Story by Sarah Ruppenthal | Photography by Gregory Pierce
Dave and Arleen fell in love with Maui the first time they traveled here in the 1980s. “We always said: ‘One day, we’ll come back and have a special place on Maui,’” says Arleen. “It’s been in our brains for a very long time.”
Arleen is a film producer, Dave a telecommunications CEO. In January 2014, the jet-setting couple set out to find a vacation home on Maui that would suit their lifestyle. “It was an exploratory mission,” recalls Arleen. After looking at just about everything on the market, they found the perfect home-away-from-home where they least expected it: the new Residences at Montage Kapalua Bay.
“I had never considered a residence in a hotel, but we like to look at things outside our box,” says Arleen. “When I stepped foot on the property, it clicked.” Arleen recalls that she walked the grounds to feel a sense of place. “I found so much history and respect for the Hawaiian culture there. I felt instantly connected to the land and the sea.”
The couple settled on a three-bedroom residence with nearly 2,800 square feet of interior space and a 630-square foot lanai. The top-floor, corner location takes in a view that is at once intimate and expansive: in the near ground, the curve of Kapalua Bay; beyond that a scalloped coastline that yields to the ocean and the island of Lana‘i.
The next order of business was outfitting the “blank canvas” of the interior to create a casual, inviting second home and vacation rental. The resort’s model unit, designed by Kari Demond of Texas-based KLM Interiors, provided inspiration.
“Arleen peeked inside the model while I was working on the installation,” Kari recalls. “She said, ‘I love it,’ and we went from there.”
The two women met only once, collaborating mostly via phone calls and emails in what both describe as a successful long-distance relationship. The trick, says Kari, is to listen. “I always ask my clients about their specific goals, their lifestyle, and what they want the space to accomplish.”
“Working with Kari was great,” Arleen concurs. “We have a lot of the same sensibilities.”
They opted for many of the furnishings and accessories displayed in the Montage Residences model, but they also wanted a vacation home that was uniquely their own. “Montage” — a movie term — became a fitting metaphor, as the interior designer and the film producer worked to select, edit and piece together a family-friendly haven.
Dave and Arleen envisioned their home as a natural extension of land and sea; that got Kari modifying the interior color schemes. “Blue is Arleen’s favorite color; she does everything in blue, and asked me to push her out of her envelope,” Kari explains. “So I did.”
The designer relegated blue to an accent color for the bamboo green that dominates the residence — a gesture to the home’s lush surroundings, particularly the palm trees that fringe the property. “We didn’t want to compete with Mother Nature,” she explains. “The goal was to be synergistic and create a sense of cohesiveness.”
Accomplishing that goal meant that the residence was still a work in progress as this story went to press, with Kari adjusting the color palette to enhance the collection of works by local artists that Arleen has been gathering over the course of several months. They range from eye-catching oils and richly hued, handwoven tapestries, to antique ‘ukuleles and vintage 1960s Hawaiian shirts.
“I spent countless hours looking at as many portfolios as I could get my hands on,” says Arleen. “I wanted everything to be fun and respectful of Hawaiian culture.”
As she pored over those portfolios, Arleen e-mailed photos of the art to Kari. “We would discuss why a particular piece would be the best choice for a particular wall,” says Kari. “Then we would modify [paint] colors to work with the art.
“The art is really what sets this residence apart,” Kari adds. They also requested a few changes to ensure the home’s durability and livability — for example, incorporating lounge chairs with wider arms to invite a lazy afternoon of reading; and custom accent chairs covered in swimsuit-friendly, indoor-outdoor fabric.
“We tweaked a lot of the fabrics for durability,” says Kari. Arleen also opted for dark wood furniture, which adds depth and richness. Arguably the most striking feature of the living room is the vaulted ceiling, which Arleen decided to cover with subtle swaths of grasscloth. “I put grasscloth in the model’s powder room,” explains Kari. “Arleen loved it and wanted to add it to her living room ceiling.”
The dining room’s focal point will be a conversation piece: a nine-foot, marigold-yellow surfboard with a striking red-and-blue design, mounted horizontally on the wall. To underscore the boldness of the surfboard, Kari chose a subdued shade of blue-green for the walls. “The colors complement the art,” she says. The surfboard’s vibrant colors will also reflect in the gleam of a custom cerused oak slab (a finish that can withstand a lot of abuse) atop a cast stone pedestal. Kari was delighted to discover that the stone pedestal is the same shape as the wooden bowls used in Polynesian ‘awa cleansing ceremonies.
Other defining touches will include a set of high-backed, swivel barstools for the kitchen bar, perfect for lingering over coffee while drinking in the view beyond the oversized lanai; and a king-sized bed in the master suite that’s outfitted in a dark taupe reminiscent of the bark of a kukui tree. In the master bathroom, Kari plans to line an accent wall with hand-painted mulberry wallpaper, using a pattern suggested by the resort’s cultural ambassador, Silla Kaina, who influenced many of the Montage Residences’ aesthetic choices. The pattern depicts two mountains — one of which is Haleakala, Maui’s dormant volcano — resting above a body of water, symbolizing life as it flows from the mountain to the ocean.
One of the home’s two guest suites is the same as in the model. The second will be one of a kind, with sturdy furniture and accessories, and two queen-sized beds, to maximize flexibility as a vacation rental. Arleen plans to display island-inspired art in both guest rooms to add a pop of color and personality.
“I would define the Montage style as ‘sophisticated island,’” says Kari. “Dave and Arleen added a playful, tropical element.”
When complete, the design and installation will have taken nearly a year, but for Arleen, collaborating with Kari has made all the difference. “In the end,” she says, “it was a dream come true.”