Building the Hawaiian Dream House: Going Up
Looking at the earth from above is like looking at a blueprint. This is the Big Island. So here you see azure water smashing against rugged cliffs, sprawling pastures, the lushest valleys, crescent beaches, and unnerving flows of molten lava. The photos below are from Paradise Helicopters’ sunset tour, which circles the island as decisively as the hands of a clock, but with the whirring romance of wafting clouds.
Paula and I are getting pretty good at reading blueprints these days, because that’s all our house has been so far—multiple versions of paper plans and then the footings and foundations for our three pavilions. But this week, precisely while we were meeting with our architect and contractor, Paul and Lyle, the first posts of the wood frame went up. And then some more—joists and sills and top plates and beams and studs. It felt like a reverse avalanche cascading up, and the change and progress were so unexpected that the breaching humpback whales off the coast could barely draw our attention. The next day, more wood followed, including walls with cutouts for the doors and windows. For so long our lot was a wide expanse of open vistas, but suddenly we could see our views.
Four days ago, I couldn’t have told you what a Gradall 534D9-45 is. But now I can offer with a first-time home builder’s amorous precision that it’s a 45-foot telescoping forklift with a 4WD John Deere engine that can raise 9,000 pounds of a North Kohala frame in a matter of seconds. Its close relative is the UpRight MX19 scissor lift, which I also know because two days later it’s what Lyle’s men used to weld our main pavilion’s “red iron” frame into place. Those beams (they’re actually steel, with iron oxide pigment in their paint) are what will allow us to install banks of sliding doors and windows, which in turn will permit us to open great parts of the house to the same outdoors that first attracted to this land.
We’re still making changes here and there in our plans, while hoping that we’ve got the big things right—after all, certain elements now are set in stone. But there’s a thrill to seeing red iron against blue sky and even-bluer ocean, and just as suddenly to stand beneath it. It makes me want to look up.