Writer James Sturz shares a sneak peek of his in-progress dream house in North Kohala, Hawaii.

By James Sturz
May 18, 2017

This is our plumber Vinny, of French-Canadian and Welsh extraction, who used to scuba dive the rugged North Kohala coast. Here he is, as sprightly as one of the island’s mouflon sheep, installing a hot-water heater:

And here he’s putting his diving experience to use:

That’s Duravit’s freestanding 45-gallon Philippe Starck tub. Once Vinny got out, he installed Hansgrohe’s Axor Starck freestanding tub filler beside it. We’ll fill that tub with the rain water we collect from the roof, twice filtered and then zapped with UV light.

Outside, our master bathroom now looks like this:

Above it, the deck’s been making progress too. That’s our architect Paul Donoho and contractor Lyle Hooley of Lloyds of the Pacific making cameos, alongside my wife Paula.

Those views from above are important. Not just the ones from the second story, but also the ones from 30,000-plus feet, since they’re the ones we see back and forth between Hawaii and New York. Earlier this month, Hawaiian Airlines updated its look a little, adding the image of a giant maile lei draped around the hulls of its planes. That’s the same kind of lei I held back in September 2015, when I was a much younger lad and knew much less about the odyssey of construction, when we first blessed the land and all we had was a design and towering grasses.

Hawaiian Airlines’s very first flight was November 11, 1929, when it took 3.25 hours to fly from Honolulu to Hilo, with a stop in Maui, in an amphibious Sikorsky eight-seater (today you don’t stop, and it takes 46 minutes in a Boeing jet). Six years later, the fleet added 16-seaters and introduced inter-island airmail delivery, making it the first cargo service in the United States (even if it wasn’t the United States yet). The carrier changed its name to Hawaiian Airlines in 1941. That same year, one of its DC-3s with 24 passengers was hit while flying by Japanese fire at Pearl Harbor. The engine caught fire, but a stray bullet miraculously struck an extinguisher, putting out the flames. Hawaiian’s first flight to the mainland, between Long Beach and Honolulu, was 1958. Passengers made do with Hawaiian fruit cocktail and filet mignon. Nonstop service to JFK came in 2012, with lie-flat seats added last year, making the 10-hour overnight trip between Honolulu and New York a little more doable.

I visited the airline’s archives last month. Among the realia are the gum and cotton passengers were given for that first 1929 flight, back when it operated as Inter-Island Airways, an offshoot of the Inter-Island Steam Navigation Company that formed in 1883. Items like the gum will go inside a time capsule the airline will close in November 11, 2019, and keep sealed for 150 years.

Here I am in a vintage flight attendant aloha shirt, followed by photos of my colleagues from 1974, plus some training I enjoyed in a dummy cabin, preparing for disaster. (When the safety masks came down during a faux loss of cabin pressure, it sounded like we were being attacked by a triceratops.)

Meanwhile, at the house, a different kind of crew is at work. Our marble fabricator has been busily installing backsplashes and cutting the kitchen-island quartzite for a flush-mount induction cooktop, while our electrician has been installing overhead fans and lights.

The fans and lights are by Haiku Home. Both operate by remote control or app (although we put in wall switches too, which is probably just a sign of our age). The fans are Haiku’s H and I Series, depending on whether the particular room they’re in gets ones with bamboo or black airfoils. The fans are equipped with Haiku’s SenseME technology that lets them turn on and off and adjust their speed as the temperature and humidity changes, with a special “Whoosh Mode” that mimics natural breezes. The Lights operate with the same array of controls (if we used Amazon Alexa, she could placidly control them too), but they also have motion sensors—in addition to sunlight ones that allow them automatically to dim. They’re also programmable, combinable into groups, with adjustable temperature settings, from bright white to a romantic glow, for operating and dinner tables alike. They also have insect barriers to make sure critters don’t get in—a crucial feature for Hawaii—but somehow end up looking a little like beetles before they’re installed.

When the kitchen finally comes together, we should be able to come up with a little better than airplane food. But I’m not sure if that includes this dish I had at M.A.C. 24/7, at the Hilton Waikiki Beach on my last visit. It’s called a M.A.C Daddy, weighs five pounds, and the problem is it’s delicious.