An Unrivaled Gold Coast Pied-a-Terre

Jeff Vance's ID Group Resurrect a 1950s Treasure

An Unrivaled Gold Coast Pied-a-Terre

One might think that the person responsible for redesigning a Gold Coast penthouse top-to-bottom might be the least awe-struck of a the space—especially months after it has been completed.Yet Los Angeles-based architect and designer Jeff Vance, who has designed luxury homes for the who's who in Beverly Hills, Kobe, Japan and downtown Honolulu, still has to pause for a moment each time he enters the penthouse suite at The Tahitienne, off Kalakaua Avenue 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," admits 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 (and widest) ocean fronting lanai on the entire Gold Coast, at just under 700 square feet. It's so inspiring that one of Vance's first sketches featured a double-wide daybed suitable for two people to sleep outdoors, perfect for breezy, starlit Hawaii nights.

Still, postcard-perfect South Shore O'ahu (and sunset) views aside, the interior of this gem is a spectacle itself. First, a little background: "The story I was told was that the original owner of the building, in the late 1950s, held a cocktail party on the roof of the top floor after the building was complete. A few mai tais deep, 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 were toasting in the sunset," said Vance. "It was done, and it took the entire floor."

Nearly 3,000 square feet, to be exact.

Since the ocean was such a part of the design element of this 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 adds, claiming in spots you can look down in to the floor and see clear in to it, just as one can in the ocean.

The rare breaks away from white coloring used in multiple facets of the design (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, yet add 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. We went with this, but made a few modifications."

Vance's clients who own the apartment are jet-setting filmmakers who nabbed Vance's ID Group after seeing a project he had completed near their Doheny residence in the Hollywood Hills. The finished product of this Honolulu pied-a-terre is perfect for bringing along a couple or two, with everyone having their own functional space.

Perhaps the best example of this are the "floating" Exmar Agape spoon tubs that reside on a raised, wallless platform in each bedroom.

"You have unobstructed views of the ocean from every bedroom in the penthouse. So 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", which happens to be the most spectacular shot 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 a 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.

Additionally, the type of limestone used for the long, eat-at kitchen counter has little fossils in it—something Vance found worked well thematically in a residence that hovers over a sandy beach.

"You won't see a whole lot of radius's or concave pieces," says Vance. "We try and keep architectural lines pure and straight, while sticking to what the building itself dictates. If there's a backdrop we didn't create, we don't try and make a statement inside of it. We keep it appropriate, and stick to that."

Another part of having a complete vision about what a dwelling should look like, according to Vance, is paying close attention to the lifestyle of the client. Part of Vance's self-described strength comes from his thorough interrogation, if you will, 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 much closet size they need.

Being so specific with their needs, Vance often runs in to obstacles in acquiring details for a job. So, it's not uncommon for him to custom-build furniture, lamps, and so on. Here, the length of a hanging chandelier implored Vance to build the piece himself, choosing the metal framing, right down to the color of the cloth used to cover the bulbs. He cites fantastic access to materials in California as one reason he's able to execute these tasks with success.

"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 a dwelling perhaps closest to his heart.

"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," — Vance.