A California couple breathes new life into the Hawaii cottage where Charles Lindbergh spent his final days.
High above Maui's coastline in remote Hana, a simple cottageclings to a hillside scribed with volcanic rock walls. Far below,white lines of torn surf wrap around black lava headlands. A fewsteps from the porches and lanais, a lawn soars out like anairplane's wing searching for lift. Standing on it feels likeflying. Surely Charles Lindbergh recognized this, having spent hislast days here in 1974.
For current owners Lorraine and Tom Brodek of Los Angeles, thehumble cottage with a glorious view embodies everything they loveabout Maui, especially the warmth and spirit of the island's peopleand its magnificent natural history. Even the somber presence of achurch and graveyard across the street is not unsettling, justanother timeless element in Hana's small, tight-knit community.
"We'd been coming to Maui and the Hotel Hana-Maui since ourdaughters, now adults, were about 6 and 7," says Lorraine. She andTom, a film producer, rented the cottage in the late '90s while thehotel was temporarily closed. They fell in love with the propertyabout when it became available.
Soon the Brodeks were in the midst of a major renovation,updating the 1950s main cottage as well as converting a garage andits upstairs room into an office. From the beginning, they wantedto respect the property's indigenous style and honor its poignantbit of history.
"Back then it was a guest cottage owned by Jeannie Pechin," saysLorraine. "Lindbergh's doctor arranged for him to stay here.According to A. Scott Berg's biography, Mr. Lindbergh told hisdoctor he'd 'rather spend two days alive on Maui than two months inthis hospital in New York City.' " So the reclusive patient, whohad built a rustic home with wife Anne elsewhere in Hana, came tofulfill his last wish.
Today the cottage reflects the many personal touches of both theBrodeks and their interior designer, Cynthia Marks of Santa Monica."Lorraine had a big storage unit filled with furniture in L.A.,"says Cynthia, "and many of the pieces came from her collection. Weput them in a container and shipped them over." They also huntedHawaiiana via online auctions and L.A. flea markets, where vintageisland knickknacks are big. "We found everything from really groovyrattan chairs to toothpicks," relates Cynthia, "and menus from theocean liner SS Lurline, vintage watercolors, and bar glasses.Really, though, the '50s set the motif, not just Hawaiiana."
The homesite itself yielded treasures. "We found the neatest oldbottles," says Lorraine. "One was in the shape of the church acrossthe street. We also found a couple of old glass fishnet floats downin the puka [sunken garden], as well as crockery and otherhousekeeping items." Many are now displayed on walls or shelves inartful arrangements that mix three-dimensional objects with framedart and mementos.
The bones of the house remain essentially unchanged, but thereconstruction added modern materials that can withstand Hawaii'sclimate. For example, the siding is now a shiplap of fiber-cementpanels, while decking for the screened porches is awood-and-plastic composite.
"We had major talks about color," recalls Cynthia, "and therewere times when the painters would say, 'Are you sure about this?'" Lorraine and Cynthia agree that communication was the key toworking on a vacation house with so many details, especially whenthey couldn't be on-site every day.
"No one wanted to make this house a palace," says iynthia. "Itlistened to what the neighbors had to say. It honors people,generations, the landscape."
And history. Especially interested in the Lindbergh connection,Tom became a collector of memorabilia that shows up around thehouse. In its time, Lindbergh's accomplishment was the equivalentof the first lunar landing. Later, his memoir The Spirit of St.Louis was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. In it, he spoke movingly ofthe exhilarating, sometimes frightening, often spiritual side oflooking down on land and water--especially after a perilous tripover the sea: "Now, I'm flying above the foam-lined coast ...I'venever seen such beauty before... It's like rain after drought,spring after a northern winter. I've been to eternity andback."