Homes for the Holidays

What makes an island home the perfect place for holiday entertaining? The answer may lie in an Upcountry kitchen warmed by a wood-burning stove; a great room spacious enough for a forest of Christmas trees, or (this being Maui)a pool deck that’s just as inviting in December as in July.

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Story by Heidi Pool | Photography by Nina Kuna & Jason Moore

Kapalua-maui-homeTidings of Comfort

Interior designer Renee Ward lives for holidays. “I grew up an only child,” she says. “My mom always made holidays special, and she taught me how to make them special for others.”

Since Maui lacks dramatic seasonal changes, Renee delights in creating them with decorations. “I enjoy transforming my home,” she says. “I have a storage locker for every holiday’s decorations.”

Renee designed the Kapalua home she shares with husband Dave, accomplishing the impressive feat of making a spacious structure feel warm and welcoming. “We wanted a friendly home,” she says, “an environment where guests can feel comfortable.”

Indeed, comfort is key in the rooms they use for entertaining: a gourmet kitchen that flows into a family room with inviting, overstuffed furniture; a pool deck that overlooks Oneloa Bay and the island of Molokai.

My mom made the holidays special, and taught me how to make them special for others.

“It’s truly a joy entertaining in our home,” says Renee. And entertain they do. The couple frequently host intimate get-togethers, and two or three times a year hold gatherings of up to 100 guests. They are especially fond of potlucks; two parallel, freestanding kitchen islands serve as buffet tables. To maximize space, Renee selected a smooth-top electric range instead of a gas range with raised burners.

A built-in bar in a corner of the family room is a popular spot whenever the couple entertains. Here Dave mixes margaritas, while Renee pours shots from her amazing array of tequilas. “I’ve been collecting tequila since 1982,” she says.

Although Christmas is high on her list, Renee’s favorite holiday is actually Cinco de Mayo. Why? “Because I love tequila, of course,” she says with a laugh.

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Like Currier and Ives

Our Upcountry hostess is known for her vivacious warmth—and for a self-effacing nature we’ll respect by preserving her anonymity. Let’s just say that visiting her home is like stepping back nearly a century in time. Built in 1917, the two-story farmhouse is located on a working cattle ranch and was used by her husband’s grandfather as a summer home.

Holidays here can gather as many as sixty members of this old kamaaina family. In 1990, they took the sensible step of expanding the original, tiny kitchen, adding a cheery sunroom whose French doors lead to a lawn shaded by a magnificent magnolia tree. “We wanted to be able to look out onto the ranch and the bicoastal ocean view,” says the lady of the house. The sprawling kitchen has become one of the home’s most enticing rooms. “Everyone loves sitting in here because it’s so cozy and informal.”

Think friends and family gathered around, warming toes beside the stove, hands wrapped around steaming mugs.

The old-fashioned charm is part authentic, part expert replication—it’s almost impossible to tell which is which. The remodel retained much of the original cabinetry, windows and push-button lighting, while the contractor replicated the white wainscoting on the ceiling and walls. It was no easy task. “It’s not a standard size,” our homeowner says, “so each piece had to be specially milled.”

Kula’s higher elevations can get downright chilly; sane folks employ some kind of heating system. Our homeowners replaced the kitchen’s dilapidated fireplace with a wood-burning stove, but kept the original red-brick chimney. Think Christmas Day, temperatures in the forties, a bowl of hot eggnog on the butcher block that serves as a kitchen island. Think friends and family gathered around, warming toes beside the stove, hands wrapped around steaming mugs.

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Deck the Holidays

“I was born to be an event planner,” says Lois Reiswig, a petite brunette who is happy to take on birthday and holiday parties, wine-tasting dinners, even elaborate events that stretch over days.

Her favorite place to entertain is the pool deck. It’s easy to see why: the 3,000-square-foot lanai overlooks the eighteenth fairway of the Plantation Golf Course, with stunning unobstructed views of Mokuleia Bay, Fleming Beach, and the neighboring island of Molokai.

The elegant Kapalua home offers a lovely porte cochere, and a grand entrance. Guests must feel like royalty as they descend a split staircase into a gracious living area that showcases the home’s spectacular view and spills out onto the generous lanai. A few more steps lead down to a sapphire-blue pool surrounded by lush gardens and travertine in warm, earthy tones. A covered outdoor kitchen, equipped with table and chairs, gas grill, wine cooler, and refrigerator, is perfect for smaller gatherings.

In 2009, Lois and husband Lee hosted thirty Mainland friends for seven days, celebrating the blessing of their newly remodeled home, named Puuwaihamama (gift from the heart). Lois says the highlight of the week was a luau orchestrated by renowned cultural practitioner Kimokeo Kapahulehua. “Keiki hula dancers performed on the lawn, local musicians on the lanai, and we even roasted a pig in our imu [underground oven],” she says.

A wise hostess, Lois always has a contingency plan for Kapalua’s temperamental weather. (Sudden downpours are a common occurrence.) “We recently held a wine-tasting dinner benefiting the Maui Culinary Academy,” says Lois. “We had everything ready to go; all the tables were in place and beautifully set, when it began to rain. We quickly cleared the living room, moved everything inside, and the event proceeded without a hitch.”

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