It’s been two years since Lee and Patti Gardner moved into their elegant Kula home with its sweeping views of Central Maui’s green plains and the curve of Ma‘alaea Bay—and they’re still pinching themselves.
This is their dream home. They worked on the design together. Lee built it, and Patti picked out all the materials.
Every detail is part of the Gardners’ dream, the integration of desire and design. Lee wanted a bar and a grand entrance. Patti wanted a library, and a fireplace in the bedroom. She also wanted plenty of space in her kitchen to cook and entertain.
“We wanted to take extreme advantage of the view, and put a lot of windows along the ocean side,” Lee says. “We also placed the two bedrooms on opposite ends of the house for privacy.”
After months of searching, they found a workable floor plan online, then modified it. The original plan called for three bedrooms, but turning the third bedroom into an expanded kitchen and pantry better suited the Gardners’ needs.
Now the kitchen is big enough to host a crowd, which is good, since everyone seems to wind up there during a party. The thick, green-granite countertops are the perfect height to lean your elbows on, and yummy things are always coming out of the two side-by-side ovens and two refrigerators (“Having two was the best thing I ever did; you just need that extra space!” Patti says).
The house’s open floor plan lends itself to entertaining. Fourteen-foot ceilings contribute a sense of spaciousness, while soffits in the bar and kitchen provide a cozier ambiance.
“We played with the ceiling elevations to create intimate spaces,” Lee says.
The kitchen opens into the family room—what they call the “heart of our home.” Here you find a plasma-screen TV and comfy couches, along with the beds of two very important family members: cocker spaniels Maggie and Butch. “When the weather gets chilly, the family room is the warmest room in the house,” Patti says.
Having an excuse to snuggle up is part of the joy of living in Kula for the Gardners. For twenty years, they lived in Kīhei. Patti, who’s originally from Michigan, always wanted to escape the heat and come Upcountry, but Lee took some convincing. “I’ve always lived near the ocean,” says Lee, who’s from San Francisco. “But I’ve fallen in love with it up here—the air is so revitalizing.”
An avid gardener, Lee finds that with the cooler climate he can spend all day working outside and still have energy. Patti sleeps better at night, and she gets to use the double-sided French limestone “dream” fireplace in their bedroom. The fireplace adds a cozy feeling to a room already steeped in comfort, with a foot-swallowing shag rug and a gold-leaf palm-frond chandelier hanging over the four-poster bed.
The sumptuousness continues into Patti’s bathroom. Every woman should have a bathroom like this: lots of counter space—in this case, finished in gold-hued Egyptian marble—and a deep Jacuzzi tub overhung with a cascading seashell lamp.
Just down the hall is the Gardners’ home office, which doubles as Patti’s library. With windows facing the slopes of Haleakala, and built-in bookshelves of African mahogany stretching floor to ceiling, it’s the perfect place for Patti, a self-described “voracious” reader, to indulge her lifelong love of books. The shelves also house a collection of miniature vintage motorcycles, reflecting another of the Gardners’ passions. The real versions are in the garage.
“I’ve ridden motorcycles since I was sixteen,” says Lee, now a proud Harley owner. “Patti used to ride on the back of mine all the time; then she decided she wanted to try it herself. . . . It’s just a different perception when you’re on a bike; you smell the waterfalls, the fruit trees, hear the bamboo rustling in the wind, the waves crashing down below.”
“We love riding Upcountry,” Patti agrees. Every year, the Gardners ship their bikes over to O‘ahu or the Big Island, where they spend five or six days exploring the scenic back roads.
She delights in decking out the house for her favorite holiday with two enormous trees: the ten-foot “fancy tree” in the formal living room, adorned with an exquisite collection of handmade ornaments; and the eight-foot “fun tree” in the family room.
Just two years ago, things were pretty different—the Gardners’ Christmas décor consisted of a tiny tree on top of the TV. They had just moved in, and their dream home was only half built. “There was lumber drying in the living room, and a table saw in the family room,” Patti laughs. “There were boxes everywhere, and a cement floor throughout the house. We just said, ‘Finish the bedroom; we’re moving in!’”
Now the cement floor has been covered by smooth chestnut travertine from Greece, one of Patti’s favorite selections. Not many people have such hands-on knowledge of their home’s finishes. But the Gardners, who founded Maui Marble & Granite in 1986, have built a successful business working with natural stone products.
The travertine flooring runs throughout the house all the way onto the pool deck, making it a natural extension of the living space. On a cool December evening, with a holiday party in full swing, twin heater lamps keep things cozy in the crisp Kula air. The lights of the glass-tiled infinity pool draw visitors out to the edge overlooking the sparkling view down the slopes. A raised Jacuzzi bubbles at one end of the pool, and a wood fire in a copper fire pit crackles at the other.
Beyond the terraced steps leading down from the pool, the Gardners’ three-acre property extends horizontally, encompassing Lee’s orchard of citrus, plum, avocado, four kinds of pears, and enough apples to keep Patti happily baking for days.
“I hope to have coffee plants some day, and we have Italian olive trees we want to put in,” Lee says. “It’s a great altitude to grow any fruits and vegetables. It’s exciting to see how fast things grow up here.”
On the weekends, if they’re not weeding and planting, the Gardners like to lounge poolside and watch the hang gliders drift down from Polipoli, higher up the mountain. The gliders float so softly through the mist, it’s like a dream. That’s when the Gardners have to pinch themselves, again.