Creations by island artisans bask in this finely crafted fresh-air retreat on Maui

By Peter Jensen
December 10, 2003
Claudio Santini

Along Maui's leeward shore, the ocean isn't a predictableneighbor. Sometimes big swells swing around the island, and for afew days, plumes of spray rear like white horses above the blacklava flows. Then all settles down. Soon the glassy sea returns, andgentle trade winds thread their way into the open-air rooms of Joeand Anna Mae Blouin's beach house.

These Michigan residents relish their winter getaway in theMakena area, a lava-toothed stretch of coast between Wailea and LaPerouse Bay. World-class snorkeling, long-distance cycling,kayaking, hiking Haleakala National Park, and hula dancingcontribute to the couple's active lifestyle and love of Hawaiiantraditions.

It's no wonder the Blouins hoped to fill a home with artworkthat reflects the strong creative force of Maui and its massivevolcano Haleakala, which translates to "House of the Sun." Longago, Haleakala fashioned this homesite out of aprons of lava.

Joe, a retired auto-parts manufacturer, and Anna Mae alwayswanted a private and informal retreat. The couple found the perfectspot in a gated community of homes designed by Hawaiian architectHugh J. Farrington. The Blouins bought the spectacular oceanfrontlot from owners whose house was still in its planning stage.

Correctly sensing that most of their time would be spentoutdoors, the Blouins asked Hugh to tinker with the plans. Theyreduced the house's size from 4,600 to 3,600 square feet, gainingmore outdoor living space. Then they partnered with Maui interiordesigner Donna Poseley to further capture the nuances of islandliving.

They wanted a traditional but casual beach house―the kindof place their grandkids would love visiting," says Donna. "Theyput their soul into this house's art and all itscraftsmanship."

For example, a beautiful handcrafted stair and rail sweep downfrom the second floor, ending in a koa-lidded bowl set atop a newelpost. Dark-stained, silky-smooth bamboo flooring looks like walnutor teak, but the segmented pattern has an appeal all its own.Built-in cabinetry and shelving combine the simplicity you mightfind in a New England sea captain's house with exotic islandhardwoods, especially honey-warm koa. The house's overall thememixes fine handiwork with the casualness of canvas slipcovers, asinuous rattan chaise, and low-slung, campaign-style furnishings.Each room has a pavilion feel thanks to vaulted, wood-paneledceilings.

"I like natural products," says Anna Mae. "Joe and I reallyenjoyed seeking out local talent." In addition to all the wooddetails in the house, several showers and baths swirl withhand-painted sea-inspired tilework.

Views of the ocean, both created and real, are ever present.Downstairs, a covered lanai joins the living area and kitchen. Thespace feels even larger due to huge banks of sliding doors thatdisappear into room corners. Just beyond, white-sailed fleets ofpassing clouds accent the brilliant blue sea and sky.

But is it too open to the elements? "It's dry here," explainsDonna. "And we have a side-shore breeze that doesn't bring a lot ofsalt into the house. Everyone who has an oceanfront house has tostay on top of polishing and cleaning issues, but even the few bugswe have here seem to understand what to do―those that fly in,fly right out again!"

Insect stragglers have been known to become dinner for a wildgecko or two that the Blouins count as friends. "They're consideredgood luck," says Anna Mae, pointing to a small swivel-eyed reptilepeering from atop a door.

Such is life in the Blouins' own house of the sun, where natureand homeowners seem perfectly at ease with each other.