House Beautiful



The doors and windows of this Big Island, Hawaii, house by Catherine Kwong slide into the walls, creating a seamless indoor-outdoor flow.


Since the family tends to congregate in the kitchen, Kwong integrated it into the main living area. Cabinets: Henrybuilt. Chandelier: Interieurs. Fan: Boffi. Dining table and chairs: custom. Sofa and pillows: custom in Pierre Frey and Holland & Sherry fabrics. Side table: Egg Collective.


While vacationing on the Kona Coast, a couple with two young kids fell in love with the area and decided to build a (now frequently visited) second home.

FOLLOW A PATH UP FROM THE OCEAN, across a sandy beach and rocky lava fields, and you’ll reach it: a vacation home tucked into the coast of Hawaii’s Big Island, where stark simplicity provides a respite from the area’s prevailing tropical colors.

“When we took on the project, the clients told us right away that they’re minimalists at heart,” says San Francisco–based designer Catherine Kwong. “That’s an easy thing to do in a big city loft, but we had to figure out, how did that translate to a house that’s open to the elements? And how do we make it a kind of place where people want to unwind?”

Kwong and her team worked with the home’s architect, Shay Zak of Zak Architecture, to lay an ideal foundation, using hard-wearing, weather-friendly materials like Alaskan yellow cedar and basalt (a.k.a. lava stone) to create a clean-lined structure where the indoors and outdoors—temperatures hover in the balmy mid-80s yearround—flowed easily into one another. For Kwong, the challenge was to bring in furnishings and decor that would make it feel relaxed, not austere.

Porch swings blend indoors and out.


Art: Sophie Tottie.

Picture light: Remains Lighting. Daybed:vintage Jean Prouvé. Cocktail tables: Jim Zivic. Drum side table: Target.


It’s definitely a cozy post-beach kind of room,” says Kwong. The B&B Italia sectional was the first piece the clients chose. Art: Michael J. Spear. Tray: Nickey Kehoe. Sconces: Orange Furniture. Rug: Holland & Sherry.

Her answer: layer, layer, layer. “It’s a neutral color palette,” she says, referring to everything from the textiles (a mix of grays and ivories) to the artwork (all black and white, and all behind UV-filtering glass), “but it incorporates different types of media. The materials and fabrics all have a tactile hand, which makes it seem cozier.

Even the white paint that was used on all of the interior walls was chosen with warmth in mind. “The lighting on the Big Island is really bright, so we didn’t want a pure white,” Kwong explains. “We spent months testing out colors and ended up with Benjamin Moore’s Swiss Coffee—actually a super-popular color that has a little softness to it.”

And while the idea of white anything in a beach house occupied by two adults with two little kids might cause hesitation, Kwong assures that the pieces she chose—from the beige hemp rugs to indoor-outdoor canvas cushions on the dining chairs—are totally family-friendly. “We made sure to balance the client’s minimalist aesthetic with how a beach house is actually used,” says Kwong. “It’s not a place where people are worried about tracking in sand!”


The home’s main entrance leads into a central courtyard. Two different textures of lava stone make up the floors. Bench: Sawkille Co.

The Weatherproof Home

For a house that can handle the elements—and kids, and vacationing adults.

ALASKAN YELLOW CEDAR Popular with local builders because of its ability to withstand extreme heat and humidity, this wood has a clean, modern look.

UV GLASS All of the art was placed behind light-filtering panels, so there’s no risk it’ll get faded when doors and windows are left open.

BASALT For indoor and outdoor floors, Zak used basalt: a dark gray, hard-wearing lava stone native to Hawaii. “It keeps cool in the heat but has a nice softness,” says Kwong.


The tranquil pool overlooks a stretch of lava fields; from there, it’s a quick walk down to the beach.

Chairs: James Perse.


Each bedroom has louvered sliding doors that open to an outdoor shower and courtyard. Art: Rachelle Derouin. Bed: De La Espada. Bedding: Parachute duvet, Matteo coverlet. Pillow fabric: Pierre Frey. Sconce: Guéridon. Side table: James Perse. Towel ladder: Menu.