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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, December 2, 2001

Kohala site for Wright's design on TV 'Homes'

Advertiser Staff

"Extreme Homes" a prime-time Home & Garden Channel series showcasing America's most "unusual, whimsical and imaginative" abodes and the people who live in them, alights on the Big Island today.

 •  'Extreme Homes'

7:30 p.m. today

Home & Garden Channel (Oceanic analog 38, digital 333; Verizon Americast 70)

Former ad executive Sandy Sims (who recently sold the house) chose the ranching town Kamuela on the Kohala Coast as the site for a home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1954 — when Wright was in his 80s. Originally designed for a Pennsylvania location, it is one of many structures designed by Wright but never built. Sims got permission to resurrect one of those plan sets, which was adapted for him by architects at Wright's school, Taliesin West.

The house is a complex structure: The second floor hangs from the ceiling without any apparent support, and it uses a great many angles and curved walls. It took four years to build. Yet the home's complexity is not immediately apparent; as you approach it, what you see is a berm and a roofline, with much of the house sunken into the ground.

Originally planned for a much colder climate, Wright's passive solar design works well here. Shaped like a crescent moon, the home's wall of south-facing windows drink in the sun's warmth in the winter. In the summer, deep eaves protect it from the harshest rays. Because of this design, the house stays a constant temperature all year round, so there's no need for heating or air conditioning.

The original 1954 design called for copper eaves, but these eaves are made from a rigid foam material used for surfboards. This was done to keep the eaves from expanding and contracting in the extreme temperature changes.

The house itself, with its distinctive crescent moon shape, will probably never be built again, here or anywhere, because rights to the plans have reverted to the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation archives.

In contrast, the "Tiki Trinket House" of Chicago, also spotlighted, is a converted dance hall with a retro-arty "Polynesian" decor.

Owners/artists Amy and David Carter make their home on the south side of Chicago. They met at a gallery opening and quickly discovered they had much in common, such as collecting Polynesian paraphernalia. Their wedding had an island theme, and they came to Hawai'i for their honeymoon.

The Carters have transformed the former dance hall into a haven for their tropical tastes. The first thing seen upon entering is a five-foot guardian Tiki on the door and a rack of about 300 vintage Aloha shirts and dresses.

Although the Carters intended to keep the Tiki collection confined to the living area, it's already drifted into David's studio, where he does his painting and illustration work.