Story by Sarah Ruppenthal | Photography by Panaviz
Neil Felder has grown accustomed to the stares.
He says passersby often pause next to the hedge that separates his Wailea property from Keawakapu Beach. Some gaze contemplatively. Others pull out their smartphones and snap a photo.
Neil knows exactly what they’re looking at: a structural arch that descends dramatically from the roof, slices through the second-story lānai railing, and plunges into the swimming pool below. The design stops beachgoers in their tracks, but it’s functional, too; the charcoal-grey column supports a cantilevered lānai. Like an abstract sculpture in an art gallery, the arch invites varying interpretations: from one vantage, it resembles a cresting wave; from another, a whale’s tail. The same goes for the rest of the glass-and-stucco residence. Its interplay of curves and lines reveals a new impression at every turn.
And that’s precisely what Neil and his wife, Suzette, had in mind when they decided to build a home on the seaside property four years ago.
At the time, a bunker-like concrete cottage occupied the narrow, nearly half-acre parcel—hardly a selling point. But there was no denying the lot’s swoon-worthy views and proximity to the ocean. So when the couple learned it was for sale, they thought hard about whether to make an offer. Then one day, Neil took a stroll on Keawakapu Beach. Stopping near the makai (ocean side) entrance to the property, he turned to look at the rolling waves—just in time to see a large sea turtle surface for a gulp of air. “I said to myself: ‘Well, there’s my sign,’” he laughs.
The Felders purchased the lot, and decided to do away with the cottage and build something new. Neil and Suzette had a deal: he’d call the shots with the home’s exterior, and she would take creative control of the interior. Suzette had her heart set on a ground-level master suite, open kitchen and living area, and a master bath with dual vanities and separate commodes. Neil wanted a one-of-a-kind contemporary exterior that would make a bold statement—yet not overwhelm. “I wanted it to be different, but still fit into the area,” he explains. He didn’t have a specific look in mind, but recalls thinking he’d know it when he saw it.
The couple’s realtor knew the right architect for the job: Marc Taron, owner of the Wailuku firm Arquitectura LLC. In the weeks that followed, Marc would present a design to Neil, who would review it and say, “I like it, but it needs to be bolder.” Marc would return to his drafting table to tweak the design, pushing the envelope further each time. Finally, he showed Neil a rendering that included the sculptural arch, half-expecting him to veto it as too bold. Instead, it was the clincher. Neil says Marc’s design delivered on all fronts: It was daringly different, but also harmonized with its coastal surroundings. “It’s clearly not Hawaiiana-style, but with its curves and simple forms, the house seems to blend into the lot,” Marc says.
Neil agrees. “I told Marc I wanted the ocean to be integrated into the house . . . and he nailed it.” At once luxurious and laid-back, the residence pays homage to the sea, from its wavelike roof to the expanse of windows that bring sensational views into nearly every room. (In fact, from indoors, all you see are sand, surf, and sky—the strategically placed windows prioritize privacy by keeping neighboring homes out of sight.)
Inside, the spacious kitchen and dining area flow into a soaring great room whose massive sliding-glass doors open to the poolside lānai. The first-floor master bedroom has an en-suite bath with his-and-her vanities and commodes. Stairs ascend to the two guest bedrooms, Neil’s ocean-view office (and yes, he admits he’s often distracted by the vista), and a second-floor lānai. Out back, there’s a landscaped lawn, custom saltwater pool, and gated pathway that leads to the beach.
At the home’s entrance, a stone walkway seems to float in a shallow reflecting pool flanked by waterfall features. “Every inch of the lot is designed, not just the house,” Marc says. Working within the property’s slim, sloped footprint, he stacked the street-level garage atop a one-bedroom, one-bath ‘ohana (guest cottage). The two-story structure has a glass elevator and a sky bridge that connects it to the main house, amenities designed for long-term convenience, as the Felders says this is their “forever home.”
Marc is proud of every project he’s worked on, but has a particular affinity for this one. “I think that good architecture should be contextual and sculptural, as well as functional,” he says. “With Neil and Suzette’s project, I think we achieved all three.”
(Marc Taron, architect)
1325 Mo‘ohele St., Wailuku
Blackrock Stone & Tile LLC
1384 Front St., Lahaina
Buddy L & Sons Construction, Inc.
PO Box 543, Kīhei
Cindy Tervola, Tervola Designs
142 Kupuohi St., Ste. F6, Lahaina
Coastline Stone and Tile, Inc.
(tile for interior and lānai)
1765 S. Kīhei Rd., Kīhei
DFG Masonry, Inc.
12 Mano Dr., Kula
Grace Electrical Services
1097 Kaha‘apo Loop, Kīhei
332 E. Wākea Ave., Kahului
Hilltop Contractors, LLC
(stucco, rock wall, tile for entry walkway)
2860 Kauhale St., Kīhei
Hughes Landscape Architecture, LLC
(landscaping, waterfall design)
735 Bishop St., Ste. 308, Honolulu
Martin & Chock
1132 Bishop St., Ste. 1550, Honolulu
Maui Windows & Doors
54 Maui Lani Pkwy, Ste. #2050, Wailuku
Mhel Ramos-Vieth, Studio M Hawaii/Designline Studio
305 S. High St., # 102, Wailuku
Pure Image Pools
2377 Pu‘u Mala Pl., Kīhei
Ram Pacific Roofing
904 Mahealani St., Kīhei
335 E. Wakea Ave., Kahului
Tradewinds Air Conditioning Inc.
430 Kaulana St., Kahului