A North Vancouver interior designer’s multigenerational Maui getaway
Words Laura Goldstein
Photography courtesy HB Designs
- 4,000-square-foot plantation-style main house
- 600-square-foot lanai (veranda) off the great room
- 3 bedrooms in main house, each with its own en suite
- Master has entrance to private outdoor shower
off en suite
- Self-contained 400-square-foot ohana apartment for parents or friends
- Swimming pool
- Storage for windsurfers, hydrofoils, surfboards
Flying above the frothy swells like some wild tropical bird on Maui’s North Shore, Jennifer Heffel is learning to wing foil. Standing on a hydrofoil board, she holds the colourful sail to get lift out of the ocean.
“It’s the most exhilarating feeling—you really feel like you’re flying,” she explains enthusiastically.
Accomplished surfers and windsurfers, both Jennifer and her husband Robert have been going to Maui for 29 years: “Since my daughter was 18 months old,” says Jennifer, co-founder and principal of North Vancouver’s HB Design.
So, when it came time to build a holiday home in Maui, she had two criteria: it must be close to the beach where wind and wave conditions are at their peak on the North Shore, which is the windsurfing capital of the world, and the property must reflect a generational family gathering place.
“My parents had a cottage at Lake of the Woods on the border of Manitoba and Ontario, and I come from a family of four sisters, so we all gathered there as kids and later with our own children and friends,” Jennifer explains.
That wonderful time of family get-togethers inspired her dream to build a home in Maui that would elicit those same fond memories and hopefully stay in the family for generations to come.
With the property located in residential Spreckelsville near the quaint town of Paia, it was pure serendipity to have an architect as a neighbour.
“In 2008 it was the perfect storm of good timing,” says Jennifer. “We purchased the property on a cul-de-sac, and we hired architect Jeffrey Lundahl and local builders who could bring my vision to fruition in 2010. Two years later we built an adorable 400-square-foot self-contained ohana (meaning “family” in Hawaiian) apartment on the property for my parents to stay in while visiting.”
With trade winds gusting at times up to 80 kilometres per hour in the area, the 4,000-square-foot main house plus 600-square-foot “lanai” (like a veranda), is specifically designed in a U-shape around the swimming pool and courtyard to block the wind and any whirling sand.
For the house, Jennifer envisioned a traditional home based on a plantation style that originated in the early 1900s as pineapple and sugarcane homesteads in Hawaii. These homes are characterized by wide roofs, beamed ceilings, white-washed interiors and languidly spinning ceiling fans that blend seamlessly with the Maui landscape.
“I wanted the house’s interior to feel like a beachy plantation home that feels comfortable with just my small family of three, or 16 people visiting,” she explains. “That meant that I chose light-coloured floors so if someone came in with sand on their feet, who cares? You wouldn’t notice. Most of the furniture is slip-covered. In fact, I used a lot of beautiful indoor-outdoor fabrics so if someone spilled a drink or sat down in a wet bathing suit, no problem.”
Entering the Heffels’ home through the courtyard’s floor-to-ceiling glass doors, one immediately recognizes that it’s a stunning continuation of the vibrant exterior landscape. In considering the colours, Jennifer had gone down to the beach to photograph the ocean, sand, driftwood, shells and hibiscus flowers to give her interior palette a tropical punch of pinks and oranges from Hawaiian gardens, combined with the blues, chartreuse and aqua of the ocean and sea life.
A 30-foot-long abstract runner of swirling koi fish captures those hues along the breezeway that leads into the main house. Created by Burritt Bros. Carpet & Floors in Vancouver, it was made in Nepal and shipped directly to Maui. The other end of the breezeway is anchored by an Edward Burtynsky shipyard series photograph from Heffel Fine Art Auction House (where Robert is vice president).
Like many of the bespoke interiors Jennifer designs for clients, her vacation home reflects an airy elegance that is inviting rather than ostentatious. It’s no surprise that the Heffels love to cook and entertain here. The kitchen is defined by Shaker-style cabinetry with stainless steel hardware that she brought in from Spain.
“I wanted the look to be simple and fresh and I didn’t want any upper cabinets anywhere,” she says. “I have that great pantry off the kitchen for storage. The island has the same cabinetry, and we put this sort of sea-foam-blue wash on the fir. And those pull-up bar stools are like tractor seats that are molded to your behind and are really comfortable.”
Jennifer loves textured fabrics and draperies (even the high ceilings between the home’s beams are wallpapered in grasscloth). Her choice of the unusual Justine Stripe sheers, woven in Belgium by Opuzen, alternate from semi-transparent to solid. Hung in the dining area and great room, they perfectly frame the view looking out to the exterior pool and lanai.
“Yes, it was expensive, but it doesn’t fade or yellow under the intense heat here and it’s frankly one of the best investments of fabric I’ve ever made,” she says.
When Jennifer was working with the architect on the design of the house, she really wanted a dining area in which a table could accommodate up to 16 people.
The resulting choice “has breadboard ends so it can be extended—we’ve had a lot of really fun dinners there! The eight rattan chairs are from Crate & Barrel and the two wing chairs at either end are upholstered in leafy-patterned slipcovers, so if someone spills something, I just take them off to the dry cleaners,” she adds.
The great room that overlooks the spacious lanai is where the Heffel family congregates to watch films, sing along with the karaoke machine, and play board games in the evenings. Built-in light cabinetry and cosy slip-covered sofas exude a calming vibe, making it the perfect sanctuary to flop down and relax after a long day of beach sports. Pass the popcorn!
While the active couple heads down to the ocean daily to swim and windsurf, Jennifer says, “We really debated about putting in a pool because of the maintenance. But we realized that not everyone is a beach person. For instance, my parents who are in their 80s really like to just lounge and relax around the pool.”
The three bedrooms in the main house all have their own en suites and riff off the same beachy palette as the principal rooms, with striped fabric on the custom beds and headboards. Jennifer used a pebbled tile around the mirrors, backsplash and under the tubs and the floors of the walk-in showers. Off the master bedroom is a door leading to a private, heavenly outdoor shower.
“I’ve got tiki masks on the walls and big lava stones inside and what’s really funny is that we have never used the indoor shower once,” she laughs.
“We refer to our Maui vacation home as ‘our happy place,’ a legacy we hope our grandchildren will continue to enjoy.”