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Hidden, Hawaiian Stretch of Sand

Hidden, Hawaiian Stretch of Sand

Secluded beach sets ton for celebrity haven.

On Hawaii’s North Shore, a peaceful strand of coastline lies largely unknown to the multitudes that descend upon Honolulu’s perennially crowded tourist beaches. For more than a decade, this tranquil stretch of sand has become a home away from home to a loose-knit community of professional surfers as well as surf-minded business executives and celebrities. They choose this picturesque spot for one reason: they can relax and recreate, undisturbed alongside family and friends.

Because of the area’s strong sense of community, the homes and surrounding grounds match the lush natural surroundings as well as the local’s casual lifestyle. This is the challenge faced recently by a notably private “A-list” Hollywood celebrity who fell in love with the beach and decided to put down more permanent roots.

Privacy and continuity are key

For obvious reasons, privacy tops the list of requirements for his home and landscape design. However, because the rear property line meshes with the beach, it is essential that the final design present a friendly face to the community. The owner also desires a seamless indoor/outdoor, year-round living space – a destination getaway comfortably livable in all kinds of island weather.
Because of the owner’s tight time constraints and seemingly contradictory design priorities (“make it open, but private”), the project requires a passionate, patient and experienced designer. That’s why Trent Johnson – one of Hawaii’s most prestigious builders and the man responsible for the home’s construction – calls Garett McCorkle of Urban Landscape. The two men share a passion for surfing the waves along the same beach community, and Johnson knows that McCorkle will understand the values driving the unique aspects of the intended design.

McCorkle’s first move is to assemble his team of experts, including a preferred partner architect (see “Designing the Future” with Dan Stewart on page 28) and a gifted architectural illustrator. Because time is of the essence, the team relies solely on recent photographs of the existing site, taken during the early stages of home construction. The illustrator makes preliminary sketches, and McCorkle adds a few rough lines to indicate his ideas. Stewart completes rough pencil sketches of the surrounding hardscape, and he and McCorkle email dozens of patterns and textures for shrubs and plants to the illustrator . She works her magic as a fine artist and creates by hand – and draws exactly to scale – a colorfully intricate masterpiece

A segue from surf and sand to seclusion

The resulting design combines three lifetimes of professional experience, and may be best experienced via an imaginary walking tour from the beach inland.

From the soft sands and surf, we enter the family compound through a curving tunnel of lush hedges, which masks the backyard while allowing private access through a living wall built on a custom foundation. This functional yet engaging enclosure blends in easily with the surrounding foliage while providing unmatched concealment, allowing residents and guests to transition quickly from “surf to seclusion.”

On either side, five-foot high double stonewalls are planted at their apex with Vitex, a bountiful, flowering shrub native to the tropics and subtropics. This vibrant and versatile shrub grows in a variety of bright and subtle colors and is often cultivated for ornamental purposes.  Inside the walls, a series of fully established trees – including clusters of native coconut palms – add a feeling of maturity and permanence to our surroundings. Below our feet is a walking path comprised of broken native stone. On one side of the path is a large, roofed cabana. On the other, an ample stone deck surrounds a generous and inviting private pool.

The majority of the home’s building materials are recycled. To augment this environmentally friendly design, the grounds have several “green” elements as well, including an underground catchment designed to collect and recycle rainwater. Other features include a cold-plunge pool, a multi-level front entrance and a zero gravity Jacuzzi off of the rear deck.  Past the house, the walking path leads to a canopy of red, hand-selected bougainvillea vines, ending at a low walkway gate centered along the low front wall. Near the left corner of the property, a driveway of the same native materials as the walking path meanders through another floral canopy – this one knit with rare deep purple plumeria – finally culminating in a double wooden gate. Both the bougainvillea and the plumeria are carefully selected to form a naturally stunning combination.

Turning toward the ocean once again, the home and grounds blend seamlessly, and the myriad of natural colors and textures add to – rather than detract from – the glorious view.  Despite rigid time constraints, it is a breathtakingly stunning plan that leverages the best of both natural and man-made materials brought to fruition in a magnificent living space.

Gazing from property to the sea, we are reminded that good design knows no boundaries, and that great design transcends time and location.

 By Garett McCorkle