Gold Coast Pied-a-Terre: A Penthouse Fit For a Queen

Jeff Vance's ID Group Resurrect a 1950s Treasure

Gold Coast Pied-a-Terre: A Penthouse Fit For a Queen

One might think that the architect responsible for redesigning a Gold Coast penthouse might be the least awe-struck of the space—especially months after it had been completed.

Yet Los Angeles-based Jeff Vance, who has designed luxury homes for the who's who in Beverly Hills, Japan and downtown Honolulu, still has to pause for a moment each time he enters theTahitienne penthouse suite in Waikiki.

"Months after I finished it, I walk in the front door and before I know it I have put down all my papers and brief case, shoes are off, and I'm staring out the window at nothing but ocean," admitted Vance.
"It captivates you, totally, more than any apartment I've done."

His bias aside, Vance has good reason to be entranced. This unit has the largest ocean fronting lanai on the entire Gold Coast, at just under 700 square feet. It's so inspiring that Vance's first sketch featured a double-wide daybed for two people to sleep outdoors, perfect for breezy, starlit Hawaii nights.

Still, postcard-perfect South Shore sunset views aside, the interior of this gem is as much a spectacle as it is a piece of Waikiki history.

"The story I was told was that the original owner of the building, in the late 1950s, held a cocktail party on the roof after the building was complete. A few mai tais later, she proclaimed that 'this' (where she was standing) was the best view on the entire coastline, and that an additional apartment should be constructed where they stood toasting," said Vance. "It was done, and it took the entire floor."

Nearly 3,000 square feet, to be exact.

Since the ocean was such an integral element of the space, Vance began the redesign with seamless terrazzo marble flooring throughout the entire apartment. Personally supervising the pouring of the slabs, Vance made sure there was not only glass crushed up in the mix, but bits of mirror, as well.

"It gives the floor a true depth," he added, demonstrating how in various spots you can look down in to the floor and see clear in to it—just like the ocean.

A rare break from the swaths of white coloring used generously throughout the penthouse (leather banquettes, tables, sofas, chairs and art are all white) come in the form of custom-built walnut cabinetry. The sharp lines and tight angles exude further cleanliness, while adding to the functionality of Vance's redesign.

"These types of buildings, in this locale specifically, were built at a very different time," says Vance. "They were generally small living space, meant as a beachy retreat, to be self-contained. Hence a bathroom in each bedroom, and rarely a powder room off the living space."

The apartment owners are jet-setting filmmakers who nabbed Vance's ID Group after seeing a project he completed near their Doheny residence in the Hollywood Hills. Quite the jet-setters, the couple insisted on having multiple living spaces within the penthouse, in case they had friends in tow.Perhaps the best example are the "floating" spoon tubs that reside on a raised platform in each bedroom.

"You have unobstructed views of the ocean from every bedroom in the penthouse. Why would you want to close off that beauty when relaxing in a jacuzzi tub?" says Vance.

Clearly, you wouldn't. On top of the perfect views of the water, tub-enthusiasts can also see a wall-mounted flat-screen T.V. (with apartment-wide audio surround sound). Each bed has the same views. In fact, one becomes so spoiled after spending more than a few minutes in this apartment, that you might find yourself uttering "The bad view": A most spectacular angle of Diamond Head Crater.

After removing a dozen walls to open up the apartment, Vance took stock of the multiple columns that protruded throughout the floor plan. In order to incorporate these obstructions, Vance made each part of the functionality of the apartment. For example, one is covered in varying shades of blue and green glass tile, and acts as the backdrop for a bar.

Vance happens to be a designer that insists on paying close attention to the lifestyle of the client. His strength comes from his thorough interrogation of a client's needs. He wants to know what they do and where they go for work, as well as during their down time, what food they like to eat, and where they want to eat it—right down to how many pairs of shoes they own.

Being so specific with their needs, Vance often runs in to obstacles. Hence, it's not uncommon for him to custom-build furniture, lamps, and so on. Here, the length of a dining room table implored Vance to construct a hanging chandelier himself.

"Part of the beauty here in Hawaii is that most people aren't living the average 'nine-to-five' life, where the husband gets out of bed and has to dress in a closet or bathroom, then sneak off to work. Most people here have achieved a different kind of success. It promotes a more open floor plan," adds Vance.

This may be part of the reason Vance has gravitated, as of late, to clients who are at the top of their game in the creative fields.
"Creative folk really want to be involved with the design process—yet they understand when it's time to back off and let us do what we do best. They get it very quickly," says Vance.

Standing in the living room of this Gold Coast gem, Vance mentions in passing the Clint Eastwood estate he worked on, and a few other projects in Japan that piqued his interest. Yet when the conversation dies down, and the only sound in the room is the crashing surf nine floor below, it's clear as sunlight that this is the dwelling closest to his heart.

construct a hanging chandelier himself. "Part of the beauty here in Hawaii is that most people aren't living the average 'nine-to-five' life, where the husband gets out of bed and has to dress in a closet or bathroom, then sneak off to work. Most people here have achieved a different kind of success. —Vance