Marrakech on Maui

How a Maui designer translated his clients’ love for foreign lands, creating an exotic oasis on the island’s southern shore.


Story by Lindy Hayes |  Photography by Steve Brinkman

Marrakech-on-MauiAsk Marlene Burke about the inspiration behind her striking, 5,352-square-foot Kīhei home and she doesn’t miss a beat. “We are very eclectic people,” she says of herself and Dick Meyer, with whom she shares the house. “We wanted our Hawai‘i home to be dramatic and bold and comfortable, a place where we could enjoy the view and spend time with our family and friends.”

To that end, Burke sought out Karl D. Gottling, a prolific interior designer who orchestrates projects from his antiques and furniture showroom, Gottling Ltd., in Wailuku. “It was serendipity,” she says. “I’d seen Karl’s work in magazines and been to his shop without realizing the connection. Then, all of a sudden, he’s working with me.”

Gottling’s involvement began while the house was still under construction. “The blueprints and floor plans were perfect, with fun little details like the tiny windows above the living room doors,” he recalls. “It was a great example of an accent design on the part of the architects. I picked up on that and worked it into the interior design.”

He also picked up on Burke and Meyer’s penchant for exotic color and style. “They wanted to create a Marrakech-inspired island home,” he says. “They had several furniture pieces that they wanted to bring in, and terra cotta-colored accent walls throughout the house.”

Gottling’s design begins at the front doors, which he flanked with a pair of 400-pound antique Chinese Foo dogs. They sit on custom travertine blocks matching the entry’s floor. “The first impression is the most important,” he says. “The entry is magnificently designed, with a dramatic archway and very large doors. I wanted to accent and enhance it even more.”

Inside, establishing the color palette was key. To soften the effect of the terra cotta and create a feeling of elegance, Gottling introduced dark woods and muted tones: mushroom, taupe, gold and spice. The color palette perfectly complements the home’s neutral travertine floors and painted columns.

Maui home Asian decorNext, he incorporated a carefully chosen collection of rare and unique Asian antiques, mostly Japanese and Chinese, including handcrafted exotic-wood furniture. “I always look at the rooms overall and decide on the size and placement of major furniture pieces, like a sofa or cabinets, and then work down to the smallest décor details,” Gottling explains. “I enjoy combining color and form. Sometimes I have a strategy; sometimes I just see something and have a sense that it will be perfect for a certain area.”

Within the long entry corridor, the designer placed 200-year-old Chinese screens that had once graced the entrance to a temple; the nine-foot-tall screens hang in niches behind an antique black-granite statue of Kwan Yin, the goddess of compassion, and white standing vases. “The building felt so new,” Gottling says. “Attaching the screens to the walls as architectural art gave it more of an Old World feel.” A hand-knotted runner explores the corridor’s length, and a delicate manzanita branch in a celadon crackle vase adorns another niche.

Interior archways lead to a sumptuous living room whose pocketing doors open onto a large lanai, and beyond, to an expansive, freeform swimming pool.

“The room is a large space with very high ceilings,” says Marlene Burke. “The challenge was finding pieces that were big enough, and, at the same time, give it a comfortable, intimate feel.”

Gottling met the challenge by designing a “room within a room,” using a long, curved sectional sofa to create a seating area. “The sofa is an important piece,” he says. “It’s 100 percent Italian leather in taupe that works great in contrast with the terra cotta walls, but is still very discrete.” Taupe linen pillows banded with hundreds of tiny seashells were added as accents.

Paired with the sofa are a fine, hand-knotted carpet and Moyo chairs by Pierce Martin. Other significant pieces include an antique coffee table and a pair of nine-foot-tall, 200-year-old chests from Shanghai. A large painting by Maui artist Alejandro Goya serves as a focal point and ties the design together. Everywhere, small accessories, such as blue-and-white antique Chinese porcelain, and wood baskets planted with orchids, create an inviting environment.

For the dining room, Gottling went exotic. Playing on the clients’ choice of a camel chandelier, he placed faux zebra-hide-covered Louis XV chairs around a dining table with very clean lines.

To encourage the indoor-outdoor living so natural in the Islands, the great room can open completely to a spacious lanai that overlooks the pool and the sparkling Pacific beyond. At a small seating arrangement, a double-gourd vase sits on a solid teak block, symbolizing double happiness.

As with most of his high-end projects, Gottling selected much of the furnishings and décor for the home from his own store, as well as from favorite local resources around the Islands.

“We did just enough with the interiors to make it warm and welcoming,” he says. “It has a more clean and sleek design than tropical, but there is a feeling of home so that when you come in, you want to sit on the sofa with a friend and talk story.”

“Karl did a really good job of meshing all of our tastes into one home,” Burke adds. “Guests say the house feels like a resort. All winter long, we have a steady procession of family and friends who come and visit, and everyone is able to have their own space. We’re very fortunate.”


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