Inside a $23 Million "Dream House" on Hawaii’s Big Island

Claudia Huntington had been visiting Hawaii for more than 50 years when she finally decided to buy a house on the Big Island. 

As a child, she’d traveled with her parents (her great-grandfather was the railroad baron Henry Huntington, who founded theHuntington Library and the city of Huntington Beach in Orange County, Calif.), but the family had always stayed in hotels.

One year, when she and her sister were already married with children, Huntington, by thenan equity portfolio manager at Capital Group, decided to rent a house instead.

“That was transformational,” she says. “It was so much more fun—there’s something about getting up and making breakfast together, and sitting at a pool without a lot of people around. It becomes a family event.”

After that, Huntington figured “why not bite the bullet and build our dream house.”

With her husband Marshall Miller, Huntington bought a two-acre lot within theMauna Kea Resort—a development founded by Laurance Rockefeller in the 1960s.

After two years of trying to choose an architect, she settled onMark de Reus. “I basically flipped through Architectural Digests and ripped out pages, I think I went through 10 years’ worth of them,” Huntington says. In 2009, construction began on a five-bedroom, six-and-a-half-bath compound spread across nearly 6,700 interior square feet. 

Once the house was completed in 2013, Huntington, who is based in San Antonio, Texas, began to visit the island for month-long stretches.

She worked from home but took ample time to enjoy island time. “It was perfect,” she says. “We’d go sailing and swimming, it was just as we dreamed it.”

But now, just seven years later, Huntington has put the house on the market, listing it for $22.9 million withHawai’i Life realtors.

“The real answer is we had some illness in our family last year with a fairly good recovery, but it’s going to require me to be closer to home for a while longer,” she says. “I am sort of at the point, honestly, where I feel worse not using it than I would finding someone who loves it as much as we do, and letting them enjoy it. I know it sounds weird, but it’s been just such a labor of love.”

The Land

Huntington paid about $8 million for the land, which is at the end of a cul-de-sac, overlooking a golf course that leads to the ocean.

“We’re not on the water,” Huntington says. “And that’s something we talked about—do we want to be on it or not—and we chose to be within hearing distance of the waves.”

Her logic, she says, was practical: most beaches in Hawaii have a series of rights of way for the public, and “in many cases you have people walking in front of you, which we didn’t like because we really like privacy,” she says.

Plus, “when you’re right on the water you get a lot of salt spray, and it sounds like no big deal but it can be kind of a pain in the neck over the long haul” in terms of wear and tear on the house. The Mauna Kea Beach Hotel’s white sand beach is a two-minute golf cart ride away.

The House

Stylistically, Huntington wanted a house inspired by Tahiti, where she spent significant amounts of time as a child. “I wanted a home that felt open and tropical,” she says. “Our home in San Antonio is reasonably contemporary, and we have a home in Tahoe that’s woodsy-contemporary, and I had a view in mind as to what I wanted” on Hawaii.

De Reus, who has a practice on Hawaii and in Sun Valley, Idaho, was the perfect fit, Huntington says.

“We got really lucky—he’s a guy completely in concert with what we were after, and a huge advocate for the owner.”

The house is divided into seven standalone pavilions.

The biggest has an open kitchen and living area, which is paneled in teak, Hawaiian hardwood, and travertine.

There’s a master bedroom pavilion with a study, living area, and an outdoor shower with a wall of orchids.

Two other guest pavilions have two bedrooms, two baths, and two outdoor showers apiece; each of those living areas also have their own sitting room. “What we wanted was flexibility, so we’ve had a full house, or just two of us there,” she says. 

There’s a separate “floating” glass-encased dining area, and an open-air dining structure.

Much of the furnishings were designed for the house, and areincluded in the sale price, Huntington says. “It’s such a unique kind of design, and people don’t want the hassle,” she explains. (That said, most of her modern art does not come with the house.)

“It cost a lot to build, honestly,” she says. “I don’t think we’re going to sell it for what we put into it.”

Someone To Enjoy It

Huntington, her family, and friends used the house pretty consistently over the years. Her son was married there in January, and she’d been planning to spend long stretches at the house after she retired this past September. 

Now that she’s bound to San Antonio though, she’s more or less ready to put it in someone else’s hands.

“The house needs to have company, and someone to enjoy it again,” she says. “We just can’t be those people now it turns out, but anyway life goes on.” 

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