This Midcentury Home is an Award-Winning Design Experiment

Architect explores possibilities to create a renewed modern classic.
midcentury home
Photos: George Chan; 360 Architectural Arts and Aerials

Deep in Manoa Valley, a midcentury home was aging and in need of more than a restoration; it needed to be reinvented. And for that, it needed someone with a passion for design. Built in 1959, the redwood, single-wall structure of the house was in good shape, but its overall condition was weak and dated. The original midcentury and Japanese style of the home and its history could be saved and celebrated again – with the right vision.


The exterior’s façade mixes materials, including corrugated metal panel cladding. The backyard was cleared, leveled and landscaped with natural lava rock pavers.

Architect Louis Fung, principal of Fung Associates, toured the old home and could see the potential for its revitalization. His firm doesn’t do much residential work, instead focusing primarily on commercial projects – specifically, for the government – and specializing in historical preservation, with a particular passion for midcentury modern design. There has to be something special about a residential project for the firm to take it on. And this house had it.

The home’s original garden path to the front door was redesigned, with steps leading to an entry with black river pebbles and wooden doors.

Fung bought the house as a development project, seeing an opportunity for a new approach to renovating a midcentury Hawaii home. The result, he says, is a renewed modern classic.

Fung says his vision was an experiment to “create an ensemble of design ideas manifested by using certain existing features” and adding new design elements – an alternate response to an otherwise typical renovation. “The transpiration to newer and modern design trends can add a little playfulness and individuality to a neighborhood in transition.”

The two-car garage and living room above it are additions to the home.

The home’s exterior highlights a combination of design eras. The original structure was retained, covered partially in new corrugated metal panel cladding, referencing the Industrial Revolution. The addition to the home is a combination of white plaster and accents of natural wood siding, a tribute to the beginning of the modern movement. “The juxtaposition between existing and new, to me, is a very powerful statement,” Fung says.

living room
The living room is separated from the rest of the house, connected by a short hallway. A new lanai takes advantage of the valley view.

The predominant midcentury design features were retained and restored through the renovation. Lava rock walls were preserved and integrated into the new design as the back wall of the two-car garage, a notion of transcendence from the old to new design, Fung says. Metal handrails connecting the garage to the interior entry were given a new coat of darker paint, a contrast against a white wall and highlighted by task lighting.

The renovated home adds 1,000 square feet of living space for a total of 3,000 square feet, with four bedrooms, three bathrooms and a one-bedroom accessory dwelling unit.

The addition to the home was designed to take advantage of the valley view – something the original house did not. Above the garage is a new living room with a lanai. It was challenging to connect the new space with the existing structure, Fung says. “The new living room is literally a separate unit from the main house, separated by a new Zen garden in between,” he explains. The garden is enclosed by glass on three sides so it can be viewed and enjoyed from different spaces.

Centered in the home, the kitchen is in its own defined space, yet is connected to the tea room and dining room for easy entertaining.

The kitchen is at the center of the home, extending into a tea room and dining room. Fung selected natural finishes, including bamboo floors and white marble countertops. “The kitchen, in the modern sense, would be the center of interaction of the house. It has now transformed into a part of the living areas, centered to the main entrance, and dressed with the intent to be more than just a utilitarian space,” Fung says. “The pantry and the recessed refrigerator are attempts to maintain a clean line of the kitchen. The choice of glass paneled cabinetry and drawers in lieu of doors are also intended to turn the kitchen into a place of conversation.”

living room
The garage connects to the inside of the home through a staircase that leads into the tea room. The original midcentury handrails along the stairs were refinished with darker paint and highlighted with task lighting.

Two bedrooms are on either side of the house: One looks over the valley, the other into the backyard, which was cleared, leveled and landscaped with natural lava rock pavers and black river pebbles. On the ground floor, beside the garage, is a new accessory dwelling unit.

With the home now complete and sold, Fung is pleased with the results of his design experiment. “I think design sells; design has value,” Fung says. “To create an ensemble of a variety of design elements and features, it is fulfilling to see that contrast and harmony can coexist in one project.”

dining room
The dining room has a view of the landscaped backyard, with its original rock walls, and natural lava rock pavers and black river pebbles.

Editor’s Note: For this project, Fung Associates received the Hawaii Home + Remodeling Editor’s Choice Award, part of the American Institute of Architects Honolulu Chapter’s Design Awards competition.

Categories: Architecture, Featured Homes