My latest project is building a house on the lot I purchased in 2016. After I had the land cleared and grubbed, the next step was to decide what to put on it. My expectations were high, because readying the land proceeded fairly easily (except for the rain).
My original idea was to build a modest one-bedroom cottage, and rent it out. I started by heading straight to HPM, and their HPM Homes, working with Brigitte Spry, Senior HPM Homes Consultant, at their location in Kona. This was May 2017. I liked her immediately. She patiently explained the HPM Homes process and I left with the book of models tucked under my arm. Perusing this catalog was like getting the Sears Christmas Catalog as a kid – so many delightful ideas on every page.
The more I thought it through, the more I wanted the new house for me, creating the perfect home to age in place. One thing I liked about the HPM Homes was that I could customize my design. While HPM has several designs that already have County approval if no changes are required, I wanted a model with an indoor laundry (versus in the carport which is more typical here) and a place where I could enter the home from the backyard. With the steep slope of the land, I was not going to put myself in a position of having to walk up nearly two flights of stairs at the front, just to bring my groceries inside.
But models with both of these features did not exist in the book. So I found one I could alter, the Lauhala home. It was a simple change of swapping the locations of a bathroom and the laundry. By adding an external door to the laundry, I had direct access to the backyard and the driveway along the side of my current house.
Of course, I’m not one to do things halfway. I got design happy. Here are some of the changes I made:
- Made ceilings 9 feet instead of 8.
- Added two feet to width of house.
- Added two feet of length, one in the house, and one in the front lanai across the entire width of the house.
- Widened bathroom to make space for a soaking tub (one of two luxuries I allowed myself).
- Took out two smaller windows and a door in living room/dining room and replaced with a 16-foot four panel patio door. This is the other luxury; I have a great view, I might as well be able to see it.
- Replaced large lanai on the north-east corner of the house, adding space to the master bedroom. This also created a foyer, my very own mud room. I always wanted one.
- Removed walk-in closet in master bedroom to make room for a walk-in pantry in the kitchen.
- Squared off the peninsula in the kitchen and swapped the sink and range locations. (When entertaining, I want to face my guests in the dining room while I cook.)
- Moved hot water heater under the house allowing room for the addition of a powder room in the foyer.
My plan is to scale down my own living space now that I am living alone. So some of these changes accommodated my desire to rent the master bedroom, or provide a separate space for a daughter, should one decide to return home. The renter will have 450 square feet plus their portion of the lanai. I will have the remainder.
Brigitte seemed surprised by the level of detail I had created, down to an electrical plan. She says I no longer have a kit house. It’s a custom home. Maybe, but I still see the bones of the original house within it. She also teased that I should come to work for them, as I had great ideas for improvements to my design.
Once the topographical map of the lot and the septic system design were completed, the architect was able to marry those up with my house design to create a final set of plans. It’s amazing how many details you have to think through ahead of time, like designing in a closet tall enough for the ironing board, mop and broom, and even to the placement of electrical plugs if you want them somewhere besides near the floor. The final modification I added was doors and hallways large enough to accommodate a wheelchair. A dear friend’s experience is top of mind – it can happen to anyone.
Brigitte submitted my final plan to the County for approval at Thanksgiving 2017. At the same time, I was working with Peggy Benson, HPM’s Kona Kitchen and Bath Designer.
The layout changes I had made to the Lauhala house were easy to visualize because I created the plans myself with PowerPoint. But to really picture the kitchen, bathroom and laundry cabinetry, Peggy had to work her magic with her design program. Poor Peggy, stuck working with a Gemini perfectionist. If you know me well, you can imagine it. If you don’t, it’s best not to know.
Meanwhile, I interviewed a couple of builders and decided to hire the folks that my friend Stacy used, Ohana Homes. Brigitte praised them too. I love working with Kathryn and Ron.
All throughout the fall (2017), I thought I’d be starting construction in January 2018, and indeed, the County Planning Department approved the plans on January 29, 2018. I didn’t think the damn bank would take an additional six months to finalize the construction loan – nine months total to birth that loan. I will never recommend this bank. Contact me if you want to know more. “Livid” and “loathing” only begin to describe my feelings about them.
But I put that aside as I watched my house materialize. We started July 31, 2018. We’re lucky to have had only one calamity: Hurricane Lane washed parts of my lot away while Ohana Homes was setting the foundations. That cost us three weeks as they brought the soil back up the hill. Not bad as calamities go.
This may be the hardest, most multi-faceted project I’ve ever taken on – a real workout for my brain and decision-making skills. I’m so grateful that my current house abuts the new property, allowing me the luxury of inspecting the progress on the new house every day, and being on-hand when questions arise.
As I write this, the outside is almost done, with only the doors and decks left. The electrician is finished and the plumber is busy inside. Next step is drywalling, then cabinet installation. I can’t wait to see them go in. Wish me continued luck.
For more information, see Building a new house in Hawaii, Part 1.
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