelope with white vertical boards,” explains Kwong. “All of the millwork is white oak and the countertops are marble. And there are black accents throughout in the sliding doors, light fixtures, faucets, and hardware.”

Source Furniture in Unexpected Places

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Photo by Matthew Millman for Catherine Kwong

Because the color scheme skewed neutral and the inside was designed with the outside in mind, the designer kept the furnishings tonal to create a cohesive and peaceful look, layering in textures and using handmade details to imbue richness. “I love starting with vintage pieces and then adding more contemporary pieces to balance things out,” says Kwong.

Most of the items were found on a big sourcing trip to Los Angeles: a pair of Bernt Petersen lounge chairs, a Jacques Biny floor lamp, and a a Jean Prouvé daybed, which has an interesting backstory: “I was with my team in L.A. and we stopped by The Row for a quick clothes-shopping break, and that’s where we found our Prouvé daybed,” recalls the designer. “This particular piece had the perfect amount of patina and included my favorite feature, an attached swivel table by Charlotte Perriand. The store usually doesn’t sell its personal pieces off the floor like that, but I think we pleaded with them just the right amount that they acquiesced.”

Test Paint Colors Against the Natural Light

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Photo by Matthew Millman for Catherine Kwong

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Photo by Matthew Millman for Catherine Kwong

Not all white paints are made the same, and Kwong knows this better than anyone. “The natural light in Hawaii is so pure,” she explains. “That, coupled with reflections off of the Pacific Ocean beyond, means that colors are just so much brighter and vibrant there.”

“It’s impossible not to be inspired by the natural landscape of Hawaii. On the Big Island, you are surrounded by the ocean, the lava fields, and rolling hills.”

In order to pick the perfect palette for the house, the team went through multiple rounds of white paint brush-outs on-site before choosing the perfect one. “In the end, it was a unanimous vote for the winner: Benjamin Moore Swiss Coffee!” says Kwong.

Let the Architecture Inspire Your Artwork

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Photo by Matthew Millman for Catherine Kwong

Kwong picked the house’s artwork, a mix of drawings, prints, and photography, with the same attention to detail as she did the paint colors and other furnishings. “Because of the clean lines and quiet materiality of the architecture, we were looking for art that was quiet but also strong,” she explains.

The four large pieces in the great room are ink drawings by Sophie Tottie, a Swedish artist who draws freehand with Indian ink. A large Hugo Guinness drawing of flowers hangs above one of the beds. Photographs by Rachelle Derouin and Andrew Paynter are displayed throughout the other bedrooms. “All of the rooms are cozy but have very high ceilings, so when choosing the artwork, scale was everything,” says Kwong.

See more minimalist home ideas:
This Tiny Cabin Is the Ultimate Minimalist Escape
Every Minimalist Has This in Their Home
Has Japanese Minimalism Replaced Its Scandinavian Counterpart?

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